Dealing With Stress at Work

Posted by: Kevin Flatt

K-State professors offer tips on de-stressing your workspace. Believe it or not, some stress at work is good for you. A certain amount of stress can make you more productive on the job. Too much stress can have detrimental effects on your output and, ultimately, your health.

“Work in itself is stressful enough,” said Michael Bradshaw, associate professor in the School of Family Studies and Human Services at Kansas State University. “Some stress is helpful, but those external stresses that maybe aren’t related to our work can put us in a state where we are less productive. We can just wear down.”

You could do more than wear down. Bradshaw said a stress-filled workplace could cause depression, burnout, ulcers and fatigue.

There is a fine line between healthy stress and harmful stress. To guard against too much stress, workers should be aware there are different ways they can de-stress their workspace.

To ensure a healthy work environment, workers must learn how to handle the distractions that can keep them from doing their job and know how to maximize their workspace potential.

Cindy Mohr, assistant professor of clothing, textiles and interior design at K-State, said there are various ways design comes into play to reduce stress at work. What color a workspace is, the type of artificial light used and the flexibility of office furniture all play a part in making up a good work environment.

From a design aspect, she said, soft or neutral colors should be used inside work stations as opposed to bright colors.

“You want to make a workspace pleasing, but you don’t want to inhibit your workers from working,” Mohr said.

Artificial light is another important aspect. For years, she said, the consensus was to light all corners of the office, something that is not always necessary. Today designers use more and more task lighting – lights used for one specific purpose, such as lighting a desk.

Mohr said one of the biggest improvements came about in the 1970s and 1980s with the introduction of systems furniture. Commercial designers have replaced the traditional work desk with workspaces that are more flexible for companies and their workers.

Office chairs and desks now come with adjustable work surfaces. This is due in part to the emergence in recent years of repetitive stress injuries.

“Systems furniture has the flexibility to work with employees, not against them,” she said.

Not all of the changes have to deal with design. Sometimes things can be done by the individual to help relieve some of the stress in a workspace. Bradshaw said there are several ways an individual can make a job easier to handle.

“We can’t always do something about the workload, but we can control some of the time wasters or those things that distract us and keep us from getting our job done,” he said.

The telephone, mail and co-workers are all potential time wasters, Bradshaw said. The key is to learn how not to get bogged down with the trivial things that might hinder job performance.

He suggests distancing yourself from anything that could distract you while working. If you have a report due, go to a quite out-of-the-way place so you can concentrate on the report and not have to deal with a ringing telephone.

Bradshaw said workers need to be careful about stress because the body’s response to stress is subtle. Often people are not aware of the seriousness of a stress-filled workspace until it is too late.


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