Reducing Stress In The Workplace

Stress can be a real demotivating force in any workplace and needs to be handled with care and sensitivity. Often the adage that Prevention is better than Cure rings true in work design and it is a fact that poorly designed jobs and task expectations can have a serious impact upon employee well-being and health.

The most important factors to consider here are the following Role Conflicts.

  • Role Overload; are the set of duties set for the individual too complex for that individual to deliver properly? We all have a finite amount of energy and commitment that we can put into a working day and we will become stressed and agitated if this is breached. If we are really interested in our work this envelope can be stretched but ultimately we still have a finite amount of passion to put into our tasks. This can be made worse when a colleague leaves as we will inevitably work to take up the slack created and this then makes dedicated and reliable staff subject to Role Overload.
  • Role Discontinuity; this is when there is a lack of integration between the different roles we are required to undertake especially if they are taken out of what would be a logical sequence. This is particularly common when staff move from a well-established team into a new environment where previous comfort/knowledge zones are suddenly removed.
  • Role Incompatibility; here the individual is aware of the expectations placed on them but these are considerably different from their own expectations of that role. A good example here would be the “pushy parents” who prod and cajole their children to do tasks and activities that the child themselves has neither interest nor ability in, and are yet expected to do well. This may be a source of stress for career-minded individuals who buck the trend – female engineers and male carers for instance, both of which require careful management.
  • Role Overload; this occurs where there is a lack of balance or reasonableness in the number and range of tasks expected from the post holder. Here there are just too many responsibilities to be dealt with successfully. Some organisations will test this out as a deliberate strategy e.g. the training and stress placed on Junior Doctors is just part and parcel of the job to prepare them for the rigours of more senior roles.
  • Role Underload; this is the pole opposite of Overload where there are very few role expectations of the employee or there are simply not enough things to do. This will lead to high staff turnover or prolonged absences although much does depend upon the individual concerned and their approach to the tasks required. Ever considered how the traffic cones are placed and collected on a motorway?

Think carefully about how you design work tasks and allocate responsibility to make sure, as far as you can, that you consciously reduce stress.

Good Luck!

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