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LEARNING DOCUMENTS // How can stress and stress risks be recognised?

1.4. How can stress and stress risks be recognised?

Stress affects different people in different ways. Some people show an acute reaction to stress. In others, the symptoms may appear over time, and may be mistaken for other health problems. 
The identification of stress can be observed in physical, mental, behavioural and emotional signs It is important that organisations do not only react to stress symptoms after these have become evident but also to adopt preventive actions to eliminate stress risks at the organisational level. 
A summary of stress symptoms is shown in the following table.

 

PHYSICAL SIGNS

headache, tension, indigestion, breathlessness, rashes or skin irritation, frequent colds, recurrence of previous illness, tiredness, cannot relax, palpitations, nausea, susceptibility to allergies, excessive sweating, clenched fists, fainting, frequent colds and other minor infections, constipation or diarrhoea, rapid weight gain or loss

COGNITIVE SIGNS

inability to concentrate, worrying, mistakes, muddled thinking, persistent negative thinking, difficulty to making decisions, bad dreams or nightmares, less intuitive, less sensitive, impaired judgement, short-term rather than long-term thinking, hasty decisions

BEHAVIOURAL SIGNS

unsociability, restlessness, lying, reckless driving, increased drinking or smoking, crying, repetitive arguments at meetings, belligerence, refusal to listen to advice and suggestions, using solutions known to be inadequate, criticism of others, vandalism, shouting, arrive late and leaving early, extended lunches, passiveness or lack of commitment

EMOTIONAL SIGNS

irritability, tension, moodiness, alienation, dissatisfaction, fear and panic attacks

 

At organisational level factors affecting stress levels at the work community can often be related to:

  1. atmosphere at work
  2. requirements
  3. work management
  4. relationships at work
  5. change
  6. roles
  7. lack of support
  8. lack of training

Organisations should aim at identifying and tackle stress-related hazards should try to be recognised before employees become ill. Ways to identify and estimate risk factors are described in Chapter 3.


Example:

Laura started her present job as an office clerk two years ago. Recently her work pressure has increased, because there is no paid replacement for the wages clerk who is on sick leave. Laura now has more of her own tasks as well as also taking care of the wages clerk’s duties. She does not have the appropriate training to complete these tasks, and neither does she have previous experience of these duties. Payroll duties are conducted to a tight timetable, which must be met. Occasionally Laura is in such a panic and feels so dejected that she is unable to work. Laura thinks that the tasks are interesting and challenging. 
There is not enough time to do familiar tasks and for this reason she often stays late at work and takes work home at weekends. However this disturbs her family life. At home Laura has a husband and two children, who also demand Laura’s attention. Little common time is left for the family. Due to tiredness, at home Laura is irritable and does not have so much energy to be interested in her partner and children as before. Nowadays Laura wakes up at night and does not fall asleep until the early hours of the morning. She eats unhealthy, she does not have time to exercise, nor is she really interested in engaging in outdoor activities. Laura does not know how to survive the situation. The most important issues for her are to keep her job and to get everything in a good condition at home.

 


WORK STRESS
1. What is stress?
2. What causes work stress?
3. The effects of work stress on individuals and on organizations
4. How can stress and stress risks be recognised?
Evaluation
RISK ASSESSMENT
RISK MANAGMENT
THE PREVENTION OF WORK STRESS
OTHER DOCUMENTS
Partners Financing Disclaimer
AITEX CITEVE IDEC SKETCHPIXEL Triforma Oy Lifelong Living Programme This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained there