If a medico legal professional has determined that your workplace is causing you undue stress, you may have a case for stress-related illness against your employer. Have you suffered a burnout or felt overwhelmingly anxious and stressed when thinking about work? You should know that your employer is responsible for your physical as well as emotional well being at work.
What is workplace stress?
The CDC in the US defines workplace stress as “the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker.”
Stress is the natural body’s reaction to danger; if extended over long periods of time, however, stress can be harmful both psychologically and physically. Long-term stress may cause various illnesses and disorders such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, substance abuse, cardiovascular diseases and musculoskeletal problems.
The prevalence of stress in the workplace
According to various studies, about one-third of all workers in the US report undue or elevated levels of stress in the workplace.
Workplace stress is caused by many factors:
- work hours,
- decisional powers (low-ranked workers feel stress because they have little control over their life while high-ranked workers are susceptible to overwork),
- bullying and psychological harassment.
Signs and symptoms
Stress and burnout can manifest themselves in different ways. A changing mood, insomnia, digestive problems, headaches and difficult in social situations are all signs of undue stress.
Preventing stress at work is your employer’s responsibility. Here are a few suggested strategies:
- Make sure the workload is reasonable
- Provide meaningful and challenging tasks
- Give workers a say in the decisions that affect them
- Leave space for social interaction
- Fight discrimination
- Help with work-life balance
Employers who do not care about their employees’ well being often have to deal with high turnover levels and low worker satisfaction. This lowers productivity and increases human resource-related costs.
Employers have everything to gain in providing a safe, balanced and open working environment.
Do you have a case?
Such cases can be difficult to prove but not impossible. You need to demonstrate three things in order to get compensation:
- Your employer is responsible for your mental well being at work
- Your employer neglected this responsibility
- The injury or illness was foreseeable and preventable
Studies prove that someone who has suffered a burnout or stress-related injury is more likely to fall ill again.
The main obstacle to winning stress-related compensation cases is the preconceived notion that people who suffer from depression and burnouts are just weak and unable to cope with “normal” workloads.
This is a totally false assumption and anyone, however healthy and mentally strong, can fall prey to work-related stress over an extended period of time. Dealing with constant pressure to perform and produce can turn even the strongest workers into fatigued and depressed individuals.
Mental illness needs time to heal, just like an injury under physiotherapy. Do not succumb to the pressure of going back to work if you do not feel ready to face the challenges of the workplace.