Is Stress Useful? Are There Different Types of Stress? An Employer’s Guide

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Work-related stress is an important issue for employees, because it’s one of the major causes of absenteeism for ill-health, costing Australian employers $10.11 million every year.  It results in high staff turnover, poor worker/management relations, low morale and reduced performance.  Here are some of the common causes of work-related stress:

Work-related stress

  • Work demands are too high or too low
  • Uncomfortable and inefficient work stations
  • Poor compliance with safety regulations
  • Bullying in the workplace
  • Unhealthy shift-work patterns
  • The employee has little say in how they organise their work
  • Poor support from management and/or colleagues
  • Conflicting demands of high productivity and quality
  • Poor control of the risks causing work-related stress
  • Difficulty managing the working day

Stress management can be complicated and confusing because there are several different types – each with its own causes, symptoms and solutions.  The three types of stress are summarised below and can all be removed from your workplace by an ergonomics overhaul.  The aim of ergonomics is to reduce absenteeism caused by stress-related illness and industrial injuries, raise staff retention rates and enhance overall job performance.

Acute Stress

Acute stress is the most common form of stress and it can be useful if you have the occasional rush job at work. It comes from the demands of the working day and the near future. However, too much short-term stress can lead to reduced job performance owing to tension headaches, upset stomach, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure and many other symptoms.

Episodic Acute Stress

Always in a hurry, these are the Type A personality who tend to develop coronary heart disease. They are abrupt and their irritability causes stress or a hostile response from co-workers and clients.

They tend to blame their own shortcomings on others and are often fiercely resistant to change. The symptoms are headaches, migraines, hypertension, chest pain and heart disease. When you hire an ergonomics consultant to do pre-employment health screening, you can avoid hiring people who are going to bring disruptive characteristics to your workplace.

Chronic Stress

This is the grinding stress that wears people away day after day, year after year. Chronic stress can completely destroy an individual’s health. It's caused by impossible demands and pressures and often ends with the individual feeling apathetic towards their job. Chronic stress is often caused by poor organisation and poor management techniques.

Health and ergonomics

Ergonomics is the study of efficiency as the way to promote full productivity by providing the best working environment for the job – both in physical and psychological terms. It was first developed by the US military forces more than 50 years ago; and later used in the design of spacecraft. 

As ergonomics is a highly cost-effective way to increase efficiency, it continues to be used extensively by military forces all over the world. Moreover, as a globally recognised, multi-disciplinary science ergonomics is also important in the world of business. Dealing with job-related stress is absolutely central to the improved working conditions and job performance that an ergonomics consultant can offer.  

Assessment and overhaul

During an in-depth assessment the same consultant will be involved in all aspects of the work and this ensures the speedy identification of any and all issues disrupting the smooth running of your business.

Ergonomics assessors are experts in communication and cognitive behavioural therapy, which allows any sensitive issues to be efficiently resolved.  Workstations will be carefully assessed for comfort, safety and efficiency, because discomfort causes health problems and absenteeism which can easily be prevented by better furniture and equipment layout.  

Maximum productivity

Ergonomic consultant can also help introduce healthier shift-work schedules, flexible working hours, an injury prevention programme with tailor made safety training and employee health assessment days.

Stress related illnesses rarely occur when the leadership is well-organised and positive, management-employee relations are good and job satisfaction is high.  An ergonomics overhaul may be exactly what your workplace needs to achieve and maintain low absenteeism, good staff retention and maximum job performance.

A typical overhaul from the ground up brings a return of at least double the initial investment, so creating am ergonomic workplace is an incredibly cost-effective way to achieve full productivity.

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