Stress in the workplace is on the rise, as demands, deadlines, environment, relationships and review all take their toll. Unfortunately, it is this very normalisation of the issue that introduces this slippery slope; both employees and the workplace as a whole can (and will) face serious consequences by failing to acknowledge the dangers of relentless pressure.

Normalisation of dangerous stress

Following the point about normalisation of dangerous stress, this practice which is linked to attitude is largely at the root of the issue going unnoticed and failing to be addressed.

On an individual level; too often a worker might feel that failing to cope with the workload placed upon them is automatically their failing, that it comes down to personal weakness rather than unreasonable company expectations. Ironically, this feeling in turn is likely to increase stress further as the subject blames themselves rather than factors which may be beyond their control.

Workplaces and management in turn can also be at fault for a number of reasons. Employee experience and skills may be poorly utilised, colleague support may be inadequate, or they may simply be missing the warning signs that a member or members of staff are struggling.

Is it really so bad?

“Is it really so bad?” some of you might say.

There is another unfortunate myth that because stress is largely psychological, that it is somehow an imagined problem that’s all in the head.

The answer is yes. Workplace stress should be treated like any physical illness.

How dangerous is stress?

So, just how dangerous is stress?

Even looking at the short-term symptoms it’s not a pretty picture. Headaches, chest pains, severe fatigue, stomach upset, and unstable mood are just a few likely possibilities which may in turn lead into other problems such as increased alcohol intake, over or undereating and severe lethargy.

The long-term cost could be even worse as sustained stress that isn’t addressed has been shown to contribute to the likelihood of serious health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

What unmanaged stress means for the workplace

If your staff are stressed, tired, uninspired, irritable and close to breaking point then these qualities will seep into the workplace as a whole. If a workforce is unable to talk about and address feelings of stress comfortably then the pressure will find its way to the surface in other damaging ways. Divisions rise, workforce cohesion breaks down and company productivity grinds to a halt.

Beyond this, stressed workers are more likely to make mistakes as they rush and panic; creating very literal risks to life in some cases.

Never forget that a job is meant to offer mutual benefits for both employer and employee; in exchange for carrying out duties effectively, a worker will expect a reasonable standard of living being supported in return and ideally some satisfaction as they hone their career skills.

Should the balance fail and the job stress begin to severely impact a worker’s quality of life a number of outcomes may occur.

Take action against stress

If you are struggling to cope with unmanageable work stress, talking about it with someone is the first major hurdle.

Having staff professionally trained in management of well-being could also help ensure stress issues are being effectively addressed, increasing productivity and general satisfaction with how a company is run.

Staff must feel they are able to talk about these issues without fear of punishment or ridicule, otherwise the problems will continue to fester. Mental health posters around your company is something anyone can do to begin developing awareness of support.