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Stress in the Workplace

The Survey

As we all know, life is becoming more and more stressful. And some of this stress is coming from the workplace. Some jobs cause more stress than others, and for many different reasons. Here I will concentrate on the office as the workplace, as to be more general would mean bringing in too many potential stressors. To find out more about stress in the workplace and some of its causes, I had 18 people, nine men and nine women, fill out this survey:

A Survey by Liz Beattie

Sex: M___ F___
Brief Job Description:

1. Are you currently employed?
2. Do you work at home/have you ever worked at home?
3. If yes, have you ever worked in an office?
4. If yes, did you experience more work-related stress in an office or working from the home? Why?
5. Do you feel you experience stress in your personal life?
6. Are you able to keep this stress from interfering with your work? How?
7. Do you suffer from any workplace stress-related illnesses or conditions? If yes, which one(s)?
8. Do you work with computers a lot in your job?
9. If yes, have you experienced any of the following due to this?
Wrist pain? _________
Back pain? __________
Headaches? _________
Vision problems? ___________
Other? __________
10. Do you face any physical demands in your workplace?
11. If yes, how has this affected you?
12. Rate how satisfied you are with these conditions in your workplace on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 is "extremely satisfied", 1 is "not satisfied at all").
Lighting _____
Temperature ______
Humidity ______
Air Quality ______
Noise Level ______
13. Are there any conditions you would like to see changed in your workplace, from the above ones or others? How would you like them to be adjusted?
14. Is there a lot of competition in your workplace?
15. Is this good or bad? Why?
16. What is the atmosphere like in your workplace?
17. Are you comfortable with this? Why or why not?
18. Is there the opportunity in your workplace to receive peer approval and/or feedback from your superiors?
19. Are you satisfied with this?
20. If no, how would you change the situation?
21. Do you feel you were adequately trained for your job?
22. Do you have access to a support system or additional information if you need it?
23. Is this satisfactory?
24. Has the technology in your workplace changed recently (i.e. new computer/ system, introduction of email, etc.)?
25. If so, what was changed?
26. Did you find the transition problematic? Why or why not?
27. Do you consider yourself to have a stressful job?
28. Has it become more or less stressful in the past 1 to 2 years? Why?
29. Do you consider yourself overworked?
30. Has your workload decreased or increased in the past 1 to 2 years? Why?
31. Do you feel that your job is stable and secure?
32. If no, does this worry you? Why?
33. Have you ever had to retrain? Why?
34. If yes, briefly describe this experience and the effect it had on you.
35. Rank the following from 1 to 8, to show which of the factors has the most (1) to least (8) effect on your work related stress.
Personal Stress _______
Computer-related Stress Disorders____
Stress Disorders due to Physical Demands _____
Physical Environment of Workplace ______
Relationships with Colleagues/Boss/Employees _____
Atmosphere in Your Workplace ______
Changing Technology _______
Workload _________
36. Do you have any other causes of stress in your workplace? What are they?

The Results

The results were as follows:
1. Most people found working at home to be less stressful.
2. The majority of people were able to separate their personal stress from their work life.
3. Of the 11 people who worked with computers a lot in their jobs, 11 experienced computer related physical pain! Six people had wrist pain. Five people experienced back pain. Five people suffered from headaches. Two people had vision problems. As well, two people experienced shoulder problems. And, one person had neck pain. Men found that "office" jobs entailed no physical demands, while women found they demanded the moving of heavy books or papers although this did not result in any serious harm. Three men had jobs which, although office-based, also had them working "in the field". Only one of them had ever suffered even any minor injury.
4. On average, most people were fairly satisfied with the physical environment of their workplace: Lighting 4 Temperature 3 Humidity 3 Air Quality 3 Noise Level 4 However, three people asked for better lighting, seven people requested better heating/air-conditioning systems, two people asked for more humidity control, four people wanted improved air quality, and one person wanted a quieter workplace.
5. There was a lot of competition in half of the surveyed workplaces, but almost everyone was happy with the competition or lack thereof in their workplace. Six people said they would like more feedback, six said they did not, and six people were satisfied.
6. The majority of people felt they had been adequately trained for their job.
7. Almost everyone had gone through some recent technological change. Many people found the transition problematic.
8. The majority of people found that both the amount of stress generated from their workplace and their workload had increased in the past one to two years.
9. Most people felt that their job was not very stable, and this worried most of those people.
10. Retraining was not a factor for most people.
11. The average ranking of these eight factors was:
Personal Stress 2
Computer-related Stress Disorders 7
Stress Disorders due to Physical Demands 8
Physical Environment of Workplace 6
Relationships with Colleagues/Boss/Employers 3
Atmosphere in Your Workplace 4
Changing Technology 5
Workload 1
12. The other major stressor that came out was the relationship some people had with their clients.


What can we draw from these results?


Firstly, to avoid some workplace stress, working at home seems to be a good option, for many reasons. You have control over your physical environment: not only can you control the lighting, temperature, etc., but as your office is in your home, and most people will spend more time and money trying to make their home beautiful, working will be quite pleasant. You can even go and make yourself a cup of coffee, just the way you like it! Working at home also alleviates the pressure of constant interaction with unpleasant colleagues. As well, there are no set hours, so you can create your own schedule, making it easier to fit the ever growing amount of work into your life. If you work at home, you can cut down on both the temporal and monetary costs of commuting, which many people find to be a hassle. In today's fast-paced world, working at home allows you the luxury of doing two things at once: working and doing a load of laundry, microwaving dinner, etc. If you have kids, you can be at home in case you are needed, but still at work. Thanks to increasing technology, working from the home is becoming more and more possible for many people. There are, however, some drawbacks.

