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Risques psychosociaux

Are you aware of the 11 stress factors at work?

eye 1409 Published on 11 Apr. 2023
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How are you feeling? Are you one of the 50% of employees affected by stress at work? According to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), almost half of all employees feel that stress is common in their work, and these figures have increased since the crisis (1).

EU-OSHA defines work-related stress as "an imbalance between a person's perception of the constraints of their environment and the resources available to respond to them". In other words, what causes stress is not so much the context but the perception that one is powerless to cope.

For example, an employee may have a huge amount of work and not feel stressed, while his colleague will feel discouraged or even devastated by the same situation. If this is only temporary, the employee can regain their level of well-being. But if the situation persists, this continuous stress can tire them out and lead to exhaustion, a strong lack of motivation and irritability. In the long run, the company will be affected by absenteeism, reduced productivity and the repercussions on the general climate.

In addition to overload, there are other factors that can cause stress to employees. The consequences, both physical and psychological, impact not only the individual but also the company and its environment. Here is a review of the 11 factors considered stressful by employees. Do any of them ring a bell?

1- Workload: Need to work in a hurry? Feeling overwhelmed by events? Difficulty in decompressing? The stress induced by an overload leads to fears of not being able to manage all one's tasks in the time allotted. The person is unable to foresee the moment when he or she will be able to regain control of the overload. Regardless of organisational skills, the amount of work may be too much for one person. Forced to maintain a high pace, or even to have work spill over into their private life, the person may also feel frustrated that they cannot produce quality work.

2- Lack of stimulation: Too much monotony in the work? Ordinary or uninteresting tasks? ... While some people may be stressed by an overload of work, others, on the other hand, experience weariness when faced with tasks that are not very stimulating, sometimes repetitive, or that make little or no use of their skills. This situation is stressful in view of this feeling of uselessness, which can lead to a loss of meaning in one's work. This situation can be amplified by the feeling of not being able to learn through one's work or of having reached a plateau in a position with no real future.

3- Lack of clarity in tasks: Need to juggle sometimes contradictory orders? Having difficulty understanding what is expected of you? The impression of being left to yourself? ... Confusion, both in the definition of tasks and objectives, can create tension and doubts. This lack of information and communication disrupts the workflow and confuses the person, who finds it difficult to see how to get organised and where to start. This embarrassment is compounded by the fear of making mistakes or having to redo everything. The confusion is even greater when the person has to deal with several superiors whose directives seem to be incompatible and where it is difficult to express the need for clarification.

4- Responsibilities: Lack of support in a strategic position? Doubts about your skills? Unbearable pressure due to too many obligations? ... Whether you are leading a team, directing a project, or making decisive choices, responsibilities, even when sought-after, can generate strong anxiety. Some may not feel up to it, others may aspire to quieter tasks or consider that these functions are not very much in line with their expectations. This stress is often induced by the need to surprise oneself, by thoughts that spill over into the work area, by doubts about the content of the decisions to be made or by the lack of resources to carry out one's role.

5- Changes in working methods: Are the many changes affecting your efficiency? Are you overwhelmed by technological developments? Do you see learning as an insurmountable mountain? ... The idea of having to change your habits and being forced to use new methods can induce stress. These tensions are linked to the loss of reassuring points of reference, but also to the fear of not being able to adapt and of being on the fringes of the new ways of doing things promoted by the team. Added to these doubts is the fear of making mistakes and having difficulty finding a rhythm.

6- The work environment: Lack of resources to carry out quality work? Working environment that is detrimental to your health? Difficulty in carrying out your missions in optimal conditions? ... The discomfort felt in the working environment (noise, temperature, luminosity, cramped premises, etc.) coupled with a lack of adequate material can cause stress and lead to physical and psychological health problems. These conditions, which are sometimes difficult to bear, particularly when they are prolonged, prevent the worker from functioning serenely, affect concentration and slow down work. 

7- Job instability: Forced to multiply precarious contracts to survive? Powerless in the face of the company's poor economic health? Being forced to evolve in an uncomfortable professional situation can quickly become a source of stress, especially if you have difficulty tolerating uncertainty, or if family responsibilities require a certain financial visibility. The instability of a professional situation and the insecurity of the short-term future can lead to high levels of anxiety that affect commitment to work and harm personal and professional well-being.

8- Company ethics: Feeling that you have to act against your values? Frequent disagreements with the company's strategic choices? ... Differences of opinion with one's organisation can create discomfort as to how to carry out one's tasks: following one's principles to be consistent with oneself or those valued by the organisation at the risk of losing oneself. This ethical conflict is all the greater if the company uses practices of which one disapproves and/or if one frequently disagrees with the decisions taken by the company.

9- Relationships with colleagues: Conflicting relationships undermine the working atmosphere? Difficulties in finding one's place in the team? There are too few opportunities for exchange? ... The stress linked to work relations can be felt in the absence of listening, mutual aid, quality contact or too few moments of sharing. These unfulfilled social needs affect the morale and motivation at work, as well as the working atmosphere deteriorated by conflicts or toxic relationships.

10- Relationship with superiors: Feeling of not being sufficiently valued by superiors? Feeling that they are doing an unsatisfactory job? Difficulty in communicating with management? ... This impression of doing a bad job or receiving unjustified remarks can have a strong impact on employees' morale. These difficult relations with superiors can also take the form of a lack of transparency in communications where it is difficult to be heard and to pass on opinions. There is also a lack of participative management style, where stress is generated by the absence of consideration of employees' needs and the lack of flexibility in the human management of resources.

11- Lack of recognition: Feeling that your efforts are not rewarded enough? Lack of consideration from your colleagues? ... Stress can stem from a feeling of malaise if the feedback on your work is more about the mistakes you make than the good things you do. This lack of recognition, by peers for the quality of your work or by your superiors for the achievement of objectives, can lead to a loss of meaning and a feeling of uselessness.

(1): https://osha.europa.eu/fr/themes/psychosocial-risks-and-stress

Helen Simard

Consultant psychologist (career guidance and psychometrics)

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