15 January 2022

Stress Management In The Workplace

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Stress Management In The Workplace

Prior to COVID-19, one in five Australians suffered from a diagnosed mental health condition [1]. The Productivity Commission (2020) estimated the total costs of poor mental health on Australia’s economy, government and society at $200-220 billion per year [2]. Endless lockdowns, isolation and insecurity have exacerbated feelings of stress and poor mental health in the workplace for millions of Australians during the global pandemic. However, by taking steps to modify workplace practices to reduce work-related stressors, a significant portion of mental ill health could be prevented.

What is workplace stress?

The World Health Organisation defines workplace stress as ‘the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope’ [3].

What causes workplace stress?

Various factors can contribute to work-related stress[1] including:

  • Poor work organisation, the structure of work systems and how they are managed
  • Poor management and leadership
  • Lack of support from colleagues and supervisors
  • High demand tasks
  • Discrimination – gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity
  • Feeling out of place
  • Job insecurity

The importance of workplace mental health and work-life balance

Stress can be directly associated with mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, and physical disorders such as hypertension and diabetes [4]. One study highlighted that ‘work stress appears to precipitate diagnosable depression and anxiety in previously healthy young workers’[5]. Employers need to recognise and create meaningful practices to create a steady balance for staff, implementing the same duty of care and enforcement as is expected for mitigating physical health risks in the workplace.

Undoubtedly, meeting deadlines, striving to get a competitive edge or the desire to exceed expectations can sometimes make achieving this balance difficult. Nonetheless, it is workplace leaders who can pave the way to implement initiatives for staff.

"Work stress appears to precipitate diagnosable depression and anxiety in previously healthy young workers"

Five strategies to support employees in managing workplace stress

References & Resources

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