Workplace stress is a serious global problem that results in anxiety, exhaustion, cardiovascular disease and (in cases stemming from co-worker conflict) workplace violence. It’s a problem that has increased in recent years with increased competition, higher expectations, longer hours and the effects of the recession, including layoffs, unemployment and fewer job opportunities.
That’s why it is the focus of this year’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work, recognized on April 28th. The International Labor Organization released a report on the issue, detailing its commonality and effects.
As our Winston-Salem workers’ compensation lawyers know, employees can be compensated for work-related stress when it causes them to either suffer physical injury or when it prohibits them from being able to work or do the work they once did. A good example of this is an employee diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after a store robbery and is unable to return to his or her previous position.
The report defined stress as a “harmful physical and emotional response caused by an imbalance between perceived demands and the perceived resources and abilities of individuals to cope with those demands.”
Work stress-related ailments can also stem from long, grueling hours, unreasonable work demands and pressure and poor work overall work environment. The report took note of a number of studies that showed workplace stress is associated with health-related behavior risks, such as heavy consumption of alcohol, obesity, less frequent exercise, higher rates of cigarette smoking and sleep disorders. There is also an additional risk of depression, musculoskeletal disorders, burnout, anxiety and depression and suicide. The factors that can cause work-related stress are referred to in the report as, “psychosocial hazards.”
In terms of how work stress can impact companies, researchers pointed to:
- Increased absenteeism;
- Higher staff turnover;
- Reduced motivation and commitment;
- Reduced accuracy and efficiency of performance.
All of these have the potential to have a negative impact on a company’s competitiveness, productivity and public image. That means it is in the best interest of businesses to address these issues too.
As our worker’s compensation attorneys are aware, it can be more difficult for employees to obtain benefits for stress-related injuries because they are still somehow viewed by some organizations as less real than physical ailments. The fact of the matter is, they can be equally crippling and especially damaging long-term. Still, they tend to require more proof, including extensive documentation from medical professionals detailing not only the extent of the condition, but also its purported cause.
In cases where the incident was a single, traumatic incident (i.e., workplace violence), that may be less of a challenge than cases that stem from day-to-day stresses. Both are compensable, but ample proof will be required.
A collective approach to preventing and controlling the causes of work-related stress include:
- Increasing worker control over their tasks, which improves their coping ability;
- Adopting individual and collective prevention and control measures to engage workers;
- Bolstering social support systems for workers;
- Enhancing organizational communication;
- Allowing workers participation in decision-making;
- Promote recognition of psychosocial hazards and incorporation of risk assessment and prevention.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Workplace Stress: A Collective Challenge, April 28, 2016, International Labor Organization
More Blog Entries:
Poremba v. Southern Nevada Paving – Re-Opening Workers’ Comp Claim, April 18, 2016, Winston-Salem Worker Injury Lawyer Blog