Over the past few decades, many people are hearing more about job related stress. With many households depending on duel incomes, people are working more and having less leisure time. Many claim that job stress has contributed to such illnesses as heart disease, depression, gastric problems, exhaustion, and many other related illnesses. This paper will focus on the background issues surrounding stress; as well as, the steps that need to be taken by one’s self and the employer.
According to The Random House Dictionary, stress is defined as “physical, mental, or emotional tension. Job tress occurs when demands are imposed upon the workers in which they can not meet those demands, or when there are not enough adequate supplies or information available for the employee to perform their job as required (Paine, 1982, pg. 68). In the book The Overworked American, author Juliet Schor (1991) reports that 30 percent of adults have reported experiencing high levels of stress on a daily basis. There is an even higher percentage of adults who have claimed to have high levels of stress at least once or twice a week.
In 1965, only a quarter of the population reported that they re rushed to get things done resulting in high stress levels. Today, that number has increased to one-third of the American population claiming they are rushed on a daily basis (Schor, 1991, p. 11). King 2 Prolonged severe stress can cause emotional depression, the exhaustion stage is not depression, but a physical process. Long-lasting excessive stress can cause a variety of physical illnesses. Among them: high blood pressure, ulcers, colitis, arthritis, diabetes, stoke, and heart attack.
The same type and level of stress can effect individuals differently. It depends on the person’s hysical condition (age, sex, genetic predisposition) and on certain external factors (diet, or treatment with certain drugs or hormones) as to the physical or emotional suffering that will occur. The weakest link in a chain breaks down under stress, even though all parts are equally exposed to it (Bensahel, Goodloe, and Kelly, 1984, p. 130). Illnesses that derive from stress usually develop slowly, without the individual being clearly aware of what is happening.
Guidelines were developed by Robert J. Ban Amberg, a practicing psychiatrist in Montclair, New Jersey o help individuals measure their own reactions to stress and to help managers know when they are under stress. These guidelines were developed into six stages with stress symptoms becoming worse at each stage. Sometimes, the stress symptoms will disappear or lessen (Bensahel et al. , 1984, p. 135). The first stage of stress is mild and usually is accompanied by “1. Great zest 2. Unusually acute perception 3. Excessive nervous energy and ability to accomplish more King 3 work than usual” (Bensahel et al. , 1984, p. 135).
During this stage, it is so pleasant that they want to maintain it. Unfortunately, it must be considered an early warning sign that energy reserves are being drawn down (Bensahel et al. , 1984, p. 135). During the second stage of recognizing stress, some of the more unpleasant effects begin to appear. Energy reserves usually do not last through the day. Some of the symptoms include tiredness early in the day, heart flutters and/or disturbance of bowel and stomach functions, tightness occurring in back and head muscles, and not being to relax (Bensahel et al. , 1984 p. 136). Tiredness becomes more apparent in the third stage.
There is more disturbance in bowel functions as well as tomach pain. Muscles become more tight and there is an increased feeling of tenseness. Individuals usually experience sleep problems and have a feeling of faintness. For individuals suffering stress to this stage, medical attention is advisable. Unless one reduces the demands causing stress, more serious problems will arise in the later stages (Bensahel et al. , 1984 p. 136). At stage four, one can experience problems getting through the day. Once-pleasant activities become quite difficult, and the ability to communicate in social affairs or talking with friends becomes quite burdensome.
There is more difficulty sleeping with the occurrence of unpleasant King 4 dreams. The stressed individual develops a feeling of negativism, inability to concentrate, and nameless fears. Stage five is represented by a deepening of the stage four symptoms along with extreme fatigue (Bensahel et al. , 1984, p. 137). The final stage can produce terrifying symptoms. This can include heart pounding and panic caused by release of adrenaline. There is often gasping for breath, trembling, shivering, sweating, numb and tingling hands and feet, and sheer exhaustion.
The symptoms of stress are frequently onflicting and confusing. “The stress disorder is essentially a step-by-step exhaustion of the body’s fuel reserves” (Bensahel et al. , 1984, p. 139) During the early 1980s, workers compensation claims nearly tripled for those reporting stress related illness due to work (Schor, 1991, p. 11). There has been a dramatic increase in the number of stress related illnesses, particularly among women. Jobs have been a major contributing factor to this stress. Only one-forth of wives with children held paying jobs outside the home in the 1960s.
By the 1990s, two-thirds of American wives were nvolved in paying jobs outside the home. Not only are women working more, but they are working more long hours. These increased hours on the job create less time for “home life” activities (Schor, 1991, p. 25). King 5 Now that many households require both parents to work and with more women entering the workforce, companies are paying closer attention to the women in their companies and are becoming more concerned for quality family life. Companies have developed flexible hours for working mothers, while also implementing child daycare programs within the organization.
This helps working mothers the freedom to arrange work around family (Kizer, 1987, p. 36). To help reduce stress and improve the quality of life, many organizations are becoming more involved in wellness programs. With increasing health care costs, many employers are concentrating on disease prevention and health promotion. By putting a wellness program in place, it leads to a healthier workforce which increases its productivity level, reduces employee absenteeism, creates less overtime, and it also cuts the cost of health benefits (Kizer, 1987, p. xi).
Another reason that many companies are developing a ellness program within the organization is the effect it has on the bottom line. By preventing stress, an organization has happy healthy employees which means the quality and quantity of work will be improved. For example, “ A middle manager may be a company’s shining star, but if he is living in constant disharmony at home, or if his teenage daughter, whom he suspects is using street drugs, did not come home until 3 a. m. last Saturday night, this King 6 promising manager is not going to be particularly efficient at even routine daily tasks.
A worksite wellness program could help” (Kizer, 1987, p. 6). Another contributing factor to higher job related stress is less leisure and vacation time. Throughout the 1980s, the amount of paid time off for employees is actually shrinking. Many European workers are gaining vacation time, while Americans are losing it. “ In the last decade, U. S. workers have gotten less paid time off – on the order of three and a half fewer days each year of vacation time, holidays, sick pay, and other paid absences. ” (Schor, 1991, p. 32). Many companies faced an economic squeeze in the 1980s.
Vacations and holidays were among the cost-cutting efforts. DuPont reduced its top vacation allotment time from seven to four weeks. They also eliminated three of their paid holidays a year. With the new trend of down-sizing, many employees are fearful of job loss and therefore, spend less time away from the workplace (Schor, 1991, p. 32). Individuals who experience high or frequent levels of stress need to learn to cope. High levels of stress can effect job performance and it can also be unhealthy. To maintain a healthy lifestyle, people need to attempt to take responsibility for stress.
Those individuals need to learn more about stress in general and ow it effects them. They also need to develop techniques King 7 for monitoring personal levels of stress and develop techniques to deal with job related stress. Employees should look within the organization on ways to alleviate stress and how to cope more effectively. Organizations are often unnecessarily stressful and should be changed to reduce the negative impact on individuals’ physical and mental health (Paine, 1982, p. 21). Three major strategies for strengthening individuals are workshops, stress management skills, and focused short term counseling.
Introductory workshops are essential to ommunicate and educate to be more mentally and physically healthy. Such workshops which specialize in topics as time management or relaxation techniques help to alleviate the stress in one’s life (Paine, 1982, p. 22). Finding techniques that deal with personal stress can also be useful in dealing with job stress. Regular aerobic exercise to deep breathing techniques are potentially useful in stress management. Many specialist agree that there is not any one method to overcome the problem. One needs to realize their own self needs and strengths in dealing with stress management (Paine, 1982, p. 23).