Can Workplace Stress Be Defined
We hear a lot about stress, but what is it? As stated by the Canadian Mental Health Association:
âStress is a reaction to a situation â it isn’t about the actual situation. We usually feel stressed when we think that the demands of the situation are greater than our resources to deal with that situation. For example, someone who feels comfortable speaking in public may not worry about giving a presentation, while someone who isn’t confident in their skills may feel a lot of stress about an upcoming presentation. Common sources of stress may include major life events, like moving or changing jobs. Long-term worries, like a long-term illness or parenting, can also feel stressful. Even daily hassles like dealing with traffic can be a source of stress.â
From: âStressâ, Canadian Mental Health Association, 2018
Workplace stress then is the harmful physical and emotional responses that can happen when there is a conflict between job demands on the employee and the amount of control an employee has over meeting these demands. In general, the combination of high demands in a job and a low amount of control over the situation can lead to stress.
Stress in the workplace can have many origins or come from one single event. It can impact on both employees and employers alike. It is generally believed that some stress is okay but when stress occurs in amounts that you cannot handle, both mental and physical changes may occur.
It Can Add Stress For Some People
A 2017 report by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions suggested that 41 percent of remote employees report higher levels of stress compared with just 25 percent of their counterparts who work in the office.
Psychological stress can affect depression. That being said, theres little evidence directly linking remote work to depression.
Can Working From Home Cause Depression
Working from home, either permanently or partially each week, is becoming a reality for more and more people. While the added flexibility and home comforts can be beneficial to your mental health, it is not without its drawbacks.
Feelings of isolation can arise for those working from home especially if you also live on your own. A lack or physical communication with other human beings can quickly lead to feelings of sadness and depression. If you are working from home regularly, its really important to remain in contact with colleagues, both professionally and socially. Try to block out some time in your diary on a daily or weekly basis to have a chat over video conferencing the social aspects of human interaction can do wonders for your mental health.
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Depression Eludes Some But Not Most Under Stress
But Reiss has seen a decreasing number of claims because people are afraid of losing their jobs.
“They are tolerating more,” he said. “But once they hit bottom, it’s worse.”
That happened to Shari McGuire of Maple Grove, Minn., who became clinically depressed after averaging 70 hours a week working for a large corporation.
“The pressure was unbelievable,” she said. “It was an enormous feat to get things done by so many deadlines.”
In 2007, her son was born.
“I wanted to be home with my baby, and I didn’t know how to grow my career without the extra hours,” said McGuire, now 43.
She sought help, but she said the antidepressants made her feel like there was “an even bigger cloud over my head.”
“One depression medication wasn’t enough, so a second medication was added,” said McGuire. “I knew that there had to be a better way to make a living because I was missing out on so much life.”
When she noticed that she was visibly absent from photos with her now-5-year-old son, she knew it was time to reevaluate her 19-year career and walked away from her “six-figure job.”
The last straw was in 2010, when she was expected to explain a $20,000 gap in the budget on a conference call.
“I had worked 70 hours that week and I could have spent 80 hours,” she said. “I realized, ‘I can’t do it anymore,’ and quit.”
After an unsuccessful attempt to start her own business, she took another information technology job. But this time, she set limits. Now, she has been off medication for a year.
Dealing With Depression In The Workplace
If youre dealing with depression at work, try these tips. They are not intended as a cure, but could help provide ways to better cope if youre dealing with depression at work.
Self-care alone cannot cure depression. Small positive changes in your daily routine may help you feel better, but working with a behavioral professional is most important for long-term management of depression.
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Can Our Work Environment Cause Depression
New research has found negative work environments to be associated with poorer mental health, in particular, depressive symptoms.
A recent review of 59 studies from workplaces across Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand were analysed. The review found that employees, both men and women, who reported job strain, bullying and lack of ability to make work-related decisions were at higher risk of developing depressive symptoms, including stress-related disorders and taking psychologically related sick leave.
Dr Mandy Deeks, psychologist and Jean Hailes Deputy CEO, says negative work environments can affect both your physical and mental health in many ways. Not only can depression, sadness and anxiety increase in these environments, but prolonged stress at work can result in increased episodes of illness such as colds and flu-like symptoms, allergies, muscular aches and pains, headaches, problems with concentration, fatigue, difficulty sleeping and even digestive problems.
