Danger, your job can kill you and jeopardize your employer! Despite access to high tech innovations, we are still millenniums away from the four-hour (not the four-day) work week many dream of. Although technology intervenes in today’s work place, its conveniences place more demands on work performance instead of less.
With electronic spreadsheets, document software, interactive databases, electronic filing and tech-driven devices at our fingertips, workers feel the pressure to multitask. Many workers multitask away from the office as well. As technology advances, adapting quickly becomes the employee’s responsibility. Time-pressed companies often have little time to schedule training. For the employee, the fulfillment of daily tasks while self-training adds to the pressure of unabated workloads.
Not surprisingly, workers feel the pain, often manifested in stress-related disorders such as fibromyalgia, digestive and sleep problems, migraines, chronic fatigue, lowered self-esteem and feelings of tension. In reaction to stress, workers may become withdrawn or procrastinate. To counteract stress, the worker may indulge in binge eating or skip meals, over-indulge in alcohol and junk food, take prescribed or over-the-counter remedies, devise ways to avoid assigned duties and engage in other counterproductive behavior. Stress can culminate in voluntary or involuntary job loss. If prolonged, stress can lead to serious health situations, such as heart attacks and strokes. Other consequences are an uptick in disability claims and employers becoming subjected to “undue stress” lawsuits.
Companies that have a supportive environment offer stress management seminars to promote employee well-being. Such companies also tend to have an employee assistance program and workshops for time management and building job skills. But self-help seminars for employees are becoming fewer as companies limit fringe benefits and concentrate on balance sheets and expansion. Companies are trending towards the reduction or elimination of niceties considered non-essential, such as free coffee and corporate outings. More is demanded from workers although workers receive little more than a paycheck and longer hours.
Plenty of advice about stress management crowds book shelves, infomercials and the internet. Health professionals urge workers to exercise, eat balanced meals and respond to stressful work situations in a positive manner. While advice from professionals is well-intentioned and can be helpful, it doesn’t mean the worker will follow through. Often the advice is inflated with optimism and encourages employees to manage stress on their own. A vigorous gym workout, yoga, a favorite movie or TV show or a meditative session brings momentary reprieve. But back in the cubicle, the worker still faces the onus of conditions commonly behind on-the-job stress: unmanageable workloads, tight deadlines and long hours.
Employees hesitate to confront their managers directly about problems with workloads and deadlines. They fear the stigma that comes with admitting their work plate is overloaded. Response from the manager might be implied or direct criticism about the person’s ability to perform the job, the person’s qualifications and the employee’s motivation. But if the employee presents a workload case in a rational and professional demeanor, it’s more likely the manager will listen and be willing to help.
Managers should consider the employee’s general work style. Some people enjoy multitasking while others can manage only one project at a time. Some workers are high energy while others are laid back. But individual work style has little impact on personal dedication or motivation. Adapting to the way the employee tends to work can yield improved job performance and a better rapport between employee and employer.