The Effects of Stress on Productivity

It has long been acknowledged that job stress plays a role in employee performance.  As a result, it has become more important than ever that managers pay attention to the stress level as may be observed in their employees.

Workplace stress derives from many sources. It can be annoying co-workers, a never satisfied boss, difficult students, angry customers, hazardous working conditions, an extremely demanding jobs, long hours spent commuting from home to work, etc. Work performance is also affected by stressors such as family relationships, finances and a lack of sleep resulting from fears and anxieties about the future. This is especially true in growing economies where the standard of living is quite low. This is one major reason why productivity is on the low in most developing countries.

Stress promoting negative emotions initiate a sympathetic state in the human nervous system that can (if chronic) potentially lead to cognitive, perceptual and emotional impairment – damaging human health and over a long run make human performance unsustainable. And sustainable productivity is a direct result of consistent performance.

It is important to state that any kind of stress, whether small, medium, or large, can activate the sympathetic nervous system. And so, since the modern world is filled with many symbolic and often illusional threats, these stress- like reactions can occur on daily basis. Stress reactions do not have to be triggered by some large personal or collective disasters only, but often, it is the small and the little annoyances of everyday life that initiate stress like responses

For managers, creating a workplace environment conducive to employee commitment and professional development may be important to enabling employees to withstand and perform during periods of high stress.

In fact it is not out of place at all that the ambience of a workplace should be devoid of “threatening” symbols, signs
and other supposed “illusional threats”. A major objective of affective productivity is to tackle sources of negative emotions that can affect productivity everywhere. Negative emotions have a potential to seriously limit our emotional, cognitive and physiological functioning.

However, there is a good news: positive emotions can help us to remedy the effects of negative emotions. In fact, according to the  “undoing hypothesis” presented by Fredrickson (2003) in an article titled “The Value of Positive Emotions” – positive emotions ‘undo’ the lingering effects of negative emotions; having a capacity to speed cardiovascular recovery following a negative emotional experience, while loosening the hold that negative emotions gain on the mind and body.

paperworkoverwhelmedSources of stress varies in organizations and societies.  In organizations, Red tape, organizational politics and bureaucracy are major sources of stress and are classified as “hindrance-oriented” stressors.  These sources of stress do not usually contribute to the overall mission fulfillment of an organization but rather serve as distractions to it.  “Challenge-oriented” stressors include things such as high work load, deadlines and time pressure and directly contribute to the purpose of the organization.

Managers can engage in the following proactive tasks to maximize performance:

  • Identify and Buffer Employees Against “Hindrance-Oriented” Stressors.  Every process needs to be reviewed: It may be pertinent to ask: “Does what we are asking our employees to do contribute to the overall value of the end product?”  If the answer is no, then it will be wise to find a way to eliminate or reduce it.
  • Increase Organizational Commitment Through Employee-Centered Behaviors

Managers are often the face, voice, and tone of the organization to their employees.  The way that a manager treats an employee can impact how they perceive their value to the organization.

Ensuring that employees feel valued by being active in their development and career path, being empathetic to their needs, and creating an environment in which they feel they belong are a few of the areas where managers can contribute to increased organizational commitment.  This in turn can help tune up to a very large extent the level of productivity of an organization.


Africa’s Leading Expert on Productivity
Speaker | Author | Productivity Coach

There is no gainsaying it: our moods affect our work performance. There have been days when nothing seems to be going as we expect. It could be a sleepless night, or an argument with one’s spouse. And when we eventually show up at the office, we try to put these issues away- but somehow, they never really disappear. As a result we struggle to get things done at work. This definitely affects our productivity. And if care is not taken, sometimes, we end up making some costly mistakes.

The fact is, as human beings, our emotions influence our work, whether we want them to or not.

Positive emotions result in good performance and increased productivity. On the other hand, negative emotions/ bad moods leads to poor performance.  For instance, when a worker is in a bad mood, he is prone to procrastinate. Obviously such a worker cannot be productive at such times.

An interesting study of telephone customer-service representatives was carried out in 2011 at Ohio University. It was found that workers who were happy at the beginning of their shift were more likely to stay that way throughout the day. They also felt positively after helping customers, which contributed to better service on ensuing calls. On the other hand, representatives who started their day in a negative mood were more likely to feel worse after speaking to customers, and showed a 10% decrease in productivity due to breaks between calls.

Management typically expect employees to deal with negative emotions themselves, but that approach is hardly adequate. The result from the study above clearly indicated that negativity must be openly acknowledged and there must be institutionalized efforts to replace such negative moods with a positive mindset. If this is done, it is found that productivity increases.

So, how do I improve my mood at work?

If you are caught in a bad mood, do not despair. There are ways to take control of your moods and end up on the positive side of life. These methods have the capacity to take you through the day feeling good. Below are two powerful tips that can transform your productive life:


  1. Fake It ‘Til You Make It:

Life is whatever you make of it. You need to learn the art of faking it so that you can make it. To fake something is to make a replica of it. To switch from a bad mood to a good one, you need to apply your imaginations.

First you must acknowledge that you are in a bad mood. You must also acknowledge that you need to switch over to a good mood. Finally, you must realize that you may need to switch deliberately, as nothing may happen that will automatically switch your moods.

A proven method for effecting such a switch is a five letter word: SMILE.

So, if and when you find yourself in a bad mood, try to smile. At first, it may seem to be fake, but keep it on. After a while, I can assure you—you will start to feel better. And don’t just smile, try smiling by saying a long e, like the sound in the word “cheese”. It has been proven to bring about a shift in brain temperature that reflects a happier mood.

  1. Demonstrate Small Acts of Kindness

Most of the time, negative emotions are largely as a result of focusing on one’s need for too long. And one way to lose that focus is to try and focus on other people, and their needs. Doing something ( no matter how little) for others can defuse negativity by shifting focus from your troubles to the happiness of those around you.

You cannot desire to make others happy truly without being infected with happiness yourself.

Taking the time to collect yourself and improve your mindset will help you be more productive and create a positive atmosphere that your team will benefit from.




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