All About Job STRESS, Part 4: Job Stress And Health

Job Stress And Health: What The Research Reveals & What Can Be Done

Early Warning Signs Of Job Stress Adverse Health Effects

Cardiovascular Disease

Many studies suggest that psychologically demanding jobs that allow employees little control over the work process increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Musculoskeletal Disorders

On the basis of research by NIOSH and many other organizations, it is widely believed that job stress increases the risk for development of back and upper- extremity musculoskeletal disorders.

Psychological Disorders

Several studies suggest that differences in rates of mental health problems (such as depression and burnout) for various occupations are due partly to differences in job stress levels. (Economic and lifestyle differences between occupations may also contribute to some of these problems.)

Workplace Injury

Although more study is needed, there is a growing concern that stressful working conditions interfere with safe work practices and set the stage for injuries at work.

Suicide, Cancer, Ulcers, and Impaired Immune Function

Some studies suggest a relationship between stressful working conditions and these health problems. However, more research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn.

-Encyclopaedia of Occupational Safety and Health

Stress, Health, and Productivity

Some employers assume that stressful working conditions are a necessary evil-that companies must turn up the pressure on workers and set aside health concerns to remain productive and profitable in today’s economy.

But research findings challenge this belief.

Studies show that stressful working conditions are actually associated with increased absenteeism, tardiness, and intentions by workers to quit their jobs, all of which have a negative effect on the bottom line.

Recent studies of so-called healthy organizations suggest that policies benefiting worker health also benefit the bottom line.

  • A healthy organization is defined as one that has low rates of illness, injury, and disability in its workforce and is also competitive in the marketplace. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health research has identified organizational characteristics associated with both healthy, low-stress work and high levels of productivity. Examples of these characteristics include the following:
  • Recognition of employees for good work performance Opportunities for career development
  • An organizational culture that values the individual worker Management actions that are consistent with organizational values

Job Stress Prevention And Job Performance

How To Deal With Workplace Job Stress - A Handy Chart

Dealing With Workplace Job Stress

St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company conducted several studies on the effects of stress prevention programs in hospital settings.

Program activities included (1) employee and management education on job stress, (2) changes in hospital policies and procedures to reduce organizational sources of stress, and (3) establishment of employee assistance programs.

In one study, the frequency of medication errors declined by 50% after prevention activities were implemented in a 700-bed hospital.

In a second study, there was a 70% reduction in malpractice claims in 22 hospitals that implemented stress prevention activities.

In contrast, there was no reduction in claims in a matched group of 22 hospitals that did not implement stress prevention activities.

-Journal of Applied Psychology

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers who must take time off work because of stress, anxiety, or a related disorder will be off the job for about 20 days.

What Can Be Done About Job Stress?

Her are examples of two different approaches for dealing with stress at work.

Stress Management

Company A is providing stress management training and an employee assistance program (EAP) to improve the ability of workers to cope with difficult work situations.

Nearly one-half of large companies in the United States provide some type of stress management training for their workforces.

Stress management programs teach workers about the nature and sources of stress, the effects of stress on health, and personal skills to reduce stress-for example, time management or relaxation exercises.

(EAPs provide individual counseling for employees with both work and personal problems.)

Stress management training may rapidly reduce stress symptoms such as anxiety and sleep disturbances; it also has the advantage of being inexpensive and easy to implement.

However, stress management programs have two major disadvantages:

The beneficial effects on stress symptoms are often short-lived.

They often ignore important root causes of stress because they focus on the worker and not the environment.

Organizational Change

In contrast to stress management training and EAP programs, Company B is trying to reduce job stress by bringing in a consultant to recommend ways to improve working conditions.

This approach is the most direct way to reduce stress at work. It involves the identification of stressful aspects of work (e.g., excessive workload, conflicting expectations) and the design of strategies to reduce or eliminate the identified stressors.

The advantage of this approach is that it deals directly with the root causes of stress at work.

However, managers are sometimes uncomfortable with this approach because it can involve changes in work routines or production schedules, or changes in the organizational structure.

As a general rule, actions to reduce job stress should give top priority to organizational change to improve working conditions.

But even the most conscientious efforts to improve working conditions are unlikely to eliminate stress completely for all workers.

For this reason, a combination of organizational change and stress management is often the most useful approach for preventing stress at work.

All About Job STRESS, Part 1
All About Job STRESS, Part 2
All About Job STRESS, Part 3
All About Job STRESS, Part 5

Dealing With Job Stress: A Handy Chart

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

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More Information about Job Stress:

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health 4676 Columbia Parkway Cincinnati, Ohio 45226-1998 NIOSH provides information and publications about a wide range of occupational hazards, including job stress at Job Stress (/niosh/topics/stress/) , call 1-800-CDC-INFO, or order online at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/pubs/niosh.aspx (http://wwwn.cdc.gov/pubs/niosh.aspx)

The Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety, 4th Edition (ISBN 92-2-109203-8) contains a comprehensive summary of the latest scientific information about the causes and effects of job stress (see Vol. 1, Chapter 5, Mental Health; Vol. 2, Chapter 34, Psychosocial and Organizational Factors). International Labour Office (ILO) Publications Center) 301-638-3152 P.O. Box 753 Waldorf, MD 20604 Other Publications about Job Stress (/niosh/topics/stress/) Go to the NIOSH job stress internet site, or call the NIOSH 800 number (1-800-35-NIOSH). Location of a Psychologist or Consultant in Your Area American Psychological Association (APA) 1-800-964-2000 750 First St., N.E. fax: 202-336-5723 Washington, DC 20002-4242

State psychological associations maintain a listing of licensed psychologists who may be able to help with stress-related issues. Call the APA or your State psychological association for more information, or refer to the APA internet site (http://locator.apahelpcenter.org) (http://www.cdc.gov/Other/disclaimer.html) with this information .

Disclaimer

Mention of any company name or product does not constitute endorsement by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

This document is in the public domain and may be freely copied or reprinted.

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