Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Managers suffer less stress when work relationships are good

Managers who enjoy a good relationship with their employees, suffer less dangerous stress at work, according to a study of nearly 3000 managers.
It's tough at the top, people say. Managers have heavy responsibilities, both for their workers and for the organization's results. They need to make hard, and at times unpopular, decisions. Such factors will make us think it is stressful to be a manager.

Much research has been conducted regarding stress, but not many studies have looked specifically at stress among managers.  How is life among those in the driving seat in companies and organizations? Are they more stressed than what is good for them?

Pressure and stress among managers
Professors Astrid M. Richardsen and Stig Berge Matthiesen at BI Norwegian Business School have analysed the responses from over 2900 professional managers.

The study measures four key stress factors:
  1. Time pressures and workload, 
  2. Emotional strain, 
  3. Role stress at work (role conflict between the demands from the top management and from the employees) 
  4. Role conflict between work and private life.
More than six out of ten managers surveyed (61.8 per cent) indicate that they often or all the time experience time pressure or a heavy workload. Fewer than five per cent say they rarely or never have time pressure at work.

"Although a clear majority of the managers experience time pressure at work, there are relatively few who have role stress at work, or a role conflict between work and private life," the BI researchers conclude.

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Few allow themselves to get stressed
Only five out of 100 managers surveyed experience role stress at work often or all the time, while just over one third (36.6 per cent) feel it some of the time. A little more than one of ten managers (11 per cent) experience a role conflict between work and private life often or all the time.

Managers who feel they have control of their work situation and great freedom to make decisions, experience less work pressure and emotional strain, and they also suffer considerably less role stress than managers who do not have such control.

The factors that contribute the most to the managers' workload and work stress, are the degree of unpredictability in the company and the unit they manage, and the amount of changes that have been made in the course of the last year.

Good relationships prevent stress
Managers under a high work pressure considered their work performance and efficiency to be high, the study shows. This is probably because they quite simply spend more hours at work. It is worth noting that managers experience significantly less stress when they feel they have a good relationship to their employees, and the employees show a positive conduct and confidence in their managers.
"The best thing a manager can do to prevent work stress, is to develop good relationships with the employees at work," Astrid M. Richardsen recommends.
When employees are happy with what the manager does, understand his or her challenges and participate actively in solving the problems, the manager will have less stress. This will probably be because the manager trusts the employees more and delegates more tasks to them. Hence the work pressure will decrease, Richardsen believes.
Ten tips for stress management

Stress can come from many sources. Here are four common stress factors: • Stress may relate to factors in the job itself (e.g. the work requirements facing the manager).
  • Stress may be caused by the manager's own reactions to a specific job situation (e.g. anxiety for how people will respond, a feeling of fatigue or exhaustion).
  • Stress may be about how one handles work tasks that are challenging or straining (e.g. works harder, works overtime, takes work home).
  • Any conflict between the demands at work and family considerations / leisure activities may also be a source of stress.
Managers who suffer work-related stress factors over time, may develop individual reactions such as frustration, irritation and anger, reduced self-confidence and depression. That again might lead to lower concentration, reduced motivation and work satisfaction, and a low work effort and performance.

According to the researchers, stress can impact the organization in the form of e.g. reduced productivity and a poorer bottom line result. The perception of a high workload and role stress may reduce the manager's loyalty and commitment to the organization and make it more likely that he or she will look for a job somewhere else.
Astrid Richardsen and Stig Berge Matthisen at BI Norwegian Business School have prepared ten research-based tips that may help managers to handle work stress.
  1. Find out what is creating the stress:
    • Identify the sources of work stress. Knowledge makes it easier to implement stress management measures.
  2. More knowledge about stress:
    • Increase the general knowledge of the nature of stress. How do various conditions for stress interact? What can be done about it?
  3. Have a healthy lifestyle.
    • Make sure you have sufficient rest and sleep, exercise and a healthy diet. A healthy mind in a healthy body ("Mens sana in corpore sano"). There are good reasons why so many managers are keen on their exercise.
  4. Learn to rest and relax.
    • Practice the skill of stressing down or relaxing. Muscle relaxation, meditation and tools that tell you whether your body really is relaxing, may be a help here.
  5. Manage your time more efficiently.
    • Learn to prioritize work tasks better. Identify the time thieves, and try to get rid of them.
  6. Increase your employees' skills.
    • By increasing the skills of your employees, you yourself will have less stress. You will feel more confident that the jobs you delegate will be done.
  7. Establish relationships for support.
    • Do you have someone to ask for help and support when you need it? Is there anyone you can go to with your joys and sorrows? Social support in everyday life is important for managers, too.
  8. Plan your career.
    • For managers as for others, a job or work commitment may have a "best before" date. Remaining too long in a job may lead to unnecessary stress or strain.
  9. Switch jobs in time.
    • Make the switch while you still have good control of the job and its related stress.
  10. Seek outside, professional help if the job becomes too much of a strain.
    • Major work stress can have serious consequences, both for the person suffering it and for his/her surroundings.
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Story Source:  The above story is based on materials provided by BI Norwegian Business School. "Managers: Less stress when work relationships are good." ScienceDaily

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Work-related stress a risk factor for type 2 diabetes

Credit: © Alliance / Fotolia

Roughly one in five people in employment is affected by high levels of mental
 stress at work.not mean 'normal job stress' but when the demands made
 are very high, with little or no scope for maneuver or decision making.
Workplace stress can have a range of adverse effects on health with an increased risk of cardio-vascular diseases in the first line. However, to date, convincing evidence for a strong association between work stress and incident Type 2 diabetes mellitus is missing. Researchers have now discovered that individuals who are under a high level of pressure at work face an about 45 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who are subjected to less stress at their workplace.

