Everyone experiences workplace stress at some point in their career. Stress can often provide the incentive to achieve a certain task or help people perform better. However, there’s a thin line between constructive and destructive stress, Recurrent day-to-day workplace stress is becoming a worldwide problem making people sick.
In a 2017 survey by the American Psychological Association, 61 per cent of respondents said they were stressed on the job, making work the third most common source of stress overall. Furthermore, 37 per cent of workers reported they experienced chronic workplace stress, which means they are stressed all the time and not due to a specific project or deadlines.
The public health department of DHA carried out a survey in 2017 for DHA employees to gauge their level of stress. The department is also carrying out awareness initiatives to educate the public on how to recognise workplace stress and ways to minimise it.
“Stress at work should not be taken lightly,” says Dr Muhammad Wasif Alam, Director of Public Health and Safety Department, Dubai Health Authority. “If it goes unrecognised and unmanaged, it is known to lead to depression. Workplace stress can trigger frequent headaches and body aches, frequent bowel movement and vomiting, nail biting, excessive smoking, irritability. Loss of sense of humour and jitteriness are strong indicators of a stressed employee.”
Dr Alam points out that people with these issues should manage their stress because if left untreated they can develop severe anxiety and depression. “Counselling and psychological help may be needed if the symptoms does not regress by change in work environment or tasks.
“Today, more than ever, employees are experiencing a high level of stress due to higher competition, job insecurity, stricter deadlines, and raising the bar of customer satisfaction whether it be at a healthcare facility or elsewhere.”
Dr Alam said that every employee should also assess their physical work environment and make necessary changes to reduce stress. “In any workplace, it is necessary to make an assessment of the physical environment that could be a work stressor, such as proper lighting, room temperature, noise level, relaxation time, indoor air quality if overcrowding, shift schedules and working long hours. A good sleep and healthy diet are also important factor to minimise work stress.
“The human brain under frequent stress may undergo changes affecting its cell size especially in the pre-frontal cortex, hippocampus and amygdala,” says Dr Alam. “The good news is that these brain cells can come back to its normal size if a person does regular exercise, spiritual meditation/praying, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and more importantly socialisation with family and friends.”