FACTORS CAUSING STRESS AT THE WORK PLACE IN MALAYSIA
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FACTORS CAUSING STRESS AT THE WORK PLACE IN MALAYSIA

There are many cases in Malaysia lately that are related to stress or mental illness.  This study intends to identify the factors causing stress at the workplace in Malaysia

With regard to job stress, the statements on the instrument indicate that the respondents do not experienced feeling of emotionally drained to their job, burnout, frustrated, emotionally tension, losing appetite, mentally and physically pressure about their job. All mean values of the symptoms of stress are below than 2 which indicate that the employees show a minimum level of stress in their work.

The National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) conducted by the Health Ministry last year revealed that the incidence of mental health problems was higher among younger adults — those in the 16-19 age group accounted for 34.7 per cent and those in the 20-24 age group accounted for 32.1 per cent.

The study found that the prevalence of mental health problems among people aged 16 and above is 29.2 per cent. This is a marked increase from the same study done in 2006, which reported a figure of 11.2 per cent. It also revealed a higher prevalence of mental health problems among adults from low household income families. By occupation, the prevalence was lowest among government and semi-government employees.

Mental health is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a state of wellbeing upon which an individual realises his or her potential, can cope with normal stress every day, work productively and contribute to society. Therefore, workers need to achieve a good state of mental health to be able to function and be at their best performance. (sources https://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/04/142074/work-stress-and-mental-health, 28 April 2016)

OCCUPATIONAL OR WORK RELATED STRESS

Employees spend their time more at work than at home.  A good workplace can be considered as a healthy workplace or a second home for many.  It’s a place where both employer and employee can carry out their work duties efficiently and effectively.  Good working environment increased their productivity to generate profit to the department or organization they belong to.

However, a workplace can become a place where the worker suffers from unnecessary stress which will affect the worker personally and the organization they working with. Stress can be regarded as something which is normal for every worker to feel when they carry out their duties regardless where they work. (Tay Swee Noi & Peter J. Smith, 1990, p. 1). Every workplace has its own level of stress

Occupational or work related stress may be considered a type of occupational disease. This is a condition where the individual worker may experience high level of anxiety, mental fatigue, and other related symptoms.

CAUSES OF OCCUPATIONAL OR WORK RELATED STRESS

Occupational or work related stress can be happen due many reasons as results from various interactions of the worker and the working environment which they carry out their working responsibilities.

Common examples of causes of occupational or work relates stress can be due to work overload like unrealistic deadlines and expectation given by the employer, unmanageable workloads schedules or time table, and under recruitment of staff to carry out the work. Poor or unsupportive relationships with colleagues and or employers can also be a potential source of stress. In addition, stress can also occur if individuals feel isolated, unfairly or unprofessionally treated in the workplace. The demands of work have the potential to spill over and affect the workers personal and home life and so put a strain on relationships outside work. Stress may result from lack of information about what is going on in the organization, lack over the feedback on the worker performance, lack or no adequate training to do the job and lack or no proper or suitable equipment and resources to do carry out the task or job. The financial rewards associated with a work are important in terms of lifestyle. Worker need to be properly and adequately paid according to their efforts and contribution to the organization. Although financial reward may not be a prime motivator over the issue concerning occupational or work related stress, it could also become a factor especially when the worker try to cope with the sudden increased in cost of living. There are potential sources of stress that relate to the fundamental nature of the job itself. Factors such as the physical working conditions, type of tasks given and the amount of satisfaction derived from the work can become important factor to give rise to any stress issue.

 Another factor which can give rise to stress at workplace is when the worker has to fulfill unrealistic Key Performance Indicators (KPI). KPI is a measures used to help an organization to define and evaluate how successful it is, typically in terms of making progress towards its long-term organizational goals. The KPIs differ depending on the nature of the organization and the organization’s strategy. They help to evaluate the progress of an organization towards its vision and long-term goals, especially toward difficult to quantify knowledge – based goals. Setting up a good KPI is sometimes seen as an art, because many organizations find it hard to decide on what to measure they should set up. Some organizations may also develop their own KPI but it may not be the right one and unachievable. KPI must be realistic, meaningful, measurable, and understood by all workers. There is no point giving a worker an unrealistic goal, or not giving the worker with all the necessary resources and materials to achieve the goal. Setting someone up to fail is not good for the morale for a long term. The KPI must, in some way, is reasonable, logic and targetable. A bad KPI will certainly give rise to unnecessary stress level amongst the workers in the workplace.

EFFECTS OF OCCUPATIONAL OR WORK RELATED STRESS

The unnecessary stress at the workplace can also affect the productivity of the worker and consequently affecting the organization profit as well as its reputation.  According to many studies, stressful working conditions can lead to three types of major effect namely behavioral effect like absenteeism or poor performance by the worker, physical effect like having headaches, sleeping disorder, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and others, and psychological effect like having an anxiety or mood disorder (Jex, S. M. (1998) & Gilbert Rethual, 2003, pp. 97 – 159).  If exposure to stressors in the workplace is prolonged, then chronic health problems can occur including fatality. (Tsutsumi, Akizumi; Kayaba, Kazunori; Kario, Kazuomi; Ishikawa, Shizukiyo (2009), pp. 56 – 61).

