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11:47am 30/05/2022
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Stress and quality of work life
By:Dr. Zafir Khan bin Mohamed Makhbul
Dr. Zafir Khan bin Mohamed Makhbul. Click to enlarge

In the excitement of materializing organizational goals in the increasingly challenging business environment, there are times when organizations have turned a blind eye on the most valuable resource in the organization, humans.

The presence of the challenges of the computing technology and automation brought upon by Industry 4.0 might exacerbate the situation.

Of course, there will be mixed emotions – fear, panic, restlessness and sadness will come over the organizational human resource.

Thus, in facing the challenge of Industry 4.0 the management of the most important aspect of the organization, which is human resource must be given due attention.

All aspects of the management deemed important including training and development, compensation management, performance evaluation, career management and occupational safety and health.

Among all these, the occupational health issue is the substantial thing that has to be prioritized, seeing that it is global issue, be it in Malaysia or foreign countries.

Occupational health should not be abandoned by the organization as it can affect human resource competitiveness.

When health issues happen continuously, it will affect the productivity of the workers, disrupt the organization’s operations and finally affect the country’s productivity.

Among the solutions is through the control of the stress issue at the workplace.

This agenda of minimizing stress must be given attention by the current organizations because it can reduce the issue of workers’ turnover, morality and work dissatisfaction.

In reality, excessive work stress can leave a profound effect on humans’ physiology, psychology and behavior.

An individual who is continuously stressed with the work at hand can lead to depression. If this stress is ongoing and it is not handled soon, it can leave a bad impact on one’s health.

When he is stressed, his psychology will be affected and he will fail to make the right decisions and consideration. In effect, he will feel worried, afraid and temperamental.

This continuous affected psychology will affect the physiology leading to heart problems, high blood pressure, fatigue and so on.

The effect of depression on the stress at work comprises of the psychology (worry, sadness, temperamental), physiology (high blood pressure and strong muscle pressure) or behavior (poor work performance, accident, sleep deprivation, drug abuse).

Workers with high stress level normally experience various health complications like eye constraint, buzzing ears, bad cough, chest pain, stomach problems, headache and musculoskeletal discomfort.

Issues like these influence the rate of absence, workers’ turnover, work performance, accidents and errors, also alcohol and drug consumption.

Studies also show that excessive stress at work can cause failing individual mental and physical systems that can adversely impact performance and health.

It needs to be understood that stress actually is not the cause of diseases, but it will weaken the immunization system and disrupt the capability of the body in fighting off infection and diseases.

In reality, the stress at work is not a new phenomenon in the working world. It exists in every organisation and no one can steer clear from it.

Stress at work can happen without accounting for the type of work and the organization. The question is, is stress totally irrelevant in the organization? The answers are yes and no.

Although studies have shown that stress at work gives a negative effect, it is undeniable that it can also give a positive effect (eustress) to the occupation.

This is because there are some individuals who experience career development and improvement when there is stress. For these individuals, stress is an internal motivation that motivates them to make the effort.

Workers working in organisations with high level of stress, do not necessarily face this issue as their actions might be effective in handling stress.

However, this is only faced by some individuals and in general, anyone would give a negative reaction when the stress experienced is excessive and cannot be controlled.

Uncontrollable stress at work will leave a negative impact on the workers, family and the entire organization.

Even more worrying, burnout can happen if stress occurs continuously and individuals do not have a strong body system.

Running out of energy is the long term effect from a chronic stress. When someone undergoes this phase of running out of energy, he will feel exhausted physically and emotionally. This individual will then feel that it is difficult to fulfill his personal and work responsibility positively.

The issue of extreme work stress also influences individual’s social life. This extreme stress at work often continues at home and involves other people and disturbs personal social relationships.

The impact of stress discussed above is a cause for concern especially when all the countries are competing amid the Industrial Revolution 4.0.

Thus, it is very important to have a balance between emotions and work demand in every organisational strategy to ensure that the aim of the organisation and the country can be achieved.

This balance will finally be able to minimize stress and produce quality of the work life.

(Dr. Zafir Khan bin Mohamed Makhbul is Professor and Dean, UKM-Graduate School of Business (UKM-GSB), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.)

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