Work related stress can create a risk to both the individual experiencing it, as well as overall workplace health and safety.
Short term physiological responses to work related stress include increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased levels of cortisol as well as muscle tension, changes to eating and sleeping patterns, and an increase in the severity or frequency of tension headaches.
Studies have shown that prolonged periods of stress can result in long term consequences as well, such as gastrointestinal problems, heart disease, cardiovascular disease and even type 2 diabetes. Stress has also been linked to a weakened or compromised immune system, which leaves the individual more vulnerable to disease and illness, as well as exacerbating any existing health conditions.
The entire workplace is affected by work related stress, not just the individual experiencing it. Problems common to those experiencing work related stress include an increase in the number of accidents and injuries experienced in the workplace due to decreased concentration, energy levels and judgement, increased absenteeism and staff turnover, and in extreme cases it can engender a negative public perception of your healthcare practice, which can not only lead to a loss in the volume of patients, but also a decreased ability to attract new workers to the workplace.
Work related stress can be combated by identifying potential work related stress hazards, determining the risk of work related stress, and control (where applicable) of work related stress.
Allowing employees to become involved in this process can also help in reducing or eliminating work related stress. Employees may assist in the identification of potential work related stress by participating in workplace surveys or consultations. They should also be encouraged to report any stress hazards. Employees are also in the perfect position to identify examples of situations in the workplace that cause stress, and provide information to their employers in regards to the frequency of the stress experienced.
Continuous improvement should also be implemented in an effort to minimise work related stress.