Not having clarity around roles or responsibilities and not being able to make decisions or feel valued at work will affect your mental health, says Dr Deeks. If this is you, its helpful to find someone you trust or a health professional to talk to about this, she says. They may provide insight and thoughts on specific ways you can deal with your stress and the environment.
Are There Organizations That Can Help*
Yes, there are many. Your family doctor can often recommend a professional for you. Other examples include the Employee Assistance Programs or associations such as the Canadian Mental Health Association or the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction to name just a few.
- EAP programs are confidential, short term, counselling services for employees with problems that affect their work performance. The services of EAP providers are often purchased by your company. Check with your human resources department for contact information.
- CMHA‘s programs are meant to ensure that people whose mental health is endangered will find the help needed to cope with crisis, regain confidence, and return to community, family and job.
- The CCSA promotes informed debate on substance abuse issues, and disseminates information on the nature, and assists organizations involved in substance abuse treatment, prevention and educational programming.
directly for more information about their services. Please note that mention of these organizations does not represent a recommendation or endorsement by CCOHS of these organizations over others of which you may be aware.)
For more information on mental health and workplace health, see the OSH Answers:
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Depression At Work: Is It You Or The Job
Some experts say it’s not work that’s depressing you, others can truly feel your pain.
Performing artist Phyllis Charney, 63, recalls being depressed between 2008 and 2011 when she was working as a legal secretary. She spent a total of 17 years on the job, which she kept as a way to pay the rent while she nurtured a career in the performing arts. But when new owners came in and shook up the status quo she found herself suffering from deep depression and anxiety.
“It was once a good job,” said Charney, who lives in Manhattan. “But they had a specific campaign to get us golden girls to leave by gas-lighting , lying to us in performance reviews, and abusing us. I became mentally and emotionally ill on the job and had meltdowns and clinical panic attacks, which I never had in my life on the job. It was because of the way I was being treated.”
She was on Prozac, Charney said, but she was still suffering greatly. Eventually, she was “mercifully fired,” but not without being traumatized. Succeeding in a new job was not easy.
“Now, even the thought of taking a job a book store, Home Depot or any job makes me nauseous,” she said. “I only go on auditions for acting jobs now.” She wrote two poems about her depression at work and has performed them live in clubs.
Is Your Job Really The Culprit In Depression
“Work can’t actually cause depression,” said Clare Miller, director of the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, an arm of the American Medical Association designed to help employers deal with and strengthen employee mental health. “If someone is predisposed to actually having depression, work can be a force of good or could be harmful. But someone can’t get depression simply from work. There need to be some other things going on there.”
Mental pain and suffering at work is not a small problem, though, and it does not just impact the individual. According to research released by Miller’s organization in May 2013, depression is a leading cause of lost productivity in the United States, costing employers $44 billion annually.
Elizabeth R. Lombardo, PhD, MS, PT, a Lake Forrest, Ill., psychologist and author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness, attributes this to what psychologists call “learned helplessness.”
“This is the sense that one has no control over their job – for fear of losing it, not having any power to make decisions, not having any control to make things better,” said Dr. Lombardo, adding that you may feel “powerless to make any changes or have an influence on the situation.”
Symptoms of depression that comes from learned helplessness may include:
- Giving up – not trying to make a difference
- Social withdrawal
- Low self-esteem
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Depression And The C Criteria
Alternatively, you may also meet the listing another way. Under the 12.04C, you can show your depressive disorder has been:
- Serious and ongoing for at least two years, and
- You need a very structured environment, such as an intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization program, or
- You cannot handle changes in your routine or environment
Potential Triggers Of Work Depression
The relationship between work and depression is one that can work both ways. Depression can impact your ability to perform your job well, and stress at work can also contribute to a person becoming depressed. Some work-related triggers that can cause major depression or stress include:
- A high workload
- Being asked to do things outside your competency level
- Sudden changes or difficulties with colleagues
- Inflexible working hours
- Poor management processes and/or communication
- Unclear objectives and a lack of support for your work
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You Complain About Work A Lot
If you’re truly unhappy and unfulfilled with your job, you may start to spend a lot of time and energy explaining to friends, family, and anyone who will listen just how bad your job is at the moment.
This release might feel good in the moment, but Morin said it’s not healthy because it “robs you of mental strength.” This, in turn, can increase your risk of distress.
