Stress on the Job: Causes and What You Can Do About It

Posted on in Education/Training

By Dorothy de Souza Guedes, VGM Education

There’s a lot for HME providers to be stressed about right now. Added to the usual hectic combo of holidays and year-end budgeting, this year there’s worry about the looming rural rollout of competitive bidding and CRT accessory cuts.

Is what’s stressing you typical of most Americans experience? Perhaps. Stress about money has topped the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America™ survey for eight years running. In 2014, three-quarters reported feeling stressed about money at least some of the time with 64 percent noting money as a significant or somewhat significant source of stress.

But work is a close second, with 60 percent of those surveyed by APA listing work as a significant or somewhat significant stressor. Stress is a factor noted by personal and professional success coach Heather Woody, of Heather Woody Unlimited, Inc., Iowa City, Iowa when she helps businesses build effective working environments.

“I can see it in people: they shut down and don’t communicate, or they are very toxic and become very hostile,” Woody said. “Sometimes they’re broken down and upset and just need a place to talk.”

Business costs of untreated work stress

Dealing with untreated work stress is important for many reasons. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), research has shown that untreated work stress can lead to the following:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • musculoskeletal disorders
  • psychological disorders (e.g., depression, burnout)
  • workplace injury
  • suicide, cancer, ulcers, and impaired immune function

Studies show that a stressful workplace can lead to increased absenteeism, tardiness, and workers intent to quit their jobs. A 2014 survey noted 42 percent of American respondents had purposely changed jobs due to stress. The same survey found 46 percent had missed work due to work-related stress. Workers who took time off from work because of stress, anxiety, or a related disorder were off work for about 20 days, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Change: a major work stressor

Causes of work stress can include an employee’s relationship with a supervisor, their personal approach to work, and their role within the organization.

Change can be a big work stressor, typically involving something of a bigger magnitude such as a process, system, building or location change, or high turnover in staff, Woody explained. For HME providers, these stressful changes likely include the Oct. 1 transition to ICD-10 and pending Jan. 1 reimbursement reductions.

New leadership can also cause employees a lot of stress.  “That’s a big one,” Woody said.

She has worked with businesses that have lost leaders, due to either a leader leaving the organization or death of a leader. This leads to employees worrying about changes in the direction of the organization, she said. When a leader dies, employees first need to go through a grieving process. Some organizations are open to talking through this process; others are not. During this time, employees also deal with concerns over who will fill the leader’s shoes and what is the new leader’s belief system about work, Woody said.

Reduce employee stress

There are many techniques that can effectively reduce stress on the job. Companies that are good at creating a positive corporate culture are more proactive in teaching stress management, Woody said. Helping employees deal with work stress helps to retain people, improve performance. “And it just makes people feel healthier.”

Owners and managers of companies can help reduce or even eliminate employee stress by making a few changes. Woody suggests

  1. Praise positive work; don’t take it for granted.
  2. Show appreciation.
  3. See every employee with equal value; the sum is always greater than its parts.
  4. View each employee as different, with different needs. Learn how to meet those needs.
  5. Communicate and share information with employees. Give clear directions and set reachable goals for your staff.

VGMU Online Learning offers two Human Relations courses to help with stress in the workplace: HR005 – Keys to Managing Your Stress, developed by Woody to teach ways to stop stress before it starts, and HR010 – Stress Management, developed by VGM corporate training experts to teach cognitive restructuring as a way to reduce stress.

What you should know

  • Educate yourself and your staff. Call VGM Education at 866-227-8171.
  • Stressed about the Jan. 1 rural rollout of competitive bidding? Contact your U.S. Senators and ask them to support the DME Access and Stabilization Act of 2015 (SB 2312) introduced on Nov. 20 to address reimbursement reductions threatening access to medical equipment in rural America.
  • Concerned about CMS’ plans to apply on Jan. 1 competitive bidding prices to complex rehab wheelchair accessories? Learn more Dec. 4 during a one-hour seminar by Dan Fedor, director of compliance, VGM Group, Inc. Register for “Prepare Yourself and Your Clients for Upcoming CRT Accessory Cuts,” sponsored by US Rehab.