Practice Management Unit
Generally, stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes an individual feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body's reaction to a challenge or demand. In short bursts, stress can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline. Medline Plus (2021) noted that stress is caused by an existing stress-causing fact or “stressor”. There are two main types of stress – acute stress and chronic stress; and when stress lasts for a long time, it may harm the health of the individual.2
As stated already, small amounts of stress may be beneficial, as it can improve athletic performance, motivation, and reaction to the environment. It should be noted that xcessive amounts of stress can increase the risk of strokes, heart attacks, ulcers, and mental illnesses such as depression and aggravation of a pre-existing health condition. Stress can be external and related to the environment but may also be caused by internal perceptions that cause an individual to experience anxiety or other negative emotions surrounding a situation, such as pressure, discomfort, etc., which they then deem stressful.3
Stress is a part of life. Whether you run a successful business, engaged in building a career, or are struggling to make ends meet, stress is a part of life that if not managed properly could have negative effects.
The 21st century workplace is highly demanding, fast paced and constantly generates anxiety related pressure on workers which often leads to stress. Sampson (2020) observed that positive pressure can lead to optimal performance, negative pressure can lead to stress with its negative after-effects.4
Workers today are facing significant changes in their respective organizations attributable to the demands of the present fast-paced/high strung environment. The Covid pandemic has also added some complexities to the workspace, as there is greater anxiety to meet the ever-increasing demands of modern work life. Organisations have higher expectations of employees. Working from home now means you cannot officially “close from work” or decompress after the usual 9-5 schedule, and longer working hours add to the already stressful work environment. With the pace of work dictated by rapid communications and high levels of national and international competition, the line separating work and private life is increasingly blurred.
In addition to all of these, the pandemic era has workers facing the fear of losing their jobs, and massive layoffs, reduced financial stability, and diminished working opportunities affect their mental and emotional wellbeing.
Poor diet, modern life-related stressors, environmental pollution, sleep deprivation, are some reasons articulated by Oruebor (2012) as some of the causes why workers experience disturbances in their physical and mental wellbeing.5
Work related stress is an acknowledged global issue that affects workers in every country. In this context, the workplace is a source of psychosocial risk, making it the valid venue for addressing these issues with the view to protecting the health and wellbeing of personnel through collective measures.
Alegbeleye et al (2014) described the level of stress in Nigerian companies as very high and alarming and this is because Nigerian employers do not adhere to set standards given by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which mandates that employers of labour must initiate a stress management policy that will enhance the effectiveness of its staff while also improving the morale of the employees. The authors clearly observe that for the objectives of an organisation to be achieved the work environment must be considerably stress free and the wellbeing of the workers should not be an afterthought.6
In the light of this, organisations need to acknowledge stress and develop strategies to aid its effective management so that organisational goals are attained, and the employees tasked with attaining these goals don't burn out.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) in its 1984 report defines stress as harmful physical and emotional response because of an imbalance between the perceived demand and the perceived resources and capabilities of individuals to cope with certain demands. Work-related stress happens in an organisation when the demand of the job exceeds the abilities of the employees, resources available to the worker and the needs of the worker. It also occurs when the knowledge and skill competence of an individual employee does not meet up with the expectation of the organisation.7
Melgosa (2005) opines that stress can be seen as a combination of the physical and psychological reaction of the body when it comes under higher demands than it can handle. This research portrays stress from the dimension of duties and responsibilities which means the higher the responsibility the more stress one experiences.8
Some scholars have stated that stress is not necessarily a bad thing and if properly harnessed can have positive effects. Robbins and Sanghi (2016)9 opined that stress can be an opportunity that offers potential gains while Rubina (2018) believed the absence of stress is ‘death' although it has its destructive impact on employee performance.10
Work related stress is caused by various reasons some of which include heavy duty demands, poor working conditions, negative working relationships, etc.
Heavy Duty Demands: This occurs when skillsets and competencies of the employee cannot cope with the organisation's expectations.