Workplace stress can have a range of adverse effects on health with an increased risk of cardio-vascular diseases in the first line. However, to date, convincing evidence for a strong association between work stress and incident Type 2 diabetes mellitus is missing.

Risk of diabetes about 45 percent higher
As the team of scientists headed by Dr. Cornelia Huth and Prof. Karl-Heinz Ladwig has now discovered that individuals who are under a high level of pressure at work and at the same time perceive little control over the activities they perform face an about 45 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who are subjected to less stress at their workplace.

The scientists from the Institute of Epidemiology II (EPI II) at the Helmholtz Zentrum M√ľnchen (HMGU) in collaboration with Prof. Johannes Kruse from the University Hospital of Giessen and Marburg examined data prospectively collected from more than 5,300 employed individuals aged between 29 and 66 who took part in the population-based MONICA/KORA cohort study. At the beginning of the study, none of the participants had diabetes, while in the post-observation period, which covered an average of 13 years, almost 300 of them were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The increase in risk in work-related stress was identified independently of classic risk factors such as obesity, age or gender.

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Holistic prevention is important -- also at the workplace
"According to our data, roughly one in five people in employment is affected by high levels of mental stress at work. By that, scientists do not mean 'normal job stress' but rather the situation in which the individuals concerned rate the demands made upon them as very high, and at the same time they have little scope for maneuver or for decision making. We covered both these aspects in great detail in our surveys," explains Prof. Ladwig, who led the study. "In view of the huge health implications of stress-related disorders, preventive measures to prevent common diseases such as diabetes should therefore also begin at this point," he added.
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Story Source: Materials provided by Helmholtz Zentrum Muenchen - German Research Centre for Environmental Health.  Huth, C. et al. Job Strain as a Risk Factor for the Onset of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Findings From the MONICA/KORA Augsburg Cohort Study. Psychosomatic Medicine, August 2014

Friday, August 8, 2014

Stress brings on pimples? Then, reducing stress may help lead to clearer skin

Anyone who's had a pimple form right before an important event may wonder if stress caused the break out. While commonly linked anecdotally, proving the relationship between stress and inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne, psoriasis and rosacea, is another matter.
"Nearly everyone has some form of stress in their life, so it's difficult to determine whether stress can actually make the skin's appearance worse," said board-certified dermatologist Richard D. Granstein, MD, FAAD, the George W. Hambrick Jr., professor and chairman of the department of dermatology, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. "However, it's been known for a long time that the nervous system, which processes our stress, has an impact on conditions such as psoriasis."

Dr. Granstein discusses the latest research on the impact stress has on inflammatory skin conditions and his thoughts on how this research could change treatment options.

How does stress play a role in inflammatory skin conditions? Dr. Granstein said research linking the nervous system and the skin has long been understood. "If you interrupt the nerves' path to an area of a patient's skin affected by psoriasis, the psoriasis improves," said Dr. Granstein. "In addition, the condition improves if you inject local anesthetic into psoriasis patches. This information strongly suggests that nerves play a role in how psoriasis operates."

Stress shown to make inflammatory skin conditions worse
Dr. Granstein notes that animal studies have demonstrated that stress can make inflammatory skin conditions worse. In a Japanese study , mice genetically prone to develop a rash similar to the inflammatory skin condition atopic dermatitis did so when stressed, while mice that were not exposed to stress did not develop the rash.

Dr. Granstein said experimental data support the idea that the nervous system and stress affect inflammatory skin conditions in humans. Many types of cells in the skin, including immune cells and endothelial cells (cells that line blood vessels), can be regulated by neuropeptides and neurotransmitters, which are chemicals released by the skin's nerve endings. Stress can result in the skin's nerve endings releasing an increased level of these chemicals. When this occurs, it can affect how and at what level our body responds to many important functions, such as sensation and control of blood flow, and can contribute to the symptoms of stress that we feel. In addition, the release of these chemicals can lead to inflammation of the skin.

"If we could block specific steps in certain pathways between the nervous system and the skin -- without impacting the whole body -- we would likely have new ways to prevent or treat some skin disorders," said Dr. Granstein. "We're gaining a greater understanding of the mechanisms underlying many skin conditions, which will help us develop new therapies."

Has stress been shown to impact the skin in other ways? While commonly believed, Dr. Granstein said research has not proven that stress causes skin aging.

When combined with exposure to ultraviolet rays, Dr. Granstein noted that animal studies have shown that stress could have an impact on the development of skin cancer. "When exposed to ultraviolet radiation, stressed mice developed skin cancers more quickly than mice that were not exposed to stress," he said.

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How does current research impact how people with inflammatory skin conditions are treated? Dr. Granstein said more research needs to be done to further understand the role of the nervous system and stress on inflammatory skin conditions, especially since other factors play a role, including genetics.

Meditation, yoga, or tai chi
He encourages people with inflammatory skin conditions to tell their dermatologist if they believe stress is impacting their condition. They can experiment with stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or tai chi, but they should continue their treatment plan as prescribed by their dermatologist.
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Story Source:  The above story is based on materials provided by American Academy of Dermatology. "Reducing stress may help lead to clearer skin." ScienceDaily