All About Job STRESS, Part 2: Job Stress Prevention, A Comprehensive Approach

Preventing Job Stress – How to Change the Organization to Prevent Job Stress

Preventing On The Job Stress : A Comprehensive Approach

  • Ensure that the workload is in line with workers’ capabilities and resources.
  • Design jobs to provide meaning, stimulation, and opportunities for workers to use their skills.
  • Clearly define workers’ roles and responsibilities.
  • Give workers opportunities to participate in decisions and actions affecting their jobs.
  • Improve communications-reduce uncertainty about career development and future employment prospects.
  • Provide opportunities for social interaction among workers. Establish work schedules that are compatible with demands and responsibilities outside the job.

-American Psychologist

Preventing Job Stress – Getting Started
How To Deal With Workplace Job Stress - A Handy Chart
Dealing With Workplace Job Stress

No standardized approaches or simple “how to” manuals exist for developing a job stress prevention program.

Program design and appropriate solutions will be influenced by several factors-the size and complexity of the organization, available resources, and especially the unique types of stress problems faced by the organization.

Although it is not possible to give a universal prescription for preventing stress at work, it is possible to offer guidelines on the process of stress prevention in organizations.

In all situations, the process for job stress prevention programs involves three distinct steps: problem identification, intervention, and evaluation.

For this process to succeed, organizations need to be adequately prepared.

At a minimum, preparation for a stress prevention program should include the following:

  • Building general awareness about job stress (causes, costs, and control)
  • Securing top management commitment and support for the program Incorporating employee input and involvement in all phases of the program
  • Establishing the technical capacity to conduct the program (e.g., specialized training for in-house staff or use of job stress consultants)

Bringing workers or workers and managers together in a committee or problem-solving group may be an especially useful approach for developing a stress prevention program.

Research has shown these participatory efforts to be effective in dealing with ergonomic problems in the workplace, partly because they capitalize on workers’ firsthand knowledge of hazards encountered in their jobs.

However, when forming such working groups, care must be taken to be sure that they are in compliance with current labor laws.*

*The National Labor Relations Act may limit the form and structure of employee involvement in worker-management teams or groups.

Employers should seek legal assistance if they are unsure of their responsibilities or obligations under the National Labor Relations Act.

Steps Toward Preventing Job Stress

Low morale, health and job complaints, and employee turnover often provide the first signs of job stress.

But sometimes there are no clues, especially if employees are fearful of losing their jobs.

Lack of obvious or widespread signs is not a good reason to dismiss concerns about job stress or minimize the importance of a prevention program.

Step 1 — Identify the Problem.

The best method to explore the scope and source of a suspected stress problem in an organization depends partly on the size of the organization and the available resources.

Group discussions among managers, labor representatives, and employees can provide rich sources of information.

Such discussions may be all that is needed to track down and remedy stress problems in a small company.

In a larger organization, such discussions can be used to help design formal surveys for gathering input about stressful job conditions from large numbers of employees.

Regardless of the method used to collect data, information should be obtained about employee perceptions of their job conditions workplace stress, health, and satisfaction.

The list of job conditions that may lead to and the warning signs and effects of stress provide good starting points for deciding what information to collect.

  • Hold group discussions with employees
  • Design an employee survey.
  • Measure employee perceptions of job conditions, stress, health, and satisfaction.
  • Collect objective data.
  • Analyze data to identify problem locations and stressful job conditions.

Regardless of the method used to collect data, information should be obtained about employee perceptions of their job conditions and perceived levels of stress, health, and satisfaction.

The list of job conditions that may lead to stress and the warning signs and effects of stress provide good starting points for deciding what information to collect.

Objective measures such as absenteeism, illness and turnover rates, or performance problems can also be examined to gauge the presence and scope of job stress.

However, these measures are only rough indicators of job stress-at best.

Data from discussions, surveys, and other sources should be summarized and analyzed to answer questions about the location of a stress problem and job conditions that may be responsible.

For example, are problems present throughout the organization or confined to single departments or specific jobs?

Survey design, data analysis, and other aspects of a stress prevention program may require the help of experts from a local university or consulting firm.

However, overall authority for the prevention program should remain in the organization.

Step 2 — Design and Implement Interventions

Once the sources of stress at work have been identified and the scope of the problem is understood, the stage is set for design and implementation of an intervention strategy.

In small organizations, the informal discussions that helped identify stress problems may also produce fruitful ideas for prevention.

In large organizations, a more formal process may be needed.

Frequently, a team is asked to develop recommendations based on analysis of data from Step 1 and consultation with outside experts.

  • Target Source Of Stress For Change
  • Propose And Prioritize Intervention Strategies.
  • Communicate Planned Interventions To Employees. Implement Interventions.

Certain problems, such as a hostile work environment, may be pervasive in the organization and require company-wide interventions.

Other problems such as excessive workload may exist only in some departments and thus require more narrow solutions such as redesign of the way a job is performed.

Still other problems may be specific to certain employees and resistant to any kind of organizational change, calling instead for stress management or employee assistance interventions.

Some interventions might be implemented rapidly (e.g., improved communication, stress management training), but others may require additional time to put into place (e.g., redesign of a manufacturing process).

Step 3 — Evaluate The Interventions

Evaluation is an essential step in the intervention process. Evaluation is necessary to determine whether the intervention is producing desired effects and whether changes in direction are needed.

Time frames for evaluating interventions should be established.

Interventions involving organizational change should receive both short- and long-term scrutiny.

Short-term evaluations might be done quarterly to provide an early indication of program effectiveness or possible need for redirection.

Many interventions produce initial effects that do not persist.

Long-term evaluations are often conducted annually and are necessary to determine whether interventions produce lasting effects.

  • Conduct both short- and long-term evaluations.
  • Measure employee perceptions of job conditions, stress, health, and satisfaction.
  • Measure employee perceptions of job conditions, stress, health, and satisfaction.
  • Include objective measures.
  • Refine the intervention strategy and return to Step 1.

Evaluations should focus on the same types of information collected during the problem identification phase of the intervention, including information from employees about working conditions, levels of perceived stress, health problems, and satisfaction.

Employee perceptions are usually the most sensitive measure of stressful working conditions and often provide the first indication of intervention effectiveness.

Adding objective measures such as absenteeism and health care costs may also be useful.

However, the effects of job stress interventions on such measures tend to be less clear-cut and can take a long time to appear.

The job stress prevention process does not end with evaluation.

Rather, job stress prevention should be seen as a continuous process that uses evaluation data to refine or redirect the intervention strategy.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

 How To Deal With Job Stress: A Handy Chart
All About Job STRESS, Part 1
All About Job STRESS, Part 3
All About Job STRESS, Part 4
All About Job STRESS, Part 5
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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 (

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 ( ( with this information .


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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