Laughing away workplace stress? What a joke!

WORK-related stress is the most common workplace issue in Australian workplaces according to AccessEAP, a corporate psychology organisation which supports and develops positive organisational behaviour.

AccessEAP collects data across customer organisations representing every industry and can reveal the top five causes of stress Australians experience in the workplace.

The top five triggers of workplace stress: 

1. Job insecurity
2. Work overload
3. Organisational change
4. Conflict with manager or colleagues
5. Bullying and harassment

"AccessEAP data has found that job insecurity and work overload are the top triggers for workplace stress. A recent report found that job insecurity rose from 26% to 31% during the second half of 20131," clinical services manager Marcela Slepica said.

"Employers can set up management courses and build resilience seminars to help employees understand and manage stress. However, unless an organisation creates a culture of open communication and realistic, achievable demands and deadlines for employees, work overload and the stress it creates will continue to exist.

"Work-related stress is still a major concern for Australian organisations and an issue that continues to rise..

"In 2013, Australians reported significantly lower levels of wellbeing and significantly higher levels of distress than in the previous two years which can have detrimental effects on any organisation.

"In today's fast paced society, everyone experiences different levels of stress; the more stressors we have in our lives, the more susceptible we are. Everybody is vulnerable to stress and react to different stressors in different ways. Some people become withdrawn, have difficulty sleeping and the longer and more severe the stress, the greater the effect.

"Stress in the workplace may cause headaches, gastrointestinal conditions, high blood pressure and sleep disorders.

It may affect productivity, relationships and performance and may lead to employees feeling overwhelmed," she added.

"Mental health issues continue to cost employers in sick days with one fifth of Australian workers having taken time off in the last year due to stress, anxiety, depression or feeling mentally unwell.

The high cost of absenteeism

"This absenteeism is resulting in 12 million days of reduced productivity imposing a direct economic cost on employers which amounts to a staggering $6 million lost each year.

"Although mental health and wellbeing in the workplace is everyone's responsibility, business owners and leaders play an even more critical role. They have the capacity to influence colleagues and implement the necessary changes to work towards workplace wellbeing. Increasing awareness of mental health in the workplace will help remove stigma and create a more open environment.

"Workers that are not suffering from stress are more productive and a recent PWC study looked at the impact of employee's mental health conditions on productivity, participation and compensation claims. The study found that these conditions are costing Australian employers $10.9 billion a year. The bottom line is that if your organisation is not investing in mental health, it's losing money."

Stress less today!

Today is Stress Down Day. It is a Lifeline initiative that aims to reduce stress through laughter.

"Laughter is a great feel good experience and has a lot of added health benefits including strengthening the immune system, relaxing tense muscles, reducing high blood pressure and reducing the production of stress hormones," Ms Slepica said.

"Introducing laughter to the workplace as well as day to day life may help alleviate stress."

The top five ways to handle stress in the workplace:
1) Work out your priorities
Write them down each morning, prioritise them and take one thing at a time. Keep and make lists and make sure the tasks you set are achievable.

2) Practice saying no
If you are already feeling overloaded, think hard before committing to other people's expectations or agendas. We often perform tasks just to feel accepted by other people. Practice saying no to requests that are unreasonable or more than you can handle at the time.

3) Don't take things personally
Make allowances for the fact that stress can make you more sensitive in reacting to others and more prone to taking things personally. Stress in others can also make them behave atypically or unkindly. Learn to defuse situations rather than bottle them up and let go of grudges.

4) Prioritise relaxation and exercise
These are not optional extras for handling stress, they are essential. Set aside time each day for recreation and exercise. The trick is to find what suits you. Hobbies that focus attention are also good stress relievers.

5) Identify your stress situations
Make a list of events that leave you emotionally drained and one or two ways to reduce the stress for each. When they occur, use them as an opportunity to practice your stress reduction techniques and keep notes of what works for next time.

Topics:  laughter workplace

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