Chronic workplace stress affects your health and the bottom line

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently added burn-out to its list of recognized diseases and health problems affecting the global community. Burn-out is defined by the WHO as a “syndrome conceptualized as chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

Burn-out should not be confused with stress. It’s specific to unresolved, ongoing stress related to your job. The WHO has also developed guidelines to determine if you suffer from burn-out.

Signs you may suffer from burn-out

According to the WHO, you may have burn-out if you:

  • Feel exhausted or less energetic
  • Experience increased mental distance, negativity or cynicism about your job
  • Are less effective at work

Generally, if you regularly have a hard time getting out of bed to go to work, snap at your co-workers when you’re there, or find it difficult to be productive, you should assess your workplace stress and make a plan to deal with it. Your health depends on it.

What causes stress at work?

To reduce workplace stress, it’s important to understand how it happens. Stress at the workplace can be caused by a variety of things, including workload and type of job, but according to the WHO in a 2007 publication, work-related stress most often results from:

  • Work demands and pressures that are not matched to ability or knowledge
  • Lack of support from supervisors and co-workers
  • Little control over work processes

Affects of burn-out

For employees, chronic workplace stress can cause health conditions such as high blood pressure, sleeplessness and anxiety. For employers, it affects the bottom line with lost productivity and increased healthcare costs.

According to Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, workplace stress has caused additional healthcare expenditures of up to $190 billion.

Ways to avoid workplace stress

The risk of leaving workplace stress unchecked can affect every aspect of your life, most importantly your health. Here are a few ways to reduce the chance for burn-out:

  • Talk to your supervisor. Understand what’s causing your burn-out and develop a plan to change it.
  • Take a real vacation. You need to rest and recharge. When you’re not at work, vow to send calls to voicemail and turn on your email vacation autoresponder.
  • Assess your work/life balance. As we age, our goals change. Figure out what’s most important to you and make adjustments if necessary.
  • Learn mindfulness. According to Mindful.org, mindfulness is the ability to be “fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
  • Focus on a passion. Consider exploring activities outside of work. Find a hobby. Take a class. Think about what you used to love as a child and go do it.
  • Start a journal. Writing down your thoughts or just listing what you’re grateful for each day can help you find balance and peace.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore burn-out. Make strides to reduce workplace stress and keep yourself healthy, happy and whole.

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