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS TO OCCUPATIONAL OR WORK RELATED STRESS ISSUE

There are ways to manage stress.  Taking practical steps to manage your stress can reduce or prevent these effects. The following are some tips that may help you to cope with stress:

 ◉ Recognize the Signs of your body’s response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol and other substance use, being easily angered, feeling depressed, and having low energy.

 ◉ Talk to Your Doctor or Health Care Provider. Get proper health care for existing or new health problems.

◉ Get Regular Exercise. Just 30 minutes per day of walking can help boost your mood and reduce stress.

◉ Try a Relaxing Activity. Explore stress coping programs, which may incorporate meditation, yoga, tai chi, or other gentle exercises. For some stress-related conditions, these approaches are used in addition to other forms of treatment.   Schedule regular times for these and other healthy and relaxing  activities.   Learn more about these techniques on the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) website at (www.nccih.nih.gov/health/stress).

 ◉ Set Goals and Priorities. Decide what must get done and what can wait, and learn to say no to new tasks if they are putting you into overload. Note what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.

◉ Stay connected with people who can provide emotional and other support. To reduce stress, ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations.

 ◉ Consider a Clinical Trial. Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), NCCIH, and other research facilities across the country are studying the causes and effects of psychological stress, and stress management techniques. (www.nimh.nih.gov/joinastudy or www.clinicaltrials.gov .

There are no single solutions to address the issue on occupational or work related stress problem. Effort must be taken by adopting and implementing several possible solutions to prevent the issue before it becoming out of control and starting to affect the worker. There are several solutions which can be consider by the organization management as well as the country legislator to create harmonious working environment and put an end to element of stress within the working place.

Implementing work life balance policy in our world today, certain work and career choices are sometimes incompatible with spending meaningful time with your family and friends. Having an active work – life balance is vital towards achieving a rich socio –economic environment. (Abdul Aziz Yusof & Tan Fee Yean, 2014, p. 154). The worker shouldn’t be spending their lives in the office, nor should they be too fixed in a comfort zone. (The Star, 26 February 2016). Work life balance policy is about effectively managing the duties and responsibilities at work and at the same time able to spend quality time with family, taking part in sport and recreation, volunteering or undertaking further study, and others. (David Posen, 2010, pp. 42 – 45). Research suggests that improving the balance between our working lives and our lives outside work can bring real benefits for employees and employers. The finding of a 2015 Global Kelly Workforce Index on “Worker Preference and Workplace Agility” shows that two – thirds or 67 per cent of workers in Malaysia will consider a career that can strike a balance between life and career more attractive than a fatter paycheck. (Borneo Post, 1 May 2015). Amongst the steps which been recently implemented in the country for having work – life balance policy is the implementation of flexible working arrangement (FWA) (The Star, 25 October 2013) and the suggestion to establish child care center at every work place. (Utusan Malaysia, 23 April 2015) 5.2 Formulating proper rules and regulations Without doubt, rules and regulations can play important roles to combat the issue concerning occupational or work related stress in the country. By having rules and regulation, the matter can be tackle efficiently and effectively. Although there is no specific legislation, no specific Act of Parliament, which addressed the issue of occupational stress in the country, the employment relationship namely the relationship between an employer and an employee is still been governed by the law in the country, both under the law of contract and the law of tort. In the former an action may be taken for breach of contract, in the latter an action can be taken for negligence. There is also the concept of the duty of care where a duty owed by an employer to ensure the health, safety and welfare of his employees. Breaches of this duty of care may lead to a criminal prosecution in the criminal courts and or a civil action. (Siti Zaharah Jamaluddin, 2000, pp. 153 – 177, Sharifah Suhanah Syed Ahmad, 2012, pp. 179 – 196, & Ashgar Ali Ali Mohamed, 2014, pp. 35 – 74). Though having no specific legislation on the issue, the areas which have been given a focus by the country leadership to deal with the problem is on the implementation of flexible working hours and preventing sexual harassment at the workplace. The Malaysian government’s proposal to introduce the Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA) during the last 2014 Malaysian budget announcement received the thumbs up by many workers in the country. The announcement pleased many employees, especially female’s employees in the country, as they would be able to balance between career and family commitments, and the move would also ensure a more supportive working environment. However, such proposal has not been received enough support especially by private sectors due many reasons which include lack of understanding over the process over its implementation and lack of proper procedures and regulations needed to control its implementation.

