What is stress at work?

Updated: May 10

According to the World Health Organization, stress alone causes a loss of productivity of 900 billion euros per year for the world economy The treatment of the “well-being at work” theme therefore represents a major challenge for our society, both in terms of health but also in economic terms.

The multifactorial origin of stress at work

Several parameters have been put forward to explain the origin of stress at work. These include pressure related to meeting deadlines, achieving goals, judging of superiors, flexible schedules, or internal competition between employees ... However, scientists agree on the multifactorial nature at the origin of stress, and consequently on the difficulty of isolating the causes.

The appearance of new work organizations in relation to technological advances, and in particular the phenomenon of portability (pc, email, telephone, etc.) induces extreme porosity between work and private life, thus marking the end of the compartmentalization between the office and home. Without changing the way the company works, taking into account the integration of the new technologies of tomorrow, traditional management methods, focusing on productivity and intensification of work, prove to be harmful in the long term. It is therefore a veritable mental revolution that must be undertaken to convince managers to modify and adapt the organization of work within the company. Management, HR, individualized care, there are many lines of thought to meet the challenges of the future, limiting the consequences of the epidemic of unwellness at work.

Absenteeism as the main consequence

At the corporate level, absenteeism appears to be a indicator of the negative impact of stress. As proof, the latter is responsible for 50 to 60% of the days of absence in Europe, bringing, for 2007 alone, to 3.5 million the number of days of work lost. The financial consequences are considerable, they would amount to almost 2 to 3 billion euros per year. But this observation still neglects the collateral consequences of work stress, affecting the very performance of the company, through a drop in quality and productivity. Besides the economic impact, it is also the reputation of the company that can be weakened in a lasting way.

On the individual level, stress seems to be the source of a large number of problems which can, for example, manifest themselves in emotional (hypersensitivity, nervousness, anxiety), intellectual (concentration disturbance, alteration of decision making), psychological (anxiety, depression) or even physical (muscle and joint pain, musculoskeletal disorders), which can lead the most vulnerable people, and in the most critical situations, to dramatic scenarios.

By Gil Borelli PhD in Physiology

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