Examples of Stress, Depression and Anxiety
With the amount of time we spend at work, it is hardly surprising that stress, depression, and anxiety can occur in the workplace. Work-related stress, depression and anxiety is defined as a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work.
It definitely isn't a rare occurrence either, as over half a million workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017, equating to 12.5 million working days being lost as a result.
There are certain factors that can lead to work-related stress, depression and anxiety. These factors should be on the radars of the managers to prevent problems ever getting out of control:
- Demands – This includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the working environment.
- Control – The level of control you give your team when it comes to the way they do their work.
- Support - The encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by managers for their team.
- Relationships - Promoting a positive working environment avoids conflict and deals with unacceptable behaviour.
- Role – Make sure your team knows what their role is within the organisation to ensure they have clarity over their position, preventing them from ever being 'stretched too thin' due to conflicting responsibilities.
- Change - How you manage and implement organisational change has a massive impact on your team.
Tell-tale signs of these issues in an employee can be seen by observing their own actions, and how they're interacting with those around them. This could be apparent in arguments, mood swings, appearing nervous and on-edge, as well as not showing up at all, and failing to maintain a consistent routine as a result.
Workplace stress will always be present and can be a good thing for productivity and creativity, but there's a fine line between healthy stress, and too much stress that can lead to mental health problems. When employees become too stressed, it takes a toll on them personally, as well as the overall health of the company. To make sure you have a happy, healthy, and engaged workforce, stress management is a must.
Case Study: Stress
John is a petrol tanker. He says life has become more and more difficult for manual workers because the 'fun side' to the work has disappeared.
"It is all about getting a pound of flesh from human beings. Businesses are all about profit and people feel much more stressed because of that. Years ago, most big organisations would have a social club, a football team, a pipe band. But that has all stopped. It is just work, work, work and no play."
A climate of fear and insecurity has been created due to the increasing use of short-term contracts. "You can work all year doing an excellent job and no one will say anything, then you do one thing wrong and you'll be crucified." John labels this as a 'blame culture' in the workplace.
He says long shift patterns, boredom, working in isolation and the never-ending list of health and safety regulations creates an immense pressure for employees to work under. "I have learnt to switch on when I start work and switch off the minute I leave. But some of the other boys can't."
Case Study: Depression
Helen is a 999 call handler. She started to suffer from panic attacks. She found herself feeling sick and not wanting to go to work.
"I had depression; you don't even want to get out of bed, you just want to hide. I work in a room full of 30 or 40 people and I felt like I was the only person in there. You can feel so alone and you just want to hide in a cupboard. It's like you're in a little bubble."
These feelings caused her to have a couple of months off work, something that soon caused problems. At the time, the conversation around mental health wasn't as open as today, and Helen was told she could only have 3 sickness periods a year before Human Resources (HR) got involved. Although she argued for more time off, she was told it couldn't be authorised "for her circumstances".
"At the time I felt that mental health wasn't being treated as a serious problem."
When Helen did return to work she noticed that people were treating her differently: "It's not that they don't care; they just don't know what to say. And that's part of the stigma. I've also heard people talking about depression as though it's just an excuse to get off work. Hearing that in your work environment doesn't encourage people to be open about mental health - but talking about it helps me and others, and that's what I'm pushing for now."
Helen is now working with the Mind Blue Light Programme, encouraging people to open up more about their mental health problems - issues all too common in the workplace.
Case Study: Anxiety
One banking executive (who wanted to remain anonymous) tried to hide his anxiety because he feared that his employer would think he was incapable. The prevailing culture at his office was to keep your head down, work hard and admit no weakness. He wanted to be seen as efficient and resilient. People noticed that his work was suffering, but no one ever thought about his mental health.
He remembers how his fingers, forearms and toes tingled - he was gripped by a mental paralysis. "I couldn't think about how to make a decision, I completely froze. I felt my IQ had dropped 50 points." The trigger for his anxiety, he says, was unrealistic work demands.
He explained how not being able to make decisions made everything worse because it meant he couldn't do his work. "Given that I have always been pretty much the 'golden boy', when my boss took me to task I imploded."
After hitting rock bottom, in the form of considering suicide, he now receives psychiatric help. He eventually returned to work and has become an expert at spotting the signs of anxiety in others, allowing more people to open up about their anxiety.
Why Stress Management is Important in the Workplace
Employers are responsible for recognising and dealing with stress in the workplace so that employees don't become physically or mentally ill. Managers serve as the team leaders that work closely with staff members, making them the eyes and ears for their employer, and consequently the figures that are responsible for stress management.
It is important to tackle the causes of stress in the workplace as stress at work can lead to problems for the individual, their working relationships as well as the overall working environment. Not only does an individual's stress have an impact on them, but the business could also suffer from an increase in customer complaints, regular staff turnover creating instability and days lost to sickness. This highlights how stress management in the workplace needs to be taken seriously by everyone, as ignoring it could be detrimental for the business.