Work Stress: The Facts

Stress in the workplace is a growing problem. Whilst worker compensation claims have generally steadied over recent years, and even fallen in some areas, work stress related claims are continuing to rise. Busy lifestyles are combining with increasing work pressure to create highly stressful environments for individuals.

A recent study by Lifeline stated the inability to cope with work stress is costing our community billions of dollars every year. Two in every five Australians are experiencing levels of stress that are potentially harmful. This new data shows that work stress is costing the tax payer at least $107 million a year in Medicare benefits, as well as being responsible for $15 billion annually in lost productivity.

What is Stress?

Stress is primarily the emotional and physical strain an individual experiences in response to pressure from the outside world. Some stress can be considered positive and necessary to perform work and other tasks. However, if it is intense, constant and the individual finds themselves unable to cope, then stress can have adverse effects. Left untreated, stress can lead to physical illness and psychological disorders, which can have a substantial impact on our daily lives.

What Are The Common Symptoms of Work Stress?

FeelingsThoughtsBehavioursPhysical Effects
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Intolerance
  • Over-sensitivity
  • Difficulty with decision making
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor memory
  • Racing thoughts
  • Negative thinking
  • Hostility toward others
  • Decreased work performance
  • Frequent absences
  • Withdrawal
  • Loss of interest
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Excessive sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Susceptibility to illness
  • Panic attacks

What Can Cause Work Stress?

Job FactorsOrganisational PracticesPhysical Work EnvironmentOrganisational ChangeStaff Relationships
  • Unreasonable performance demands
  • Excessive work hours
  • Work overload
  • Insufficient training
  • Poor communication
  • Excessive supervision
  • Unclear role and responsibilities
  • Critical/insufficient performance feedback
  • Uncomfortable work space
  • Noisy or overcrowded environment
  • Health and safety risks
  • High staff turnover
  • Limited chance for promotion
  • Job insecurity
  • Bullying or harassment
  • Competition or conflict
  • Poor relationships with superiors
  • Poor relationships with co-workers

 What Treatment/Help Is Available?

How Can You Help Yourself?

PhysicallyTime ManagementTask ManagementAway from Work
  • Break time. During your breaks do the opposite of what your job requires. If you work at a desk – go for a walk, stretch or read a book on your break.
  • Sleep. Try and come to work with sufficient sleep from the night before.
  • Eating habits. Aim for small, regular, healthy meals throughout the day.
  • Work area. Keep your workspace clean and tidy. A cluttered and disorganised work area only makes tasks difficult.
  • Get organised. Take time to plan your schedule. Allow reasonable time for breaks and tasks. Try and achieve a balanced schedule you can maintain.
  • Arrive early. Don’t add to your stress by being late. Arriving 5 or 10 minutes early can help ease you into the day.
  • Workload. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Too much work will force you to rush, which leads to mistakes, panic, and stress.
  • Prioritise. Not everything can be completed in one day. Concentrate on the ‘musts’, and drop the ‘shoulds’ to the bottom of the list, or to tomorrow.
  • Change your perspective. View large, overwhelming tasks as a series of small steps. Focus on one step at a time.
  • Ask for help. If there are people who can help, let them. If you have been given too much work, discuss other solutions with your supervisor.
  • Avoid perfectionism. Don’t set unrealistic goals that are unattainable. Know when you have done your best, then move on.
  • Stay Physically Healthy. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress, plus it improves your overall health.
  • Relax. Whether it’s reading, watching TV, listening to music, writing in a journal, or meditation – spend time doing things you enjoy when not at work.
  • Talk. Speaking to others about your situation and how you feel is a great way of getting things off your chest, which may make you feel better.

How Can Work Colleagues Help?

work stress

work stress

To assist those experiencing high amounts of work stress it is vital for colleagues to express understanding, empathy and support. While some people may primarily need reassurance and emotional support, others may require help with their work schedule. It is important that colleagues, and workplaces, encourage staff to take steps to keep stress under control, and take action when it is becoming too much.

Mental Health First Aid is a great way for friends and family to learn about mental health and related issues. The course teaches how to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health issues, where and how to get help and what sort of help has been shown by research to be effective. Helping strategies include: medical, psychological, lifestyle and alternative treatments.

Who Else Can Help?

  • Consult with your GP and ask about a Mental Health Care Plan
  • Contact your local Community Mental Health Service to arrange for an assessment
  • Australian Psychological Society (APS) toll free 1800 333 497 for a referral to a psychologist who practices in your area
  • 1300 729 686 MHAQ mhConnect Info & Referral Service
  • 13 11 44 Lifeline 24hr Counselling
  • 1300 363 622 Salvo Careline 24 hr Counselling
  • 1300 224 636 Beyondblue 24hr Info Line
  • 1300 364 100 Parent Helpline
  • 1800 18 SANE (7263) Information Help Line
  • 1800 351 881 ARAFMI 24 hr Family & Friends Support Line
  • 1800 551 800 Kids Helpline 24 hr Counselling

What Resources are Available to You?


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