The evidence for the toll of stress on the job keeps adding up. Besides affecting worker performance, job stress is closely linked to injuries, and a majority of American workers say they are stressed out. If that news isn't bad enough, new information from the Centers for Disease Control puts construction in third place for the highest number of suicides across a wide range of industries.
A National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report revealed that 40% of workers described their jobs as very or extremely stressful, and 25% of respondents named their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives. Meanwhile, the seventh Attitudes in the American Workplace study reported 80% of workers claimed they felt stressed on the job with half saying they needed help in learning how to cope with stress.
Not surprisingly, stress is one of the contributors to suicide, and the construction industry has the third highest rate of suicide of all industries in the United States. Stress also plays a large role in chronic physical pain as well as injuries.
A 2012 study reported that 40% of people working in construction who were over the age of 50 had chronic back pain. Pain and injury are contributors to depression, and when people live with chronic pain they are more likely to feel stressed, and get injured. So with all the negative aspects associated with stress, including jobsite injuries, what can employers, and employees themselves do to reduce on the job stress?
Employers can do a lot to minimize the stress their employees must endure. Some tactics include:
Breaking down tasks so they are realistic given the time allotted.
Keeping weekly work hours to less than 50.
Allowing people to have control over as many aspects of their job as possible.
Providing recognition for good performance.
Treating people as equals, and with respect.
Making job roles and tasks clear.
Not over-assigning or loading people down with too much.
Creating healthy work environments by mitigating noise, dust, toxic substances, crowding, and air pollution.
Employees can also do a lot to handle stress themselves. However, stress is highly personalized. Some people thrive in a fast-paced high pressure environment, provided they feel they are in control. These people might actually feel more stress in less demanding jobs. Then, there are those in the opposite situation, preferring predictable, orderly environments instead of those that are challenging and fast moving.
A key aspect of limiting job stress is the amount of control, or sense of control, and decision-making that a person has over the situations they encounter at work. When workers feel there are high demands, but they have little control, they are at a higher risk for stress, injury, and health related issues.
Here are 6 tactics individuals can use to reduce their stress levels at work.
1. Establish a Trust Network
Just like in your personal life, it's beneficial to have a social support system at work. Try to find coworkers and allies whom you can talk to about work-related issues that cause you stress. Sometimes, hearing other perspectives and gaining new understandings can help reduce or prevent stress.
2. Take a Break
Many people face burnout after being on the job for many years, or as in construction, after many months on a particular project. But, it is also possible to have burnout on any given day or week. These incidents often come from high stress situations.
Everyone who has worked even a short time in construction knows that trying to meet the schedule, and trying to stay within budget are two widespread industry stressors. When you start feeling you are at a dead end, and as though you need an escape, take a break, go for walk, or do something to get a change of environment, and a change in perspective.
3. Be Realistic
Don't try to do more than you can reasonably handle. Set realistic expectations for yourself, and try not to overload the time you have available. If you find that the workload people expect of you is unrealistic, you owe it to yourself, and them to point that out. Help them to understand that your overload might be beneficial for a short time, but that over the long term, there may be a price to pay.
4. Adjust Your Expectation of Perfection
Attaining perfection is a constant challenge for many people. If you find you're one of those, then realize you may be setting the bar too high, and causing stress when you can’t meet your own expectation. On most construction projects, there are quality standards that must be met. Learn to accept those levels of quality as your expectation of perfection.
5. Be Organized
Keep your work area free from clutter, and organize it so you can work efficiently. A short time spent organizing and cleaning can reduce the stress that comes from unpredictability. You will also reduce stress by eliminating the possibility of misplaced items you need for the job, and the stress that comes from falling behind in the schedule because you spent time searching for the items you need for your work. A clean and neat work area is also safer.
6. Stay Positive
Stay alert to negative thinking and negative people, and avoid them. By regularly checking your thoughts you will detect when negativity is creeping in. Take a moment to focus on something positive. Look for the things that are going right, and look to the people who are doing things right.