Fabian Demicoli

Stress at the Place of Work

 During a Seminar held earlier on this week, organised by the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA) in collaboration with the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, it transpires that 50-60% of working days are lost to stress.

 

The keynote speaker at the seminar was Dr Rial Gonzales, who heads the Prevention and Research Unit of the European Agency for Safety and health at Work. During his presentation Mr Gonzales emphasised that over the last decade, work related stress has been constantly identified in the EU as one of the major workplace concerns. In fact, work-related stress represents a huge cost in terms of both human distress and impaired economic performance. Up to 25% of workers across Europe complain of stress at work, while 50 and 60% of all working days lost are due to stress. Second most common cause of work-related health problems after stress is back pain.

 

Representaties of Unions and employers addressed participants on their respective roles in implementing the framework agreement on stress at the place of work. Managing stress well can help a person handle the next encounter better, but if poorly managed, stress can lead to physical and further psychological health problems. Work-related stress can be defined as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the job requirements do not match the capabilities, resources or needs of the worker.

Many factors such as attitudes, skills, personality, current situation, other events or other people influence a person's perception of events. A person's reaction depends on how he percieves the eent. What is considered stressful by one person might not be considered so by another.

Ms Silvana Aquilina Naudi, GRTU's representative during the Conference referred to modern life as full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations and demands. For many people, stress is so commonplace that it has become a way of life. She also said that STRESS is not always bad, in small doses as it can help you perform under pressure and motivate yourself to do your best but when you are constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body will pay the price. STRESS is the body's way of responding to any kind of demand. It can be caused by both good and bad experiences. When people feel stressed by something going on around them, their bodies react by releasing chemicals into the blood.

Important tips of what causes stress;

Survival Stress – You may have heard the phrase "fight or flight" before. This is a common response to danger in all people and animals. When you are afraid that someone or something may physically hurt you, your body naturally responds with a burst of energy so that you will be better able to survive the dangerous situation (fight) or escape it all together (flight). This is survival stress.

Internal Stress – Have you ever caught yourself worrying about things you can do nothing about or worrying for no reason at all? This is internal stress and it is one of the most important kinds of stress to understand and manage. Internal stress is when people make themselves stressed. This often happens when we worry about things we can't control or put ourselves in situations we know will cause us stress. Some people become addicted to the kind of hurried, tense, lifestyle that results from being under stress. They even look for stressful situations and feel stress about things that aren't stressful.

Environmental Stress – This is a response to things around you that cause stress, such as noise, crowding, and pressure from work or family. Identifying these environmental stresses and learning to avoid them or deal with them will help lower your stress level.

Fatigue and Overwork – This kind of stress builds up over a long time and can take a hard toll on your body. It can be caused by working too much or too hard at your job(s), school, or home. It can also be caused by not knowing how to manage your time well or how to take time out for rest and relaxation. This can be one of the hardest kinds of stress to avoid because many people feel this is out of their control.

Signs and symptoms of stress overload;

Cognitive symptoms – Memory problems – Inability to concentrate – Poor judgment – Seeing only the negative – Anxious or racing thoughts – Constant worrying

Emotional symptoms – Moodiness – Irritability or short temper – Agitation, inability to relax – Feeling overwhelmed – Sense of loneliness and isolation – Depression or general unhappiness

Physical symptoms – Aches and pains – Diarrhea or constipation – Nausea, dizziness – Chest pain, rapid heartbeat – Loss of sex drive – Frequent colds

Behavioral symptoms – Eating more or less – Sleeping too much or too little – Isolating yourself from others – Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities – Using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax – Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

How Managers/Employers can help reduce job stress

Improve communication – Share information with employees to reduce uncertainty about their jobs and futures. Clearly define employees' roles and responsibilities. Make communication friendly and efficient, not mean-spirited or petty.

Consult your employees – Give workers opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their jobs. Consult employees about scheduling and work rules. Be sure the workload is suitable to employees' abilities and resources; avoid unrealistic deadlines. Show that individual workers are valued. Offer rewards and incentives. Praise good work performance, both verbally and officially, through schemes such as Employee of the Month. Provide opportunities for career development. Promote an "entrepreneurial" work climate that gives employees more control over their work.

Cultivate a friendly social climate – Encourage opportunities for social interaction among employees. Establish a zero-tolerance policy for harassment. Make management actions consistent with organizational values.

Psychological support in the workplace – Duty of care – Economic and performance argument

Types of Psychological support available – In- house counseling/in-house psychotherapist – Out sourced therapy services – EAP

Closing address was by Dr Peter Micallef, Parliamentary Assistant at the Ministry for Health, the Elderly and Community Care.

Anyone wishing to communicate with Ms Silvana Aquilina Naudi, Psychotherapist, GRTU Executive Council member via email or 79 441513

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