Monday, August 16, 2010

Job Stress

I recently read this article from one of the forum that I went to and I have requested permission from the forum owner to reproduce this in my blog. Food for thought.

Some research suggests job stress can be particularly heartfelt. In fact, unfair bosses, low-level jobs, anger on the job, shift work and overtime can all contribute to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Workplace stressors
Job stress is defined as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of a job don’t match the capabilities, resources or needs of the worker. Work stress makes people vulnerable to heart disease and stroke and also puts them at risk for psychological disorders, workplace injury and other health problems.

Unfair bosses
A study in early 2003 found unfair bosses are a potent workplace stressor, which could have a negative effect on employees’ heart health – specifically by raising their blood pressure. The study examined female healthcare assistants and the effects of working under two different bosses – one perceived as fair, the other as unfair. Employees experienced significantly higher blood pressure when working with the "unfair" boss. Though small, (29 subjects) this study raises a red flag in terms of identifying and managing workplace stressors.

Low man on the totem pole
In one of the most significant studies linking job stress to heart disease and stroke, researchers followed a large group of civil servants over a period of 10 years. They found that those who worked at the bottom of the organizational hierarchy were much more likely to develop heart disease. In fact, men in jobs such as messengers, and the like, were three times more likely to die of heart disease than those who were administrators, for example.

"If you have too much demand and too little control it constitutes job strain, which makes you more likely to experience increased blood pressure and negative effects on your heart health,” says Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson, Dr. Brian Baker. However, he adds, to have a negative impact on health, the strain/stress needs to be sustained over an extended period of time – months, sometimes years.

Shift work
Shift workers are also at a higher risk than non-shift workers of developing heart disease, high blood pressure and gastrointestinal disorders. Approximately 30% of employed Canadians work shifts or non-standard hours and that can take a significant physical and emotional toll on a large segment of our population. Why are they at greater risk? Shift work disrupts the body’s natural, internal clock, which upsets normal sleeping and eating patterns. As a result, shift workers tend to report high levels of job stress, as well as higher than average rates of smoking, alcohol consumption and poor eating habits – all of which take a heavy toll on health over time.

Lack of appreciation
A large study of 812 healthy men and women working in the metal industry found that employees who had high job strain or felt their work was unappreciated were twice as likely to die of a heart attack or stroke. Interestingly, such workers were also more likely to become overweight and develop high cholesterol – factors that increase your risk of developing heart disease or stroke.

Unhealthy behaviour
Over time, says Dr. Baker, anger on the job can also contribute to heart disease and stroke. Anger sets off a series of physiological changes including increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure levels that can increase your chance of having a heart attack. And, people who are prone to anger are also more likely to turn to unhealthy behaviours like smoking, excessive drinking and overeating.

Early warning signs
Clearly, job stress takes many forms, so it’s important to recognize what kind of stress is "bad", learn how to minimize or eliminate any damaging health effects. Some early warning signs can include headaches, sleep disturbance, difficulty concentrating, job dissatisfaction and low morale.

Dr. Baker says telltale signs that stress has reached a critical level include:
Thinking/worrying about work all the time and being unable to relax Spending an undue amount of time on the work itself or on other interpersonal aspects of the work like your boss or coworkers Extreme exhaustion. If it takes a long time to recover when you come home, this is a sign of burnout Low tolerance. You’re short-tempered and can handle less than you used to be able to.

Take control
Sometimes, it’s not just the job stress that’s important; it’s how we deal with it in the short- and long-term. Since job strain consists of too much demand and too little control, try to reclaim some control, says Dr. Baker, by trying some of the following:

  • Vary your work if possible
  • Try to not be under unnecessary demands all the time
  • Learn to communicate better. Often problems are easier to resolve if you can figure out what a co-worker or a boss wants from you
  • Talk to your employer. Most work places will accept that if an employee isn’t feeling well they should take time off
  • Deep breathing or relaxation techniques
  • Cut down on the amount of coffee and tea you drink
  • Eat well. Don’t skip lunch, and leave the office to eat if you can