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Analyzing the Causes of Stress : Assessing the Workplace

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The structure of an organization and its day-to-day workplace conditions can have a major effect on stress levels. Take a long hard look at both these areas to help identify what is putting you or your colleagues under stress, then work out the best solutions.

Knowing your company

Do you agree with the way your company does business? Do you feel comfortable with its policies, structure, and hierarchy? If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, you are in a stress-creating situation. It may seem that the easiest thing to do is just to leave an organization if you dislike its structure, but such a radical move is in itself very stressful. It is better to familiarize yourself with all the information you can about the areas you do not like and to learn the reasons behind the way the company is organized and run. Having armed yourself with all the facts, you can then become involved in suggesting improvements from within.

Treading gently

Sharon’s attempts to change company policy were vetoed by her boss, putting her in a stressful situation. After learning more about the company, she realized that her original ideas were too radical. She went on to develop successful new products by building on the company’s existing strengths.

Case study

Sharon was appointed the new product development manager at Tiny Tim Toys, makers of quality toys for children. She was faced with a rigid marketing policy and declining sales. The directors constantly rejected her new product ideas, and after several months she became very frustrated.

Under pressure to come up with ideas that the board would find acceptable, she discussed the company’s past successes with the sales director, and spoke to the sales representatives to see how the company’s products were viewed by toy shops. She then produced a report showing that Tiny Tim Toys was respected by retailers but was seen as unexciting.

The board gave Sharon the go-ahead to update its most successful range of toys, and sales figures slowly began to improve

Improving conditions

A poor working environment can be a major cause of stress. Not only does it affect the way you do your job, but it can also undermine your health. Assess working conditions using the checklist here. If conditions need improving, make the changes that you can implement, then ask your organization to make it a priority to make further improvements if necessary:

Making changes

If necessary, rearrange the layout of an office to create a more relaxed environment. Try to strike a balance between allowing easy contact and providing privacy. Set aside a table for meetings in a quiet area so that distractions are kept to a minimum.

  • Are the desks arranged to maximize space?

  • Is there noise or other pollution?

  • Is there enough natural light?

  • Is there enough storage and filing space? Do colleagues put things back where they belong?

  • Is the temperature consistently comfortable? Is it controlled artificially? Does the air conditioning work well? Does it make a noise?

  • Is the office equipment sophisticated enough to deal with the tasks being set?

  • In case computer, electrical, or other systems fail, is there a support network in place?

Points to remember

  • Maintaining a pleasant working environment shows the company cares for its employees, and gives a better image to visitors.

  • Good use of space allows each person some privacy, even within open-plan offices.

  • Natural light can lift moods and prevent eye strain.

  • Investing in good storage systems cuts down on the time wasted looking for lost papers or files.

  • Potted plants improve humidity in dry air-conditioned offices.

  • Adjustable chairs help prevent back pain, a major cause of absenteeism among office staff.

  • Repairing or replacing faulty office equipment improves efficiency and productivity.

TIP

Always be flexible in your attitudes – you may not know the full story.

TIP

Play an active part in improving the quality of office life.

TIP

Do not make major decisions too quickly.

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