OSEA Safety Blog

Job Stress in 2020

Saturday, September 5, 2020 Amanda Coniglio

I think we can all agree, 2020 has been an interesting year – throwing many challenges at employers as well as employees. As employers are working hard to establish plans and controls in an effort to keep employees safe, healthy, working, and maintaining productivity, employees are facing their own personal challenges at home on top of trying to perform their work. There are plenty of “feel good” commercials out there, aimed at letting us know we will get through this period of uncertainty – but let’s be honest, those commercials are dismissing the stresses the current workforce is feeling. The current job stress situation is magnified, and it is far more complex than it has been in previous years.

The workforce is far more likely to experience burn-out this year as we try to find a balance between work from home, return to work, staying healthy, and managing households in ways that we never had to before. The impacts of stress in the workplace can be catastrophic as it can contribute to increases in accidents, and an increase in workplace violence incidents. Many workers are facing excessive workload that may stem from others being laid off or quarantined, fear of being laid off, increased or changed performance demands, lack of PPE availability, and infrequent breaks (particularly healthcare workers). This can all lead to fatigue and inattention to work tasks, making the workplace more dangerous.

It’s particularly important right now for employers to be as proactive as possible in the recognition of stress in employees, and in the establishment of controls to mitigate. Some administrative controls to consider, on top of all your COVID-19 controls, include reducing shift length, remaining flexible in work hours and tasks, establishing recognition/reward systems for good work performance, and opening lines of communication between management and employees. Right now, strong and effective leadership is a necessity and that includes compassion and understanding on all levels to lead your workforce through this and remain operational.

Those “feel-good” commercials do have one thing right – we are all in this together (but socially distanced); we all need to work together within our jobs to keep things safe, operational, and incident-free. There is no “easy button” for this – employees and employers are facing extraordinary stressors with so many unknowns. Take care of yourselves, take care of each other and if you are feeling particularly on edge, don’t hesitate to seek assistance/reach out for additional resources.

The CDC has a whole page with resource links on coping with stress: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html

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