In 2017, 56% of British workers felt very or quite stressed due to their jobs. (Evans, 2017). In 2018/19, according to the Labour Force Survey (2019), 1,800 workers in 100,00 suffered from work-related stress, anxiety or depression. Even that mental health and stress are current topics in society and between companies, these numbers show how it still is a lot to work on. This essay will, firstly, define what stress and work-related stress are. Secondly, it will explain the causes that can lead to work-related stress, having the “Amazon: The Truth Behind the Click” as an example. And, thirdly, this essay will mention some of the consequences that can occur from work-related stress. It will discuss why is important for employees and employers to deal with this issue and suggest ways how they can reduce it or cope with it better.
So, it can be questioned what stress is. Well, stress is a response from our body to help us cope with a situation in our life. Usually, it is a new situation, something that we are not used to dealing with, it can be when a person feels threatened or that does not have control over what is happening at that moment. When this happens, our body starts to generate stress hormones that set off our body in a “flight or fight” mode. This can help to cope to deal with the pressure that is felt at that moment. Normally, people can return to their normal condition without any problems. The problem starts when the person is exposed to a level of stress frequently, it starts to become more difficult to cope with it and it starts to feel overwhelming (Mental Health Foundation, 2018; Shiel, no date). Even that some people would like to be able to ‘switch off’ stress it is not possible since it is a reflex that our body has to protect us (Teasdale, 2006). When the person is feeling constant stress for a long time is what is called long-term stress. According to the World Health Organization (no date), long-term stressed is often caused by the stress that a person is under while at work. Work-related stress can occur from different causes, such as, being asked to do a type of job that do not have the skills or the appropriate material, do not have support from the managerial team or/and colleagues, feeling of not being part of the decisions or the process regarding their job. It is known that most of the jobs put people under pressure, and pressure is needed to help to achieve better results.
The factors related to work that can lead to stress are the ones where the employees are asked to do more than they actually can, where they feel a lack of support and lack of opportunity to express their opinions or to have any choices (King and Lawley, 2019; World Health Organization, no date). The “Amazon: The Truth Behind the Click” proves that. They have targets that are almost impossible to achieve, for example, 110 units per hour (1.80 units per minute). Employees are pressured all the time about their targets and if they have a continuously poor performance, they occur the risk of being fired. Stressed is usually associated with the overload of work, but the opposite can also help to increase it. If the employees do not have work that matches their abilities, they can feel demotivated and under-stimulated what can lead to them start questioning their value and their future in the company (World Health Organization, no date). Long or/and inflexible hours (British Academy, 2010), “Amazon: The Truth Behind the Click” showed that they have shifts more than 10 hours with a 1-hour break. Not knowing the working schedule in advance also helps to increase stress. Even that it is possible that the employees do not have long shifts, if the rota is not known with time, it makes it more difficult to make plans and enjoy life outside work. Employees need a balance between work and their social life (Hope, 2015). It may make them feel that they cannot control their work-life and by a consequence their private life. Another factor that can help to increase stress at work is the uncertainty regarding the position of the employee in the company. For example, it is getting a promotion, or if the job is secure/stable or not (World Health Organization, no date). Since employees are afraid of losing their job, they are going to work even when they are sick. This is called “presenteeism”. If they are sick, they will not be as productive as normal and they are increasing the risk of contaminating their colleagues as well (Allen, 2011; British Academy, 2010). In “Amazon: The Truth Behind the Click” he was a temporary worker like almost all his colleagues were. If the person is temporally and knows that very hardly will become a permanent worker, it is harder to feel part of the company. Furthermore, they were monitored for everything related to attendance and punctuality. If they were late, or if they were sick (even if they were already at work) they would gain some points and if they end up with 3 points they would be fired. Additionally, the company should have rules that need to be followed by everyone. Having different rules for some employees may increase the feeling of unfairness. The managers have a big role in this topic. Managers can help to increase or decrease the stress that their employees are feeling. If the manager does not know how to communicate clearly and effectively, the employee can feel frustrated, not heard, and unsupported. The manager needs to be aware of the relationship between employees. He/she needs to be alert if any harassment is happening or if any employee seems to be affected by any kind of problem at work or even outside work (Allen, 2011; World Health Organization, no date). In the Amazon case, this did not happen. The job itself was already giving him high levels of stress and his managers did not help him to feel secure or to feel supported. They just help to get him even more stressed by pressuring him about his targets and by not allowing any kind of conversation between workers.
