Work stress and mental health
Work related stress is one of the top health risks identified by employers.
In Canada, 1 in 4 workers reported being highly stressed (Statistics Canada, 2014).
Is stress a good thing?
Stress is a combination of our physical and emotional reactions to situations that we believe challenge or pressure us. Sometimes stress is good for us because it can motivate us to continue working, but other times it can leave us feeling overwhelmed and unable to handle the demands of a situation.
Why is there stress in the workplace?
Stress in the workplace can happen due to various reasons such as demands and our perceived ability to meet these demands. Stress exists in any workplace and can be experienced by anyone regardless of their job. Stress is not caused by an individual weakness.
Excessive or ongoing stress can lead to:
- chronic disease such as heart disease and diabetes
- mental health problems such as depression and anxiety
Often people who experience chronic stress will adopt unhealthy coping behaviours such as:
- misusing alcohol and drugs
- over indulging in less healthy foods
According to the World Health Organization (2004) stressed employees are more likely to:
- become unhealthy
- be unmotivated
- be less productive
- be at risk for injuries or incidents at work
An employer’s involvement can:
- support healthy lifestyles for employees
- increase productivity
- increase morale
- decrease absenteeism
- decrease employee turnover
- decrease costs in employee benefits
Take action now!
As an employer you can:
- Offer alternative work arrangements that will contribute to higher levels of job satisfaction and improved work-life balance such as compressed work week, flextime, part-time, or job sharing opportunities.
- Consult with the Health and Safety representatives on reducing or preventing workplace stress.
- Provide training in good management practices for all managers and supervisory staff.
- Provide confidential counselling services (Employee Assistance Program).
- Provide supportive benefits in case of illness/injury.
- Provide adequate resources to enable managers to implement stress management strategies.
- Ensure good communication, adequate training, and career development opportunities for employees.
- Monitor workloads, working hours (overtime, shift-work), and identify sources of harmful levels of stress (bullying, harassment).
- Implement the voluntary National Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace Standard (CSA Group).
- Create a mentally healthy workplace with the Workplace Mental Health Promotion: How-to Guide (Canadian Mental Health Association of Ontario).
- Protect and promote psychological health and safety in the workplace by using the Guarding Minds at Work (Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction) resource.
As an employee you can:
- Recognize what is causing the stress.
- Discuss your challenges with a health care provider, trusted colleague, friend or family member.
- Utilize your Employee Assistance Program.
- Be more physically active.
- Eat balanced meals and snacks.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Use relaxation techniques.
- Set aside personal quiet time.
- Learn to say “no” and not feel guilty.
- Ask for help with workload when needed.
- Have fun!
The coping with stress booklet (the Heart and Stroke Foundation [PDF]) has some great information!
Find out more:
- Social determinants of health: The Canadian facts (Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts)
- Work stress (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety)
- Stress at work (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- What’s stressing the stressed? Main sources of stress among workers (Statistics Canada)
- Coping with stress: Workplace tips (Mayo Clinic)
- Stress at the workplace (World Health Organization)
- Mental health: Coping with stress (Health Canada)
For more information, contact our Workplace Health Team at 705.522.9200, ext. 290 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This item was last modified on April 30, 2020