Managing Stress and Anxiety

Heart Icon

Being your own boss can be exciting, challenging and sometimes stressful. Long hours, unpredictable cash flow, significant changes in your industry and having responsibility for employees can leave you feeling mentally exhausted, stressed, anxious or depressed. This, in turn, could affect your ability to run your business and have an impact on your relationships with family, friends, employees, suppliers and customers.

The Cost of Workplace Stress

The dynamic nature of the modern workplace means that individuals, and the organisations they work for, are more exposed than ever to the challenges of work-related stress. But, while most of us understand the effects of stress on individual wellbeing, its effect at an organisational level is less understood. In fact, we’re just beginning to fully understand the economic impacts of workplace stress and how building resilience can improve the bottom line.

In addressing this issue in 2015, former chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Professor Allan Fels, said: “poor resilience is more significant for our economy than tax and microeconomic reforms.”

With this in mind, it’s essential that organisations learn how to develop and build resilience in their workplaces. But what is resilience, and why are some people more resilient than others? And how can organisations most effectively harness resilience to overcome the effects of workplace stress?

In 2013, Safe Work Australia released a comprehensive report detailing the incidence and impact of work-related mental stress claims in Australia. The report found that, due to the long periods of absence from work, mental stress claims are the most expensive type of workers’ compensation claim, with the majority occurring as a result of ‘work pressure’. Additionally, absenteeism costs Australia around 92 million working days each year, with the average daily cost rising from $308 in 2013 to $340 in 2014. The direct cost to employers was found to be around $10.11 billion per year. This is not to mention the costs of staff turnover which according to PwC, is estimated to be $3.8 billion in lost productivity annually.

Reference – The incidence of accepted workers’ compensation claims for mental stress in Australia

Symptoms of Work-Related Stress

While stress isn’t an illness in its own right, it can lead to conditions such as anxiety or depression, and physical illnesses such as migraines. Stress can also exacerbate underlying illnesses such as diabetes. Employers should approach mental health issues the same way they would physical illnesses. Stress-related illnesses can also manifest as poor performance or misconduct. An employee may have a claim for unfair dismissal if they are dismissed for misconduct when their behaviour was caused by their illness or even by the medication they are taking for that illness. In these circumstances, employers should flex their capability and conduct policies and, where appropriate, allow medical evidence during investigations. The signs or symptoms of work-related stress can be physical, psychological and behavioural.

Physical symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscular tension
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sleeping difficulties, such as insomnia
  • Gastrointestinal upsets, such as diarrhoea or constipation
  • Dermatological disorders

Psychological symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Discouragement
  • Irritability
  • Pessimism
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed and unable to cope
  • Cognitive difficulties, such as a reduced ability to concentrate or make decisions

Behavioural symptoms include:

  • An increase in sick days or absenteeism
  • Aggression
  • Diminished creativity and initiative
  • A drop in work performance
  • Problems with interpersonal relationships
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Lower tolerance of frustration and impatience
  • Disinterest
  • Isolation

What are the main work-related stressors?

All the following issues have been identified as potential stressors at workplaces. A risk management approach will identify which ones exist in your own work and what causes them. They include:

  • Organisation culture
  • Bad management practices
  • Job content and demands
  • Physical work environment
  • Relationships at work
  • Change management
  • Lack of support
  • Role conflict
  • Trauma

Causes of work-related stress

Some of the factors that commonly cause work-related stress include:

  • Long hours
  • Heavy workload
  • Changes within the organisation
  • Tight deadlines
  • Changes to duties
  • Job insecurity
  • Lack of autonomy
  • Boring work
  • Insufficient skills for the job
  • Over-supervision
  • Inadequate working environment
  • Lack of proper resources
  • Lack of equipment
  • Few promotional opportunities
  • Harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Poor relationships with colleagues or bosses
  • Crisis incidents, such as an armed hold-up or workplace death

When stress is no longer healthy, it stops being a motivator and it can cause people to become prone to reacting differently to work situations, however, going unaddressed can have a major impact to your business. Identifying and understanding stress and anxiety in your workplace does not need to be a daunting task.

Let AAA Consulting help you to prepare a stress risk management plan to create a positive working environment. Contact AAA Consulting for more information.

Read More
Interested in becoming a member? Join Us