Originally published: 07.01.08 by Alan and Pamela Davis
The pressures of work and life can boil over. Make sure you and your employees have ways to combat stress before it’s too late.
Summer is in full swing and that means that your work days just got longer. Customers are calling non-stop to have you fix their air conditioners and they want them fixed now. A 90-degree day hits and two o your service technicians have called off — turning your company upside down. By the end of the day you are ready to pull your hair out, but you are too tired. Instead, you go to bed and get a few hours of sleep before it starts all over again. When morning comes, your spouse kisses you goodbye and says, “See you in September.”
Like it or not, the life of an hvacr contractor is ruled by the season. When hot weather or cold weather arrive, you must be on your game and you can stop for nothing. The trouble is that these cycles create tremendous amounts of stress.
Indeed, an “Attitudes In The American Workplace” Gallup Poll found that 80% of workers feel stress on the job, nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress and 42% say their coworkers need such help; 14% of respondents felt like striking a co-worker in the past year, but didn’t; 25% felt like screaming or shouting because of job stress; 10% are concerned about an individual at work they fear could become violent; 9% are aware of an assault or violent act in their workplace and 18% had experienced some sort of threat or verbal intimidation in the past year.
Stress is a normal part of our being.
Our system attempts to stay within a state of dynamic equilibrium, where the external stressors in our environment lead to an internal reaction. Some stress leads to appropriate adaptive changes—what Charles Darwin’s theory refers to: Those that adapt best to stress will succeed. However, when excess amounts of stress are applied, the system can’t handle it and overload issues occur — screaming, shouting, violent behavior or verbal assaults.
Couple job-related stress with other stressors and you have a potentially hazardous situation.
To be sure, when an employee comes to work they don’t necessarily come in an isolated state. Many carry the stress of life with them. The top life stressors: death of a family member or friend, divorce, injury or illness, marriage or separation, retirement and job security.
The warning signs of stress vary. You should be aware of employees that seem to be isolating themselves from others and those using excessive alcohol or smoking. Nervous habits, such as nail biting, pacing, teeth grinding or jaw clenching, are all signs of stress.
To help yourself, and your employees, better cope with stress, encourage communication. It is key to reducing uncertainty and helps you stay on top of what employees are dealing with on a day-today basis. Hold group discussions and design employee surveys to measure employees’ perceptions of their jobs, stress and satisfaction. Collect as much objective data as possible and analyze the data to identify problems and stressful job conditions — then set out to fix them. Their stress will be relieved because they are being listened to, and your stress will be relieved because you have a chance to address issues before they become crises.
Another effective way to alleviate stress is exercise. Some companies offer their workers discounts to local gyms or even create a mini gym within the building to encourage employees to work out before or after work.
Additionally, social interaction among workers helps build a “fun” atmosphere that makes work seem less like work. Hosting a bowling night or company picnic are great ways to relieve stress. Also, let employees know about local support groups that help members deal with stress, or even offer a course on stress management in addition to the technical training you provide.
There are several employee assistance programs (EAP) designed to help employees and their families deal with personal problems that might impact their work performance. To view EAP providers in your state, visit: www.eap-sap.com. Also check with your insurance provider to see if EAP services are covered under your insurance plan.
Stress is all around us. It is a normal part of life. It is only when stress becomes overwhelming and we don’t adapt properly that we get into trouble. Therefore, as a business owner, it behooves you to create an environment for employees to be able to manage stress appropriately. This will not only create happier and more productive employees, it will also make your organization more successful.
Alan is an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician affiliated with The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. He is a member of the National Board of Medical Examiners, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society.
Pamela is a practicing dermatologist at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, and is an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University. She is a member of the American Board of Internal Medicine as well as the American Board of Dermatology and is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine.