If you find yourself negatively affected by a long commute, low pay, lack of work-life balance, or some other work-related issue, you are not alone. According to the 2014 Work Stress Survey, eight out of 10 Americans share your pain.
Of course, work has never been a stress-free environment, but it is generally accepted that workplace stress and anxiety is on the rise in nearly every field of employment. While chronic stress is never good for anyone, these statistics suggest even more potential problems for those who suffer from anxiety disorders.
The Stressed-Out 80 Percent
In today’s office environment, there is an overwhelming amount of pressure to “appear busy.” In many instances, this can become almost like a competition, leading to a situation of “contagious stress” within the workplace. And while technology has secured its place as essential within any organization, we still have a long way to go when it comes to ensuring that email, smartphones, and remote working capabilities do not interfere with employees’ healthy, balanced work, and personal lives.
A study conducted by UC Irvine and the US Army found that employees are significantly more focused and less stressed when they are cut off from email. “We found that when you remove email from workers’ lives, they multitask less and experience less stress,” said UCI informatics professor and study coauthor Gloria Mark.
Other studies have demonstrated that employees who use their smartphones to work after hours report higher stress levels than those who don’t. And researchers involved with a 2012 study published in the journal PLOS ONE concluded that employers and individuals must recognize the importance of “switching off” from work by emphasizing rest and leisure time. They encourage employers to allow time where employees (even at the executive level) are not expected to respond to email.
Unfortunately, despite everything we know about the importance of work-life balance, it still seems like an impossible dream for many of today’s workers.
Anxiety on the Job
The issue of work-related stress becomes even more complicated when considering those with anxiety disorders, whom have traditionally had a more difficult time in the workplace. According to an Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA) survey, employees with anxiety report the following common challenges:
- Dealing with problems
- Interacting and forming relationships with coworkers and superiors
- Meeting deadlines
- Participating in meetings and giving presentations
- Managing staff
- Maintaining high-quality work
- Preventing work stressors from carrying over into personal life
Should I Tell My Employer?
For many anxiety sufferers, it doesn’t seem like an option to disclose their stress or anxiety to their superiors. Only 40% of the ADAA survey respondents report that they’ve discussed these issues with their employer. The reasons cited include fear of seeming unwilling to do the job, fear of appearing “weak,” concern over future promotion opportunities, and fear of not being taken seriously.
However, if you live in the United States, you are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if you should choose to inform your employer. So long as you are qualified to perform the job, employers cannot legally discriminate against you for having an anxiety disorder.
Cutting Down on Workplace Stress
Chronic work stress can lead to irritability, withdrawal, and trouble with relationships. Over the long term, it can severely impact mental and physical health.
As with all stress and anxiety issues, it is best to first address workplace stress with the “Big 3” lifestyle changes:
- Prioritize high-quality sleep. This is the first and most important step. Poor sleep will only compound your stress and fatigue on the job.
- Eat a nutritious diet (and stay away from the break room vending machine!)
- Exercise when you’re able to. While it can be a challenge to fit exercise into a busy work schedule, any physical activity you can make time for will boost your energy level and help combat your daily stress.
In addition, relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation, as well as, taking short breaks throughout the work day, can help reduce stress levels and improve focus and productivity.
And finally – use those vacation days! The average American lets several of their vacation days go to waste each year, and this is a mistake. Vacation time is one of the best ways for employees to unwind and return to their jobs refreshed, focused, and engaged with their work.