How Is Work Depression Treated
If youre noticing a link between depressive symptoms and your workplace, Gilmore cautions not to wait to seek help. If youre concerned it may be related to burnout, talking with a supportive immediate supervisor or boss is a good first step. They can work with you to help identify some changes that can be made to reduce your symptoms. If those changes dont seem to help with symptoms, it may be time to speak with your doctor or a therapist.
As for managing symptoms, Gilmore says you have many options at your disposal.
Take those breaks. Stop working through lunch and break times, even if you have to start small with taking your lunch break once a week. If you feel like skipping these are the only way to get your work done, talk to your manager or HR if needed, she says. Working through lunch every now and then is normal, but making this a routine is damaging. Not leaving your workspace for the entire day as a routine is damaging. In the long term it does not benefit you or your employer.
Some additional things you can do when youre feeling depressed include:
- Go for a quick walk, even if its just indoors.
- Take a mental health day.
- Practice a few minutes of mindfulness meditation.
- Incorporate deep breathing exercises into your day.
- Say no to one small thing that allows you to experience less stress during the day.
- Watch a funny video.
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Work Stress Vs Work Depression
We have all felt stressed at work. There are those awful days when everything seems to go wrong, when miscommunication is rampant, and you just can’t seem to get along with a boss, employee, or colleague. People are always getting their buttons pushed in the workplace because it becomes our second home and we tend to replicate family dynamics and relationships that mirror those with parents and siblings. It can be aggravating and upsetting.
Not everyone has a story as dramatic as Charney, but a recent Gallup Poll showed that although the unemployed reported a higher rate of depression , 5.6 per cent of full time workers also said they were depressed.
Some mental health and human resources professionals think work can cause depression, others say an individual has to be vulnerable to it in some way or that it is related to their personal baggage, not necessarily to work.
Even Charney realized that her unhappiness boiled down to an more basic component. “I just didn’t belong there to begin with,” she said. “I’m over-qualified, too intelligent, and it was just a job to pay the rent.”
You Can’t Stop Thinking About Your Job
Your weekday evenings and weekends should be about clearing your mind and relaxing.
So if you come home and can’t stop replaying a meeting that went wrong in your head or thinking about all the reasons why you don’t want to wake up for work tomorrow, that can seriously impede on the quality of your home life, Morin says.
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What Are The Signs
The signs of depression at work can look similar to general depressive symptoms and there is some overlap between how you feel at work versus how you feel outside of work. Work depression often affects your level of function both at work and at home.
It is rare that a person would experience depression only at one location, so its more likely that someone dealing with depression will experience the signs and symptoms throughout their week. The symptoms can increase at a location though and become less manageable, Gilmore says. If a person feels hopeless, sad, unable to enjoy aspects that were once enjoyable, and/or less interested in the workplace or people, its likely that the depression is exacerbated at work.
Some of the more common signs of work depression include:
- withdrawal or isolation from other people
- poor self-hygiene or significant change in appearance
- late arrival at work, missed meetings, or absent days
- procrastination, missed deadlines, reduced productivity, subpar performance in tasks, increased errors, or difficulty making decisions
- seeming indifference, forgetfulness, detachment, and disinterest in things
- an appearance of tiredness for most or part of the day
- irritability, anger, feeling overwhelmed, or getting very emotional during conversations
- lack confidence while attempting tasks
Remote Work During Covid
If working from home is your new normal, at least for now, you might be experiencing increased feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression.
Here are a few things you can do when those feelings surface:
- Get out of the house and take a walk.
- Keep your workspace separate from other parts of the house.
- Get rid of clutter around your desk.
- Practice 5 minutes of mindfulness meditation in the morning, afternoon, and before you call it a day.
- Step away from the screen throughout the day.
Adding to this, Parmar said many people might be working more hours than usual, since it can be hard to keep track of time while at home.
It is very natural to get overwhelmed from all these factors and feel depressed or anxious, she explained.
Magavi suggested prolonged remote work could create many emotional, physical, and financial hurdles for individuals.
Low-income families are significantly disadvantaged due to limited resources or access to stable Wi-Fi, while other families, regardless of income, may be increasingly exposed to domestic violence due to displaced anger caused by the pandemic and associated stressors, she said.
Individuals may feel like there is nothing to look forward to, or they may struggle, as they no longer have an outlet to normalize their feelings of burnout with fellow employees, she added.
No matter where you work, managing symptoms at work can be challenging. The good news is there are things you can do when youre feeling depressed:
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