How Do You Manage Work-Related Stress?
“Work-related stress” is a concept that is now well-established in the company’s managerial vocabulary. Has work-related stress evolved in 2024? What are the techniques for managing work-related stress?
What are the main factors of work-related stress in 2024?
A sadly famous anxiety factor is telecommuting.
A Model That Seduces with Its Advantages and Modernity:
In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, telecommuting was a solution to continue professional activity while respecting health measures. Quickly acclaimed by many people, working from home is a model that continues to attract both companies and employees, thanks to its flexibility, freedom, and other advantages it offers. Telecommuting indeed presents various attractions for employees, such as the end of transportation issues and better schedule flexibility.
It is, therefore, not surprising to observe a favorable trend toward the model in the results of the survey conducted by YouGov in September 2021 for the magazine Capital. According to the study, 75% of the 1000 employees interviewed wish to continue telecommuting in the following months. However, the average duration of telecommuting per week is more disputed. To understand these results, the age of individuals is an essential criterion to consider. This is highlighted in the survey conducted by YouGov in July 2021 for the recruitment firm Nicholson Search & Selection. The study, conducted on a sample of 1000 people, reveals that 61% of 18-34 year-olds favor 100% remote work.
While it is still too early to talk about 100% telecommuting for everyone, the results show that the new generations are much more favorable to work flexibility than their elders. Remote work has a bright future ahead.
But Then, Is Everything Fine in The Best of Worlds?
Unfortunately not, telecommuting quickly revealed itself as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, its rapid implementation has led to numerous organizational work problems, particularly in management.
According to a study published by the CGT in September 2021, managers are among the most at risk from remote work. In the report, managers report a sudden increase in workload and pressure caused by telecommuting and a loss of contact with their employees, significantly affecting their work based on relationships. The figures speak for themselves, with only 8% of the managers surveyed feeling “completely confident in being able to detect a situation of discomfort or difficulty within their team.” As a result, it is reported that less than 2 out of 10 managers had access to remote training, which led to serious anxiety problems, resulting in depression in 45% of cases.
On the other hand, working from home, as a continuation of the lockdown, generates the same psychological risks for individuals. Social isolation is added to professional isolation, anxiety related to objectives and equipment problems, and an environment that is not always conducive to work. Combined, these stress factors act as an emotional time bomb for employees.
This is observed in the barometer published at the end of 2021 by the Empreinte Humaine and OpinionWay firm regarding the negative impacts of telecommuting on employees’ mental health. The report highlights alarming figures, with 38% of the 2000 employees surveyed declaring psychological distress, including 12% in high distress. Another worrying assessment concerns the explosion of the number of employee burnouts in France. According to the barometer, nearly 2,250,000 employees would be in severe burnout, which is 2.7 times more than the figure reported in May 2020.
Exacerbated Work-Related Stress In 2023: A Potpourri of Factors Before and After the COVID-19 Crisis
Work-related stress is not new if employees’ distress is now at an all-time high. In 2019, the Indeed website already made a worrying observation of the situation in its study “World of Work: I’m stressed, therefore I am?”. According to the figures reported by the survey, 66% of the French respondents declared being stressed by their work. The WHO also recognized ” Burnout ” as a “disease” in 2019. However, whether it will be quickly classified as an “occupational disease” is uncertain. Several factors are responsible for stress in the workplace; among the most common are anxiety related to the intensity of tasks, emotional demands, or the work environment. All these work-related stress factors were well before the COVID-19 crisis. However, the upheavals of our current context have certainly amplified them.
Beyond the work environment, it is important to note that the health crisis has had global consequences affecting everyone. Examples are increased political instability, work-related annoyances, insecurity, or a general climate of panic, especially during the early waves of the crisis. These anxiety factors contribute to the moral deterioration of individuals, which is felt in the workplace.
In a study on employee vulnerabilities published in 2020, Malakoff Humanis highlights the impacts of COVID-19 on employees’ mental health. According to the report, 93% of the 405 executives surveyed declared having at least 1 in 10 employees in a fragile situation for personal and professional reasons. The study highlights two primary sources of pressure on employees: the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic crisis. Of the 2010 employees surveyed, 63% cited the fear of contamination, and 53% declared fear of losing their jobs. Half of the employees declared themselves more vulnerable due to the psychological problems caused by the health crisis.
