Hard work and challenges are important for making work meaningful. Overcoming challenge is confidence boosting, rewarding and makes us feel good about our accomplishments. Yet the extent or frequency of the challenge sometimes needs to be tempered in the modern workplace, with an increase in employees claiming they are overworked and unable to switch off from work-related tasks once they have left the office. All too often the inability to manage challenge, and the overwhelming sense of failure or inadequacy that follows, signals the beginning of stress in many people. For employers it is important to know how to identify early signs of stress in employees in order resolve the problem before it becomes a full blown crisis.
Stress reduces employment engagement in the workplace, causing people to disengage and withdraw. If undetected, stress will build up and could force the employee into absence from the workplace as they seek treatment – absence which can become long-term sick owing to the complexities in diagnosing and treating stress. There is the possibility of further costs to the employer if the business is found culpable for the stress and is ordered to pay compensation to the employee. It is imperative, therefore, that that employers seek to improve their understanding of how stress can manifest in the workplace and measure for reducing contributing factors.
For many, the issues of stress is personal and difficult to talk about, particularly as the condition is difficult to observe first-hand or shows weakness in increasingly masculinised workforces where ruthlessness and competition are championed as ideal characteristics. For these reasons, many choose to ignore stress in the workplace. Yet ignorance is a costly mistake.
Early intervention is always recommended, as are clear employer policies on reducing and managing stress in the workplace. Employers find that efforts to maximise employee wellbeing is always the best form of prevention.