As Malaysia becoming fully developed nation by year 2020, having similar legislation been seen as the best option. On the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace which can create unnecessary stress amongst the workers, it’s time for the government to handle the matter swiftly.  This due to the recent report which indicated the increased statistic number over the allegation of sexual harassment at the workplace.(Berita Harian, 19 March 2016).  Though there have been many steps been taken by the Malaysian government to deal with the problem of sexual harassment through rules and regulations by amending the country Penal Code (Act 574) and Employment Act 1955 (Act 265).  Far back in 2001, the Malaysian Joint Action Group against Violation against Women (JAG) which consists a number of the Non – Governmental Organizations (NGO) and the Malaysian Trades Union Congress is pressing for a comprehensive bill on sexual harassment. (Sunday Mail, 17 August 2003). It is known as the Proposed Malaysian Sexual Harassment Bill 2001 (Hereinafter shall be call as “proposed bill”). This proposed bill adequately addresses work related sexual harassment. The proposed bill covers occurrences of sexual harassment in the workplace and in circumstances where at least one party is working. The proposed bill is divided into seven parts namely Part 1 is a preliminary section that outlines definitions used in the proposed bill; Part 2 addresses the various forms of sexual harassment that are prohibited under the proposed bill; Part 3 states that victimisation of those who make complaints, and anyone who assists them, is prohibited. It also contains the vicarious liability sections, stating that employers who do not formulate their own in-house mechanisms to prevent sexual harassment or adequately address complaints will be held liable; Part 4 addresses the positions and duties of the director and tribunal; Part 5 outlines the complaints process, from the laying of a complaint to its resolution. Each process must be completed within a set timeframe. It also covers miscellaneous issues, including the proposed bill’s relation to dismissals and the Industrial Relations Act, 1967; Part 6 deals with offences under the bill; and Part 7 includes general issues such as areas of non-application of the proposed bill, actions of corporations, liability issues and the making of regulations. Section 2 of the proposed bill defined workplace as “means any place where a person attends for the purpose of carrying out any functions in relation to his or her employment, occupation, business, trade or profession and need not be a person’s principal place of business or employment including a ship, aircraft, vehicle, and virtual or cyber spaces and any other context that results from employment responsibilities or employment relationships”. The proposed bill also covers harassment at sporting activities, educational institutions, and legislative bodies. If passed, the proposed bill will bring about significant changes as it addresses two fundamental points needed to cope with the sensitivity and complexity of workplace sexual harassment cases: firstly, it will requires all employers to prevent sexual harassment by creation of in – house mechanisms and secondly, it provides victims of sexual harassment in the workplace with timely and meaningful access to legal redress.

 Another way to prevent the issue of occupational or work related stress is by creating awareness amongst all workers on the important to behave professionally.  Every workers should know their duties and responsibility and must try their best to work together to achieve the goals stipulated by the organizations. The organizations can conduct many activities and programs to create awareness amongst their workers on this issue. The management can invite outside speaker to come and deliver a talk on the issue. The management can also organize several religious activities program focusing on the problem. The management can develop their policy on how the to prevent or cope with the issue of stress in the workplace.

CONCLUSION

Stress is a part and parcel of life. Stress becomes more common in any workplace as worker need to deal with so many matters in carrying out their duties and responsibility. However, normal stress should be distinguished with unnecessary or preventable stress. As mentioned above, unnecessary or preventable stress can happen when any of the workers behave unprofessionally which affect the life of others within the workplace. Such behavior if not been tackle quickly, eventually it will cause stress to develop amongst the workers. As such, it’s the duty of every workers especially the employer to reduce or prevent any element of stress within their workplace. Employer must ensure that the workload given is in line with workers capabilities and resources, management must define clearly workers roles and responsibilities. There should be good communications amongst all workers from all level in the organization. Management must combat any unethical or unprofessional behavior at the workplace as well as encouraging work-life balance policies.

REFERENCES

Abdul Aziz Yusof & Tan Fee Yean. (2014). Practice of Human Resources Management. Kuala Lumpur: Pearson Malaysia Sdn. Bhd.

“Obtaining work – life balance”, Malaysian Newspaper, The Star, 25 February 2016.

Roberts, Rashaun; Grubb, Paula L.; Grosch, James W. (June 25, 2012). “Alleviating Job Stress in Nurses”. NIOSH: Workplace Safety and Health. Medscape and NIOSH.

Sharifah Suhanah Syed Ahmad. (2012). Industrial Relations Law in Malaysia: Cases & Materials. Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press. Siti Zaharah Jamaluddin. (2000). Pengenalan Und

Lee Lam Thye , T.A.N. .S.R.I. (April 28, 2016). NST online. Retrieved 12 July, 2018, from https://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/04/142074/work-stress-and-mental-health

 V. Mohan. (1995). Stress Management For Your. Selangor Darul Ehsan: Pelanduk Publications.

Occupational Stress and Risk of Stroke”. Archives of Internal Medicine 169 (1): 56–61

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