As an editor and writer, I have the opportunity to interview many engineers in a wide variety of engineering disciplines. I usually make an appointment a few days ahead to set up an interview date and time. But over the past two years or so, I have noticed that more technologists have less time in their schedules for interviews, even when I promise to take less than 20 minutes. In fact, one engineer recently told me that he would “love” to talk to me, but he had no less than 45 items on his to-do list that he deemed were more important. Often, I have to reschedule interviews several times; some never happen.
I have also learned that the number one reason for employee absence is illness. Furthermore, researchers have found most illnesses come from on-the-job stress and fatigue. And the stress comes from the nature of a typical job today. It requires each employee to do more work in less time than just a few years ago. Many people I interview are working as much as ten to 12 hours per day, and some work six days. It seems to have become an epidemic.
Because it is so widespread, NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) has published a document on their Web site, No. 99-101, which discusses causes for work-related stress and preventive measures. The site also presents some interesting case histories that I think you can relate to. Some of the causes go beyond having too much work and not enough time; they include job requirements that do not meet the needs, capabilities, and resources of the worker. A little stress might challenge you to do a better job, but too much can harm your body in many ways and shorten your life. For example, the NIOSH document says the stress can lead to cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal and psychological disorders, and workplace injury. What is worse, it also causes cancer, ulcers, and even suicide.
But the solution for overcoming job-related stress includes full commitment from upper management and adopting some new work habits. To start, the company can provide stress management training and change the organization to improve working conditions. The NIOSH also recommends that workers try to improve their balance between work and family or personal life, and establish a relaxed and more positive outlook. My own personal life also includes a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. The NIOSH Web site includes much more great information that I recommend you take to heart. Your life might depend upon it.
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