It may be hard to keep your work from being influenced by your personal life, if you never leave the house. Working at home usually means spending a lot of time on the computer, even if only to communicate with your boss, which can lead to physical stress disorders. Many people may feel very isolated, at home by themselves all day with nobody to talk to but the computer. As well, your people skills may suffer, and not be as good when it really counts. Having no clear division between your job and the around the house work may make it seem as if you never stop working at all. Being at home with the kids is great, until they interrupt you so often that you cannot accomplish anything.

Really, whether to work at home or not is a personal decision, but worth considering.


It seems that growing technology is a major stressor. First of all, the faster the technology goes, the faster things can be done, the faster things are expected to be done, the harder people have to work, the more stress they experience. Technology usually means computers, which are causing physical stress disorders in a huge percentage of the people who work with them. As well, as people need to go faster and faster, and can just sit at their computer doing so, without ever getting up, they forget to take breaks. They forget to get up, walk around, stretch, have a drink, go to the bathroom. Not only is this not healthy in the long run, but it tires people out rapidly, and most people are exhausted by lunch time. The technology itself can be a problem. Often offices cannot afford to properly train their employees in the new systems, and they have to struggle along on their own. Not only does the worker have too much work and not enough time, they aren't even sure how to go about doing the work!


Another stressor in the workplace appears to be the people one is in contact with. Essentially, these are the people you work with and the people you work for. Perhaps you and your boss don't see eye to eye, or you and a colleague have had a nasty disagreement over something. Or, if everyone in your workplace is stressed, common courtesy or pleasantries can be lacking All of these can cause stress. As well, there are the people you work for, the clients. They want more service in less time for less money. Not only does this not seem fair, but there is a lot of pressure to meet their standards. As life moves faster and faster, people have less time to do everything, and your clients won't wait around. Additionally, problematic, overly demanding or unreasonable clients can cause even more stress.


A lot of this seems to boil down to the increasing pace of life. Partly because you cannot ever entirely separate your personal life from your work, and partly because your work is your life, the quick pace of life is an inescapable fact. There really is no perfect way to deal with this without getting left behind. But as communication gets quicker and quicker, and deadlines pushed closer and closer, and things need to be done right now, life gets more and more stressful. I hope that eventually people will realize the mistake they are making, and slow back down, or else they will push themselves so hard that they collapse, on the brink of exhaustion.


Then, there is a whole other side to workplace stress: physical stress. These days, most of this generates from the computer. There are many symptoms, such as wrist pain and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, neck pain, back problems, shoulder pain, headaches and eyesight problems, and many ways to deal with them. Ergonomists have looked extensively into creating more comfortable work places, but these are not very widely used.

For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), there are many treatments; one is surgery, and others including having the patient wear wrist braces, or correcting their overall posture. There are also preventative measures, which apply to wrist pain as well. It has been suggested that to reduce the pressure on the median nerve due to compression of the carpal by tendons in the wrist(the root of CTS) when the wrist is extended, you should keep your wrist straight while typing. To facilitate this, a keyboard that is tilted away from you so that the keys are at a slightly negative angle has been suggested. With this, not only does the risk of CTS decrease, but wrist pain eases, overall upper body posture is improved, and you are generally more comfortable. This can also reduce shoulder pain.

To reduce neck strain, make working at a computer easier on the eyes and reduce headaches due to glare, lowering the computer monitor is recommended. This means a person sitting up "straight", in a comfortable position, can have their head at the "natural" angle, about 13 degrees forward and still have their eyes looking slightly down, as is the most comfortable position, and easily focus on the monitor. This reduces neck flexion and eye strain. Tilting the monitor forward has not been proven to effectively combat neck, or any other, pain.

The most common workplace stress-related injury is back pain. Now, many companies offer their employees back supports. Ergonomists are finding more and more evidence proving that these back rests are not very effective. One way to correct back problems is to redesign the actual job to avoid painful activity, as well as to take breaks so as not to leave the back in any, especially an uncomfortable position for too long. As well, a new seating system has been developed in Scandinavia. The desks and chairs have both been raised. The chairs slant forward, and the desks slant backwards so that they tip towards one another. Thus, you do not have to hunch over when writing and can actually lean back into a back support when reading.

Another way to make your workplace more comfortable table is to get a good chair. Make sure it is comfortable as well as adjustable, and learn how to adjust it. There are many "ergonomic" chairs on the market, so find the one that suits you the best.


In the future, I believe that the workplace will become more and more stressful. To deal with this, I feel a stress management program should be offered in all offices.

Working at home will probably become more and more prevalent, as advancing technology makes it easier and easier.

Technological advances will continue to be made, probably at an exponentially increasing pace. In the future, we will have to learn how to deal with this, and how to adapt to it more easily in the workplace. I hope that most offices will implement tutorials, so that the new systems will not cause too much unnecessary stress.

As more and more people work at home and get Internet access, less and less will depend on person to person communication. Therefore, this workplace stressor may actually decrease in the future. In terms of interactions with clients, I donŐt think that this problem will ever be solved: clients will always want more for less, and in less time. Whether companies can come up with a brilliant way to deal with this is debatable.

Eventually, the pace of life has to stop increasing, especially at this speedy rate. I hope that eventually we will realize that a rushed life is not really a good idea, and try to remedy the situation.

In the future, I expect that workplaces and offices will become more "ergonomic", and thus reduce the physical stress they are causing. As well, I think it would be very beneficial to actually teach the correct posture and wrist placement, etc., to employees.

Finally, I hope that as stress increases, so will our knowledge of it, and that we will be able to effectively handle the large amount of stress we will probably face in the future.