These factors that help to increase work-related stress have consequences. Although stress is not an illness, it can make people ill. This means that it can make people under stress more prone to get sick or to have health problems. It can go from just feel bored and not have any motivation at all to go to work, to anxiety, depression to being emotionally unstable (Shiel, no date). It can increase the risk of heart problems (British Academy, 2010). It can also change your healthy habits. It can make a non-smoker start smoking, in a way of seeking ways to reduce stress. For a smoker, it can make an increase in the number of cigarettes that the person smokes per day. Stress might change the person eating habits, from making him/she eat all the time to not eat at all. It can increase the consumption of alcohol and drugs, and when the person is completely overwhelmed and might think that he/she reaches his/her limit, she might end up by committing suicide (World Health Organization, no date). In “Amazon: The Truth Behind the Click”, after some long shifts running from one side to the other with a heavy trolly, the employee created foot blisters and felt that the job was physically demanded. Another consequence of the long hours and the routine job was that he could not forget the beeping sound from his machine, which did not let him rest, creating insomnias.
However, these consequences are not only for the employee but also for the employer. When employees are under excessive pressure, their performance and job satisfaction decline. They are not motivated so their decision-making is weaker what leads to numbers of human errors getting higher. If people are suffering from the effects of long-term stress, they need to call in sick more often so the company is going to suffer from their absence (for example they might need to contract more people, which involves more investment in training). If the company is a warehouse, stress can increase the number of accidents with employees. If employers harass their employees, at some point they can look for revenge and sabotage the company plans (e.g. they can leak a new idea to the public, or sell a product to a rival company) (British Academy, 2010; Teasdale, 2006)
Companies need to avoid these consequences as much as they can (Allen, 2011). If the employee is healthy, it will give is best contribute to the company, so if the company cares about their employees and what is best for them, the company will be a ‘healthy’ company as well. The company can achieve this by paying attention to their staff, to make their work environment more organized, by recognizing their hard workers, by giving more training and enough tools for staff to develop their jobs with more security and confidence (Teasdale, 20016). Also, if the company listens to their staff’s opinions, or if they are given more responsibility, support, and trust they will feel more integrated into the company that will lead to more effort to succeed. Another point that a “healthy” company should consider is the working hours and their flexibility. Their staff needs to be able to have time to develop their personal life (Hope, 2015). If, for example, one person can go on holiday, it is very likely that when returns to work the person is going to be happy to be back, probably are going to have new ideas and be more creative. Stress will always be present at work, so instead of ignoring it, companies should have ways to help their employees to cope with it. One possibility is by having medical advice available, or to do workshops (how to cope with stress, how to work as a team, or actual learning workshops regarding the company subject) or lectures (British Academy, 2010; Teasdale, 2006).
Nevertheless, employees should try to be able to cope with stress without depending on their company. The first step is to acknowledge the stress and to analyse if and which problems are causing, not forgetting physical problems (fatigue or headaches). The next step is to try to find some possible causes for the stress, then try to dive them into two parts, the ones that are out of the person control and the ones that are possible to make some changes to avoid more stress. Consider these last ones and try to find solutions for them by making small changes at work or in private life (Mental Health Foundation, 2018). Another helpful step is to have strong relationships. To create a strong bond with people that it is possible to rely on, it can be friends, family, colleagues (King and Lawley, 2019), or some reading club for example. Eating healthy and being careful with drugs and alcohol also can help to improve well-being (Mental Health Foundation, 2018). One more way that will help to reduce stress is by doing exercise, it can help to liberate stress and feel more “light” (Hope, 2015).
Concluding, stress is the body response to help to cope with unusual situations. When a person is under pressure, usually at work, they can feel stressed however, when the pressure is excessive and the person is constantly feeling stressed, it develops long-term stress. Long-term stress can lead to having health problems, such as fatigue or heart problems. These problems not only affect the employee but also the employer. To improve the work environment and avoid both the company and staff feeling stressed, they need to work together. The company needs to provide appropriate conditions, support, trust and reasonable hours. And needs to provide help to help to cope with stress. While staff needs to do their best job, working with the company to achieve their targets and be loyal. Also, staff cannot depend on the company to cope with stress, they need to have their solutions as well.