Nevertheless, 36.8% of Flemish people suffer from work stress, and about 12.8% of people find it difficult to combine work and private life. This means that many people suffer under this stress.
So why is this?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), wellbeing at work is: “a state of mind characterized by a sufficient harmony between the skills, needs and ambitions of the worker on the one hand, and the limitations and possibilities of the working environment on the other”.
From the moment this harmony is broken, it will be difficult to get up and go to work whistling. In addition to a good harmony at work, the balance between work and private life is certainly important.
What can disturb all this harmony? The easiest and most obvious answer is that the workload is too high and this is not taken into account by the employer. The stress level only increases and there is no exhaust valve anymore. This overburdening can be caused by a shortage of personnel or by a saving culture. A result-oriented company culture takes less account of the person and more account of the company’s results or profits. The tension will be high among colleagues. A very competitive attitude increases the level of stress but not always the quality of work.
In contrast, not enough work can also make us unhappy at our job. If the challenge of the job is gone, or there is actually too little work, this can lead to the feeling that the work is no longer meaningful.
Sometimes the amount of work is perfect, but there is a lack of clarity in the work. One manager contradicts the other. This creates frustration, friction and above all uncertainty. This has a negative influence on achieving the desired results.
Not keeping promises
If all this is rewarded with an low paid salary, the feeling of appreciation is completely gone. Or if a promotion is promised that does not happen, the motivation will also disappear.
The possibility of not being able to finish a project can also be a decisive factor. If you have been working on a project for months but need more resources and don’t get them, the frustration piles up. Not having the material or the manpower to do your job gives a feeling of powerlessness. You are stuck by other people’s decisions and can’t go any further. Only the pressure to complete or solve everything falls on your shoulders.
We spend a large part of our day at work. If there is a bad atmosphere because of a “lack of management”, or because a colleague or colleagues who ruin the atmosphere, we quickly lose our sense of well-being.
What we don’t always take into account are the distance and possible traffic jams that often make daily commuting challenging. Of course, traffic can also cause us some serious stress. If we arrive at work frustrated, it is more difficult to start the day in a positive way. These hours on the road obviously make the working day even longer.
Not every job is a classic 9 to 5 working day. The work has to be done. This means staying late at the office or continue working at home in the evening. If working hours into the evening become a habit, or a “must”, to get through the mountains of work, then there is no more opportunity to come to rest.
No opportunities for development
The possibility of further training and further self-development also stimulates well-being. If this is blocked or the management does not pay any attention to it at all, one will quickly feel undervalued. They then feel “stuck” in their position.
This does not happen in all sectors, but the feeling of safety is also extremely important in the workplace. If health and safety is not respected, the sense of well-being will diminish again. The feeling of safety can also be obtained through the layout of the work floor. A desk in a corner without windows, or a sticky kitchen, or even toilets that nobody dares to enter, are not exactly favorable to this safe feeling.
If you’re reading all this now, you might think that everyone suffers from stress at some point. And that is true. Stress is not always bad. A little stress before an interview makes us better prepared and more likely to succeed.
But if that stress level is continuously too high, psychological and sometimes physical and psychosomatic symptoms might appear.
A well known phenomena is a “burn-out”. The new definition according to the WHO is: “Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy.
Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.
Chronic stress has brought with it a lot of symptoms. Such as: concentration problems, abdominal pain, dizziness, memory loss, headaches, muscle aches, palpitations, panic attacks, sleep problems, mood swings, fatigue, loss of motivation, aggression problems.
But a “burnout” also brings emotional exhaustion and affects the complete well-being. This is sometimes accompanied by psychological and family problems.
Experiencing these symptoms in turn entails medical expenses/consultations. This can also lead to financial problems, especially if you already have a reduced income due to sick pay.
Not only too much pressure at work causes problems, but also too little work and too little challenge can cause these symptoms. This is what they call a bore-out. Extreme boredom at work.
