Perhaps it’s due to a boss who seems to be making unreasonable demands. Or it’s the result of a co-worker who seems to routinely pass her work onto you. Or maybe you’re in a profession where tension is great, such as medicine or law. While a little bit of stress on the job can be healthy, too much can be a killer—literally. It’s been shown that there appears to be a direct correlation between stress and heart disease.
As a result of this, it is important that you learn to deal effectively with stress on the job. This can be difficult, because a number of stress-inducing factors may be out of your control. For instance, you have no say in who your boss is or who your customers are. You may not be able to determine when you start your day, or how much time you have for lunch. However, it is important for you to recognize that job stress is a serious health problem.
The statistics tell the story. A study conducted in 1999 discovered that we are working longer hours. In fact, the average number of hours on the job have increased eight percent in just one generation—to 47 hours a week. One out of five of us works as much as 49 hours a week. We are a nation of workaholics. This can cause a great deal of stress, not only on the job, but on the homefront as well. A number of divorces are attributed each year to the workaholic syndrome. To put things in perspective, consider this: the average American works three months more each year than workers in Germany. The U.S. leads the industrialized world in the number of hours worked. The workplace has become so competitive in the U.S. that some employees compare it to the reality TV program known as “Survivor.”
In order to help reduce your stress on the job, you need to make a realistic assessment of your hours. Is it possible for you to cut back and still perform your duties? Are you wasting time on the job that would be better spent at home? Can you delegate some of your duties to someone else in the office? If you design a more workable work schedule, you might find your job-related stress decreasing significantly.
It is entirely possible that you will actually become ill working those extra hours. Over a four-year period, from 1996 to 2000, the proportion of employees taking sick time due to stress rose by three fold. Each day, as many as a million American workers have called in sick because they are under too much stress. This absenteeism is costing American companies money—and making workplaces less productive.
Americans are also feeling stressed out because they no longer think their jobs are secure. Over a ten year period, the number of employees who were afraid they would become unemployed doubled. And a survey conducted in the year 2000 discovered that half of all workers worried that they could lose their jobs. The dot.com burst, corporate bankruptcies, and massive layoffs have scared the American workforce. With little job security, workers live in fear of being tossed onto the unemployment line. A number of people have come to realize that they cannot expect to retire from the company for which they are now working. Therefore, they may have little allegiance to their companies, resulting in stress for both bosses and employees.
It would be wonderful if the economy could be changed so that long-term employment at a single company was still possible, but that may be wishful thinking. As a result, workers need to try to lessen their stress—knowing that they may be in a volatile position. For many workers, this might mean making sure that they contribute to a 401-K plan so that they have money socked away for retirement. For others, it might mean starting their own businesses so that they do not have to rely on someone else for their employment. If you try to be proactive, chances are you will lessen your stress level. You have to realize that you are ultimately responsible for your own fate. If you are in the driver’s seat, you will feel a sense of control which could lessen your stress level considerably.