Professional Stress or Personal Stress: What Are We Talking About?
What is work-related stress, and what are its symptoms? What distinguishes between “good stress” and “bad stress”?
It is a well-known word in everyday life, but its definition must be clarified. “Stress is anxiety, worry…” But what else?
The concept of stress appeared in the 1920s thanks to the researcher Hans Selye. In a few words, the concept refers to “an organism’s response to a given situation,” which is also what its scientific name, General Adaptation Syndrome, emphasizes. In this perspective, stress is a natural and essential phenomenon for the organism’s adaptation to different everyday situations.
However, Hans Selye distinguishes “positive” stress from “negative” stress. Positive stress, called “eustress,” is manifested by an adrenaline rush in the individual when faced with a specific situation. The person then can concentrate a lot of energy on a particular action, which maximizes their chances of success. In this type of case, the response given by the organism allows it to regain balance.
Negative stress, on the other hand, is the case where the organism’s response is insufficient to make the source disappear. In these situations where the problem is not quickly resolved, the stress persists and causes numerous physiological and psychological damage to the individual. This is then called a state of “distress”. Negative stress manifests itself in several physiological forms, such as body thermal reactions, headaches, insomnia, or a decrease in concentration.
How does work-related stress manifest itself? Why does my work stress me?
Is Work-Related Stress Different from Personal Stress?
According to the National Research and Safety Institute (INRS), work-related stress is caused by specific factors in the work environment. Indeed, if we take the definition of work-related stress published on the INRS website: “We talk about work-related stress when a person feels a imbalance between what is asked of them in the professional context and the resources they have to respond to it.” In the list of stress factors, we could mention work overload, emotional demands, unclear objectives, etc.
Sonia Lupien, a doctor in neuroscience, proposes a second approach to the phenomenon. According to Dr. Lupien, work-related stress would be more related to detecting a threat than to factors solely from professional life.
She identifies two types of stress: absolute stress, which refers to a real threat to life, and relative stress caused by triggers. The triggers, forming the acronym CINE, are low control, unpredictability, novelty, and threatened ego.
In the professional context, they could be illustrated as follows:
1- Telecommuting: having to adapt to new work methods (novelty)
2- Job uncertainty and lack of organization (unpredictability)
3- Lack of decision-making power for employees to improve their situation (low control)
4- Lack of consideration and abusive remarks from colleagues or superiors (threatened ego)
These two approaches are complementary in that individuals’ stress greatly influences work-related stress.
What are the consequences of work-related stress for the employee and the company?
The effects of work pressure present themselves in various forms that affect health and performance. This can translate into a lack of efficiency, difficulties in communicating with others, or an increase in absenteeism for the employee. It’s like a vicious circle of negativity.
In the most severe cases, too much stress can lead to professional exhaustion: burnout. Overexposure to stress can also lead to serious health consequences for employees.
The stress of employees brings numerous economic risks and a high turnover rate of employees. According to the INRS, the costs related to work-related stress represent between 2 and 3 million euros per year in France.
What to Do Against Work-Related Stress In 2024? What are the solutions?
An essential step in stress management: identifying work-related stress and self-awareness
This may seem obvious, but recognizing the signs of stress is sometimes more complex and greatly depends on our self-awareness.
How to Manage and Resist Work-Related Stress?
No, the miracle solution to manage stress at work does not exist! However, this does not mean there are no methods to limit the accumulation of stress.
Indeed, through a simple internet search, you can access numerous articles and blogs offering advice to help you manage work-related stress.
Adopting a balanced diet, learning from mistakes, disconnecting from time to time, distinguishing between professional and personal life, and taking care of sleep. All these work-related stress factors are well known, thanks to the multiple studies done on their negative impact on our professional lives.
On our blog, you can also find our list of tips in the article “Stress management is the key to personal and professional fulfillment.“
However, knowing the many actions to counter work-related stress is one thing; applying them regularly in daily life is another and much more complex!
Integrating behaviors, sometimes the opposite of those usual, into our daily routine from one day to the next is a dangerous challenge. It is not only difficult to put into practice and adhere to due to the radical change, but it can also have detrimental effects on mental health. Indeed, if the individual does not achieve their goals, often highly standardized and not adapted to the individual, it can create pressure and a decrease in self-confidence. Conversely, if the individual strives to adhere to a new way of working, it can cause a loss of reference and identity in extreme situations.
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