Poor working conditions: This is common in Nigeria and is a major cause for stress for employees. This kind of stress is experienced when workers are not given the necessary tools and environment to work with and meet the higher demands of the workplace.
Toxic work environments: A toxic work environment also contributes to stress in the workplace. A workplace where employees cannot express their opinions and where the workers don't have mutual respect can be highly stressful and could hinder the performance of the employees.
Managing work stress
Stress management includes a wide spectrum of techniques and psychotherapies aimed at controlling a person's level of stress, especially chronic stress, usually for the purpose of and for the motive of improving everyday functioning. The process of stress management is named as one of the keys to a happy and successful life in modern society, as stress management provides several ways to manage anxiety and maintain overall wellbeing.11
Workplace stress management are recommended ways that are designed to help reduce stressors in the work environment. The aim of stress management is to help employees manage the stress of everyday life. Bruce (2015) explains stress management further as proven techniques for alleviating stress, relaxing physical and emotional tension and producing thoughts that relaxes.12
Ideobodo (2019) recommends the following methods to help in managing workplace stress:13
- Improvement of working conditions: providing the tools to be efficient in the workplace and a healthy and balanced work environment help to reduce stress and improve job satisfaction for the employees.
- Work roles should be clearly stated and maintained. An employee taking on many roles can lead to confusion and stress.
- Negative working relationships between employees should be discouraged and checked as quickly as possible.
- Periodical leisure and recreational activities are encouraged. This promotes work harmony.
- Seminars and workshops on stress management can be organised to help employees understand stress and develop personal techniques that can help.
- Stress reduction polices like annual vacations, sick leaves, and mental health days off should be in place in organisations. These resting periods help employees renew their energies and get them refreshed to face their duties.
- Encourage the employees to participate in decisions and actions that affect their jobs.
The workplace is constantly going to be stressful. Employees are encouraged to find a balance to prevent burnout or complete breakdown, while employers are advised to put polices in place to make the workplace less stressful and to energize their workforce.
1 Temitope Fadare, Personal Assistant to the Managing Partner, SPA Ajibade & Co., Lagos, NIGERIA.
2 Medline Plus (2021). Stress and your health. Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003211.htm. Last accessed 27th September 2021.
3 Wikipedia (2021). Psychological Stress. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_stress. Last accessed 30th September 2021.
4 Uchechukwu Sampson (2020) Stress Management and Employee Performance of Selected Deposit Money Bank in Osogbo, Osun State, Nigeria. IOSR Journal of Business and Management (IOSR-JBM) Volume 22, Issue 11, pp. 26-35.
5 Oruebor, A. (2012) Public Administration: Theories & Elements. Owerri: ChukBen Enterprises.
6 Alegbeleye, G; Ojeifo, A. & Idris, D. (2014). Stress Management and Employees Welfare: The implication on Performance. Arabian Journal of Business and Management Research/Review of Public Administration and Management. Vol. 3(6): 191-203.
7 International Labour Organization (ILO). 1984. Psychosocial factors at work: Recognition and control. Report of the Joint International Labour Office and World Health Organization on Occupational Health, Ninth Session, Geneva, 18-24 September 1984. Occupational Safety and Health Series No. 56. Geneva:
8 Melgosa, J. (2005). Less Stress. European Union Publishers, Madrid, Spain.
9 Robbins & Sanghi, (2016). Organizational Behavior. (11th ed.), India: Dorling Kindersley
10 Rubina H.B, (2018). Principles and Practice of Stress Management, 3rd ed., New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
11 Wikipedia (2021). Stress Management. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stress_management. Last accessed 26th September 2021.
12 Bruce, T.R. (2015). Assessing the Sustained effects of Stress Management Interventions of Anxiety and Locus of Control. Academy of Management Journal, 18, (6) 151-203.
13 Ideobodo Nwafor-Orizu (2019). Stress Management and Job Enhancement in Nigeria Public Sector: A Critical Review. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/330546199stress_management_job_enhancement_in_nigerian_public_sector_a_critical_review. Last accessed 9th September 2021.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.