But not all this stress leads to a burn-out. By working more than 40 hours a week, so by working longer every day, the chance of health problems increases. This often leads to high blood pressure, sleep problems, risk of heart and vascular diseases, but also to bad eating habits. Bad eating habits such as, for example; skipping meals, no time and fast food or snacking unhealthy snacks can lead to obesity and even diabetes.
We always think, the more we work, the more we get done. But we actually perform best if we only work 6 hours a day. Our concentration is better, we make fewer mistakes and we are more productive. Because of the motivation of a short working day, we will make better use of that time. We start the day in a more structured way so that we can complete our tasks on time. We will also no longer take on tasks that we have to complete in a hurry. Because finishing something quickly usually translates into work that is of a lower quality.
A working day that counts 6 hours not only gives us more energy but also a boost. Being home early, not even having to rush to pick up the children from school on time, and then still having time to cook makes us happier. The hasty life decreases and you have time to go to the gym or take a walk in the neighborhood. By the time you get under the wool in the evening, you will feel more relaxed and you will sleep better. A good night’s sleep will make you fit to get back to work the next day.
Consequences for the employer
Now that we know what stress can do to our bodies, what are the consequences in the workplace? For the organization/ consequences for the daily routines on the work floor?
If you are so overworked that you get physical complaints, you will often be written sick and stay at home. It often starts with a few days here and there. But every time you pick up the courage and go back to work under the same conditions, the symptoms accumulate.
Often you will be diagnosed with burn-out. This means that on average you will be at home for 2 months to 1 year to get back on your feet. This brings with it large healthcare costs for the company.
Companies with employees suffering from burn-out often have to cope with less productive employees. Their motivation decreases. This automatically applies to the quality of the work. These companies often also have employees who are less loyal and show little or no commitment to the company. This usually translates into a higher turnover of employees. Of course there is a cost involved.
Better to prevent than to cure
That sounds logical, of course. Prevention is easier than curing.
So how do you prevent burn-out in the workplace? How can a company take care of the well-being of its employees? What can you do yourself to prevent burn-out?
A burn-out can happen to anyone and there is nothing wrong with that. The most important thing is to recognize the symptoms at an early stage and ask for help. Talking to someone close can give a lot of relief. If this is not enough, it’s best to visit your doctor.
The first step to feel good at work is good communication. Do you have problems combining work and private life? Discuss it with your manager. Nobody can know that you are walking around with these frustrations or problems and a solution can only be worked on when it is discussed.
This applies to problems between colleagues, the need for training to develop as well as the work pressure that is too high.
How does a company promote well-being?
Of course the communication has to come from two sides. The company has to open up in order to be able to speak in a smoothly with its employees. People managers are often appointed. People managers are responsible for building a good relationship with the employee(s). They go for a personal approach and give constructive feedback. They stimulate a positive work climate characterized by trust and also keep an eye on the work floor for possible changes or problems.
For a small company it is not always possible to hire an extra person to fill this position. What the company can then do is ask one or more employees to take on this task. Of course they must be willing and able to complete the task. Knowing who is a point of contact, or who you can turn to if you are not feeling well, is a great start.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Sometimes small things can mean a lot in the workplace. An employer can already show his appreciation by providing healthy snacks, such as fruit, on the work floor. This often invites you to take a short break together and catch your breath. Healthy snacks also automatically encourage a healthy habit. Because a healthy and varied diet is also important to keep stress under control.
Treating the team to a tasty lunch once in a while also shows this appreciation and is beneficial to the group feeling / team spirit. By planning this during working hours increases the possibility that everyone can be present. If dinners are planned after the hours it is sometimes more difficult to get everyone to join in. Some will have to arrange a babysit or can’t go to their dance classes, fitness, evening school, …
Not only healthy eating is important but also exercise. Some jobs are physically intensive enough that there is certainly no shortage of exercise. But for those who spend a whole day chained behind a desk, it is important to stretch their legs once in a while. Even a short walk outdoors will reduce stress levels and increase productivity.
