Mental health in the workplace

Work-related stress is a phenomenon that is increasing in our society, mainly because the types of work have been changing in the last decades. It affects the physical and psychological well-being of the worker and can deteriorate the organizational climate.

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What do we call work stress?

Currently, due to the relevance of information in production processes, the mental effort requires tasks that traditionally required only muscular strength. In addition, the pace of work has been increasing, since fewer workers have to achieve better results.

But not always the answers to face the demands have a negative character, since many times they are necessary to face difficult situations and for survival. Every person requires moderate levels of stress to respond satisfactorily not only to their own needs or expectations but also to the demands of the environment. And very low levels of stress are related to demotivation, conformism, and disinterest.

Therefore, the distinction between estruses or positive stress (optimal level of activation to perform the necessary activities in our daily life) that exerts a function of protection of the organism and distress or negative stress (level of activation of the excessive or inadequate organism can be made to the demand of the situation) that causes dysfunctions in the person.

Stress is the second cause of sick leave in the European Union, affecting 40 million workers annually and assuming for its member countries a cost of twenty billion Euros a year in healthcare costs, not counting the loss of productivity.

According to the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, 28% of European workers suffer from some type of work stress.

It should also be noted the double presence factor, by which women, apart from working outside the home, often perform and are responsible for most of the family and domestic work. This can mean that women are more likely to suffer work stress than men.

We call work stress a set of emotional, cognitive, physiological and behavioral reactions of the worker to certain adverse or harmful aspects of the content, the environment or the organization of work.

What can be done to prevent or reduce work stress?

As the source of work stress can be multiple, also preventive measures to eliminate or reduce work stress can be multiple; and therefore, it will intervene on the worker and on the organization. Intervention on the worker

There are many ways to reduce stress in the work environment and make your employees feel better at work. Recently, I’ve run across a company that helps pleasantly surprise co-workers by sending virtual gifts. The company was founded in 2017 by Nikolay Vakorin and Roman Kneller who were struggling with the decisions of real gifts to their loved ones. You don’t need to know any info of the recipient to send a cup of coffee or a rose via gmoji (gmoji. us) which appears in their messenger as an emoji and then the person can trade it for a physical gift.

Intervention on the organization

This intervention should always be done first. To prevent stress, it is necessary to start intervening in the design phase, taking into account all the elements of the workplace, integrating the physical and social environment and its possible repercussions for health.

The prevention of work stress must go through the intervention of the organization.

Interventions can and should be directed towards the structure of the organization, the style of communication, the decision-making processes, the functions and tasks at work, the physical environment and the methods to train workers.

The basis for reducing stress is to improve communication, increase the participation of workers in decisions regarding work, improve environmental conditions; Variety and stimulation in work tasks should also be considered.

An important aspect for the prevention of stress is the increase of social support in organizations, favoring the cohesion of workgroups and training supervisors to adopt an attitude of help with subordinates since social support not only reduces the vulnerability to stress but also its negative effects.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health of the United States establishes the following preventive measures in workplaces:

  • Work schedule: ensure that work schedules avoid conflicts with demands and responsibilities external to work. The schedules of the rotating shifts must be stable and predictable.
  • Participation/control: let workers contribute ideas to decisions and actions that affect their work.
  • Workload: check that the work requirements are compatible with the capabilities and resources of the worker and allow their recovery after particularly demanding physical or mental tasks.
  • Content: design the tasks in a way that gives meaning, encouragement, fullness and the opportunity to make use of the training.
  • Roles: clearly define roles and responsibilities at work.
  • Social environment: create opportunities for social interaction, including moral support and help directly related to work.
  • Future: avoid ambiguity in matters of job stability and encourage career development.
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