Uncertainty, workload and work dissatisfaction can contribute to worker stress, and stressed workers are less productive and more likely to take sick days.
A recent EU study showed 79 per cent of managers thought stress was an issue in their workplace, and 80 per cent of workers believed their job-related stress would increase in the next five years. The study linked the increase to the financial crisis and the increasing demands being put on workers.
“There are dozens of causes of stress but the biggest cause is usually uncertainty – whether people are able to predict what’s going to happen to them in their role,” psychology assistant professor Stephane Cote from the Joseph L Rotman School of Management says. “Providing information about what’s happening can reduce stress by decreasing perceived uncertainty.”
Cote, who is an expert in work stress, says it is difficult to measure whether stress is increasing but the high unemployment rates and companies reducing staff numbers could be contributing to stress. High stress is linked to poor health, so trying to lower workforce stress levels can decrease absenteeism.
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety senior technical specialist Jan Chappel says it’s key for managers to pay attention and be proactive.
“Everyone reacts differently to stress. Some people will be more reactive, the next person will get quiet and try to hide in their cube. It’s a matter of looking for things that are unusual for that person,” Chappel says. “If it looks like someone’s having trouble coping then it’s important to actually stop and talk and ask if there are solutions they can work out together. I think that’s a step that people often miss.”