StressWhy is stress becoming a relevant factor in today's organizations?

Should they be concerned about the occupational health of their staff? Are they prepared to manage it? These and other questions raise questions about which we will reflect in this article.

Who has never felt stressed in their life? The term "stress" is known to most people. Hans Seyle, a Canadian scientist, introduced it 40 years ago, however, it is only a few years ago that society has begun to pay attention to the important influence that stress has on health and the economic losses it causes for women. organizations. If we look at the numbers, we see that stress is increasing. In Canada, for example, the annual economic losses attributed to stress are estimated to amount to more than $ 12 trillion. In Europe, the cost of work stress amounts to more than 20 billion euros. This stress causes anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disorders and / or cancer problems in people who suffer from it. In addition to high levels of workplace accidents, absenteeism and a decrease in job performance.
In general, stress arises when we feel unable to respond and adapt to a certain situation. We perceive this situation as excessive, uncontrolled and uncontrollable. Each person can react differently to stress. However, we can identify a series of common symptoms: increased levels of tension, depression, irritability, concentration difficulties, psychosomatic diseases (headaches, hypertension, cardiovascular accidents, ...).
Stress is an alteration progressive, caused by the pressures and demands of modern life, society and also oneself. It also responds to a lifestyle. Paradoxically, today "living under stress" is fashionable. It is associated with a series of behavior and habits: a high number of occupations and responsibilities, frenetic professional and / or personal activity, feeling of lack of material time, always going fast, etc.
Who is most at risk of stress? In the same way that there are people with a personality more predisposed to stress (the literature He describes them as type A personalities), certain organizations have a series of characteristics that make them more likely to be stressed. Let's stop to discuss some of the internal stressors to the organization:
  • Stressors at the individual level: work overload (overwork in quantitative and qualitative terms), conflict and ambiguity of roles, discrepancies with career goals and others.
  • Group stressors: lack of cohesion, conflicts and pressures, discomfort in the team's work environment, etc.
  • Organizational stressors: bad organizational climate, bureaucratization, hierarchical structure, rapid changes in technology, non-rational deadlines, power games, etc.
What consequences does stress have on workers? And, in the company? On a personal level, stress is one of the direct culprits of the most common and most deadly psychological and physical illnesses that affect Humanity. In today's world, organizations are immersed in an increasingly competitive and changing environment. They must give quick and effective responses to the changes that are taking place globally. This pressure is transferred to workers, who are better demanded quality and more work in a shorter time and using fewer resources. All this triggers in a situation of organizational and personal stress. The stressed organization would be one in which there is an imbalance between its objectives and the reality of its internal and external conditions (corporate strategy, technology, human resources, culture, values, economic results, competitors, ...). In turn, the stressed worker would be the one who also suffers from an imbalance, in this case between their expectations and professional interests and the reality of their individual working conditions (responsibilities, autonomy and control, incentive systems, career plans and professional development , ...).
Are our companies prepared to face this disease? Do they consider the management stress as a key strategic factor for your business success ?. We would like to say yes. However, the information at our disposal indicates that we still have a long way to go. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), work stress is an alteration that poses a “danger to the economies of industrialized and developing countries. Productivity suffers by affecting the physical and mental health of workers ”. Stress and professional burnout have become key aspects for companies, mainly due to the negative effects they produce both on individual well-being and on organizational productivity. Burnout is a type of organizational stress that occurs when people work in situations where they have little control over the quality of their work, but hold themselves personally responsible for its success or failure. Companies that want to be successful in the future will have to incorporate into their organizational strategy a management of human resources focused on preventing new occupational risks, such as those caused by stress. The ILO believes that companies that "help their employees cope with stress and carefully reorganize the work environment, based on human skills and aspirations, are more likely to achieve competitive advantages." 
Some companies are already beginning to lay the foundations for what will be a new HR policy aimed at preventing occupational risks arising from stress. Some of the human resource practices that help reduce the impact of stress have been shown to be: providing greater autonomy and taking strategic to people, provide support or counseling. The European Agency for Health at Work has recently pointed out that to combat job stress it would be better to: define roles at work better, improve individual self-control and communication inside and outside work. All this would improve job satisfaction and with it the quality of work. Some are the human resources intervention programs that companies have to create healthier environments. We cite for example: policies for the selection, promotion and / or training of personnel.
To conclude, we know that stress is a colorless and odorless phenomenon. However, its effects are cumulative and lead to constant and rising danger for both workers and companies. Organizations that want to be successful in the future should be able to recognize and treat the symptoms of this problem and prevent its occurrence. Without a doubt, HR managers, as managers of the most precious resource of companies, that is, people, will play a key strategic role in the prevention of occupational risks derived from stress. The only thing that remains is to put sufficient means and resources to make it so.

Some examples of intervention from the Human Resources department

From the SELECTION and PROMOTION of the staff: According to Dolan, both should broaden the range of criteria commonly used, in order to include the psychosocial dimension of the demands of the job. For the person, you can turn out equally stressful not having a job, such as performing one that does not match your expectations and / or personal and professional skills. It is important to assess the risks of physical and / or mental illness of each position. In addition to identifying individual expectations and needs, in order to see to what extent they will be able to be covered by the organization. It should also inform its employees of the requirements generally required and of the philosophy of the management human resources, in order to prevent your workers from creating unrealistic expectations regarding their work. Stress has been seen to be reduced if workers perceive less ambiguity in respect of their careers. In the management human resources efforts should be made to propose various options for career advancement, both vertically and horizontally within the organization
From the TRAINING of the staff: the objective is to maintain the competencies of the staff. To do this, would include as training content the programs and techniques that aim to mitigate the symptoms and manifestations of stress.
According to Shimon Dolan, scientific director of the Institute of Labor Studies (IEL) of Esade in Barcelona, ​​the results and the organizational effectiveness are usually evaluated in terms of economic benefits, market leadership, product or service quality and competitive viability to medium and long-term, among others. The well-being and illnesses of individuals are not usually seen as organizational results. However, according to the same author, managers should be concerned about the emotions of their collaborators because:

From the perspective of the quality of work:

  • Workers are more satisfied when their working environment is safe and comfortable.
  • Mental health specialists estimate that 10% of the workforce suffers from depression or high levels of stress that end up affecting their job performance
      From the legal perspective:

  • Cases brought to court by employees who sued their companies for unpaid compensation for stress-related problems are increasing
This is the case of a worker from the Metal Air company, from Valladolid, who tried to take his life by “finding himself” under severe work stress, seeing with great responsibility the difficult work situation the company was going through… assuming as personal the failures of projects of the company, establishes the sentence (Superior Court of Justice of Castilla y León)
Dolan, who currently runs an international research network on work stress, believes that it is more related to the nature and type of work to be done than to the amount of work itself. It has also observed that people who tend to change less in organization are those who perceive their organizational environment more positively, that is, healthier. For this reason, he believes that, in the future, excellent organizations will be those that care about the occupational health of their employees and themselves. They must individualize the management of their human resources to the maximum, with the purpose of diagnosing, treating and / or preventing the different forms of stress. 
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