Larger companies have the possibility to set up a relaxation area. A room where employees can go for a moment of rest or to blow of some steam. This can range from a pool table where colleagues can play to a some massage chairs. Not every company can achieve this. Smaller companies don’t always have the capacity or space for this. By making sure that the workspace is well lit, has enough ventilation and some plants, already goes a long way.
Yes, plants! Plants around us not only purify the air but also influence our creativity and productivity in a positive sense. As crazy as it sounds, scientists have proven that plants in the workplace can increase general well-being by 47%! What a plant can’t do.
All kinds of people with different backgrounds and different interests come together on the work floor. This may mean that not everyone gets along or can sometimes cause conflicts. Through team building it is possible to work on the sense of solidarity. Teambuilding trainings can be organized, an outing with everyone, eating out together, or simply taking lunch breaks together. By taking that break together every day, forgetting about work for a while, mutual conversations can be started that encourage team spirit.
A company can help to provide a common space where people can have lunch together. And not quickly eating at the desk. This space can be the same as the relaxation area! Employers need to make sure everyone really takes their break. This break will also increase productivity.
If it becomes difficult for the employee to combine work and private life, the possibilities of teleworking can be discussed. The possibility to work 1 to 2 days from home undoubtedly relieves the pressure on our shoulders. A fixed teleworking day can be scheduled. This way, employees can better combine their private life with their work. The possibility to pick up the children from school, or that half hour that you can sleep longer in the morning because you wont have to sit in traffic jams, can bring new energy.
Flexible hours can also be a solution to this problem. By being able to start an hour earlier or later, time is sometimes gained in traffic. This is not possible in all sectors or jobs. When working in shifts it is important to listen to who can do which shift. Or if the pressure is really too high, a conversation can be started about working, possibly temporarily, a day less.
To give a new employee a good start from day one, it is noteworthy that a company works with onboarding. Onboarding ensures that an employee will feel welcome and will be onboard faster. Because of the positive interaction, the feeling of trust is there quickly and that creates a “boost in morale”.
But how does a company start onboarding? By appointing a mentor, or a Buddy, the new colleague always has someone he or she can turn to. This can be about work related questions or just some practical questions.
But the contact should not be limited to this mentor or neighboring colleagues. It is important to make sure that the new colleague gets to know the whole team.
Especially in the first weeks it is essential to ask at the end of the day what the day was like. A short conversation that shows interest and solves any difficulties before they become a problem. Here too, feedback can already be given. Knowing what you are doing well gives a boost of confidence and knowing what you need to work on ensures that you can develop yourself further.
Improving ourselves is always important in our lives. If the employer takes the opportunities for development into account and offers training courses, this once again shows the employee that they are appreciated. Employers who evaluate and monitor their employees will often see that there is more potential within the company than they think. This can lead to new opportunities for the employee as well as an opportunity for the company to grow.
If the manager knows the employees well by building a good relationship, it will quickly come to light when someone proves themselves. This person may then qualify for a higher position and be given opportunities to grow within the company where the employee has already built up trust. The employee will then be more quickly integrated into the new position. Here, too, the company gains through internal growth and a culture that is rich in trust.
Positive well-being has positive consequences
The well-being of employees is important. But it is an investment. Small adjustments can already mean a lot. But sometimes drastic changes are needed.
Yet the investment is worth it. If the well-being at work is good, then the company will feel the same about the commitment of the employees. Not only will their productivity be higher, but so will their performance. The employees will become more involved in the company and will also be more loyal.
This then gives the company the opportunity to grow and innovate. In short, there are only advantages to a favorable working atmosphere! And it is a win-win for employee and employer.
How do you feel at work? Are you going to work whistling or do you have to give yourself the courage to leave every day? Do you feel at home at work or maybe you can’t adapt to the impersonal company culture? How do you experience well-being at work? Could it be better?
Do you want to see what the possibilities are for you? Feel free to contact us and drop by for an openhearted conversation.