When the physical and psychosocial demands of a worker are greater than their ability to cope with them, they experience stress. While a certain level of stress can be healthy and productive, too much stress can cause a variety of physical, mental and behavioural responses - which increases the risk of poor health outcomes, musculoskeletal disorders and pain.
Some of the diseases and disorders linked to stress include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Type 2 diabetes
- Hypertension (high blood pressure), which can also lead to heart disease and stroke
- Anxiety and depression
In addition to this, poorly managed stress can lead to:
- Increased absenteeism and turnover of staff
- Breakdown of individual and/or team relationships
- Reduced efficiency, productivity and profitability
- Poor business reputation and public image
- Reduced worker moral and decreased worker commitment
- Higher costs for the business due to the need for recruitment and training of new staff, counselling and mediation costs, workers compensation claims and legal fees
How stress causes these issues
Stress weakens your immune system, and physical stress weakens your muscles and joints. Immediate responses to stress can include a runny nose, tears, twitchy eyes or face, sweating, trembling, increased or decreased appetite, stomach discomfort/symptoms, vomiting, hives and severe headaches. Imagine if your staff were trying to work under these conditions!
In terms of injury risk, when stressed, your muscles tense up. This is almost a reflex response to stress - it's how the body prepares to protect itself from injury and pain. During instances of sudden onset stress, the muscles all tense up at once and then release this tension once the stress has passed. If you (or your staff) are experiencing chronic stress, these muscles are in a constant state of 'protection' (tension). Not surprisingly, this can trigger other reactions and responses from the body, such as tension-headaches due to the constant tension in the shoulders, neck and head area. Sound familiar?
The shorter, more acute bouts of stress can be just as harmful. Studies have shown that acute-stress-events, such as the death of a loved one, trying to meet a deadline, slamming on the brakes to avoid an accident, being stuck in traffic - can trigger asthma attacks! For those prone to panic attacks, it can also trigger an attack.
There has also been research on the impact of poor stress management and injury risk. As discussed, we know that the body and immunity become weaker and muscles are under more tension. But there's more! Concentration is poorer and self-confidence lower. Stress interferes with how well we can focus on the task or project at hand, leading to riskier behaviours and higher injury risk.
Is it time to address the impact of stress at your workplace? We have a range of solutions available that can be tailored to the needs and goals of your workplace. Contact us today to discuss.