Occupational Stress is referred to continual and persistent stress a person experiences at work, due to work overload, role ambiguity, conflict, undue pressure, under participation in decision making, feeling of powerlessness, poor peer-group relationships, and strenuous working conditions, amongst others.
It can be measured & assessed, through the Occupational Stress Index (OSI). It’s an inventory that enables mental health professionals to understand the causes & current levels of an individual’s occupational stress.
Occupational stress as a term is often used interchangeably with professional stress.
Understanding Occupational Stress
Occupational stress is more of a chronic condition than an acute condition. It requires a thoughtful assessment of the manifestation of the problem before exploring protection, mitigation, and intervention options.
The incidence and manifestation of professional stress may be considered in three progressive steps:
Step 1 includes the reasons & causal factors of professional stress, which are known to be risk elements.
Step 2 is the stress reaction, a normal and naturally occurring response to external demands or internal compulsions.
Step 3 includes the resultant outcomes, in the form of distress or forms of eustress (healthy stress).
Some major causes of occupational stress could be:-
- Rigid policies enforcement by an organization
- Performance targets that exceed an employee’s training and abilities
- Leadership issues of micromanagement and mismanagement
- Restricted opportunities for professional and personal development
- Conflicts among team members within a department or between organizational groups
- Lack of support from human resource departments
- Managerial issues of harassment and discriminating
- Lack of time management
- Lack of occupational guidance or direction
- Being overworked
- Regular threats of termination
- Loss of wages, pay cuts, and benefits
Professional stress can lead to a breakdown of performance, morale, and motivation of the workforce. The biggest impact is on the organization’s employee brand value and perception as not being a great place to work.
Coping mechanisms can be seen at two levels, at the organizational level and another at the individual level.
At the organizational level, the best initiatives revolve around,
- Empowering employees with appropriate levels of authority for approvals and decision-making needed to perform their roles effectively.
- Promulgation of organizational values, to ensure good leadership behavior and a people-focused work culture.
- Formulation of policies to address issues of harassment, abuse, and conflicts at the workplace.
For individual employees,
- Ensuring opportunities for professional growth and development.
- Access to executive coaching to help individuals, develop the right mindset to cope with workplace demands.
- Encouraging cross-departmental projects for employees to gain exposure to other functions and explore interdepartmental career movements.
Occupational stress is an unavoidable, even at times indispensable, element of the work environment, but it does not have to transform into organizational dysfunction nor medical, psychological, or behavioral distress.
To know more about coping with occupational stress, contact me on www.percyvaid.com.