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Review of literature on stress management of employees

It is commonly understood that a need for stress prevention activities is prevalent in all European countries and across all types of organisations. This article will summarise the key issues in relation to work-related stress and will discuss how stress at work can best be managed. What is work-related stress? Many people are motivated by the challenges encountered within their work environment. However, these concepts are not the same. Experiencing challenges in our work can energise us psychologically and physically, and encourage us to learn new skills.

Contemporary theories of stress have been used to inform the definition of work-related stress. There is a growing consensus around the definition of stress as a negative psychological state with cognitive and emotional components, and its effect on the health of both the individual and the organisation.

That is, stress is defined by a dynamic interaction between the individual and their environment, and is often inferred by the existence of a problematic person-environment fit and the emotional reactions which underpin those interactions [1].

Central to this approach is the role that environmental factors, particularly the role of psychosocial and organisational factors, play in work stress.

  1. Elkin and Rosch 1990 summarised a useful range of possible strategies to reduce workplace stressors.
  2. These may include [18] cognitive responses.
  3. Psychological demands traditionally referred to workload, operated mainly in terms of time pressure and role conflict Karasek, 1985.

The following section seeks to provide the reader with a concise overview of the leading contemporary theories of stress. Theories of work-related stress Contemporary theories of stress have moved away from understanding the construct as either a response or as an external event, but rather view it as a dynamic interaction between the individual and their environment.

There are several key contemporary theories in the scientific literature that have helped to clarify the causes and mechanisms that underpin work-related stress. Many of these theories have been extensively researched and have been used to guide approaches to intervention.

The first three are structural model and they describe the key variables and interactions among those variables in relation to outcomes of interest.

  • Undoubtedly, the causes and effects of work stress reflect the changing nature and demands of work and the work environment;
  • Elkin and Rosch 1990 summarised a useful range of possible strategies to reduce workplace stressors;
  • At a national level, stress has been found to have significant and real costs to employers and to society-at-large;
  • In the UK, an estimated 70 million working days are lost annually through poor mental health and 10 million of these are the result of anxiety, depression and stress;
  • The stress process can be summarised in a model Figure 1 that illustrates the causes of stress, short-term stress reactions, long-term consequences of stress and individual characteristics, as well as their interrelations [18].

The fourth is a process model which describes the mechanisms that underpin the relationship between the antecedent and outcomes. Four prominent theories are presented here [1]. Person-Environment Fit theory P-E Fit theory Much of contemporary stress theory finds its origins in the early work of the social science research group at the University of Michigan and in particular the work of Kahn, French, Caplan and van Harrison.

The JCD model postulates that job strain results from the interaction between two dimensions of the work environment: Psychological demands traditionally referred to workload, operated mainly in terms of time pressure and role conflict Karasek, 1985.

However, more recently, cognitive and emotional demands and interpersonal conflict dimensions define the contemporary construct of psychological demand [8]. The JCD theory suggests that individuals experiencing high demands paired with low control are more likely to experience psychological strain, work-related stress, and, in the long term, poor physical and mental health.

The model was later extended to include a social dimension: This model suggests that the most at-risk group of poor physical and mental health are those workers who are exposed to job strain high demands and low control paired with low workplace support a phenomenon referred to as iso-strain [9].

This theory assumes that effort at work is spent as part of a psychological contract, based on the norm of social reciprocity, where effort spent at work is paired with rewards provided in terms of money, esteem, career opportunities. An imbalance non-reciprocal relationship between the effort spent and rewards received can result in the emotional distress associated with a stress response, and an increased risk of ill-health.

Review Of Related Literature On Stress Management

Siegrist suggests that stress related to the imbalance between effort and rewards can arise under three conditions: Transactional Model Transaction models [11] [12] [13] build upon the interaction between the individual and their environment, but provide an additional focus on the underlying psychological and physiological mechanisms which underpin the overall process. Cox and MacKay 1976 suggested that stress is the result of a dynamic interaction between the individual and the environment.

That is, stress results when the perceived demands outweigh the perceived capability of the workers.

  1. Actions and strategies are often targeted at either the individual worker or the workplace.
  2. In the literature there are several outcomes related to stress and a poor psychosocial working environment that affects the productivity and, moreover, health of the organisation. These characteristics can either exacerbate or alleviate the effects of risk factors at work and, in turn, the experience of stress [1] [19].
  3. Contemporary theories of stress have been used to inform the definition of work-related stress. Table 1 provides a summary of the definition of each level of intervention, its primary target, and some examples [21].
  4. In addition, this model acknowledges that stress can manifest physiologically, psychologically, behaviourally and socially with detrimental consequences to both the individual and the organisation.

What an individual finds or perceives to be stressful can vary both between and within individuals, and can differ over occasions and time Probst, 2010. In this way, any aspect of the work environment can be perceived as a stressor, and therefore unlike previous models transactional models are not limited by the types and number of psychosocial hazards they can account for. The cognitive assessment by the worker of the perceived demands and capabilities can be influenced by a number of factors: In addition, this model acknowledges that stress can manifest physiologically, psychologically, behaviourally and socially with detrimental consequences to both the individual and the organisation.

Research indicates that the relationship between psychosocial hazards and health outcomes is mediated by a variety of factors; the transactional model accounts for the complex relationship by acknowledging individual variation and differences in the stress process [1]. The reported prevalence of stress is markedly different between the new Member states and the old EU-15.

Work-related stress: Nature and management

At a national level, stress has been found to have significant and real costs to employers and to society-at-large. In the UK, an estimated 70 million working days are lost annually through poor mental health and 10 million of these are the result of anxiety, depression and stress.

Undoubtedly, the causes and effects of work stress reflect the changing nature and demands of work and the work environment. Often both the causes and management of work-related stress involve the way in which work is designed, managed and organised. The stress process can be summarised in a model Figure 1 that illustrates the causes of stress, short-term stress reactions, long-term consequences of stress and individual characteristics, as well as their interrelations [18].

Risks for Work Stress Stress reactions may result when people are exposed to risk factors at work. These may include [18] cognitive responses: A growing body of evidence indicates that when stress reactions persist over a prolonged period of time, this may result in more permanent, less reversible health outcomes: These characteristics can either exacerbate or alleviate the effects of risk factors at work and, in turn, the experience of stress [1] [19].

Review Of Related Literature On Stress Management

In the literature there are several outcomes related to stress and a poor psychosocial working environment that affects the productivity and, moreover, health of the organisation: Managing and preventing work-related stress The following section presents an overview of the methods and strategies used to manage and prevent work-related stress.

Actions and strategies are often targeted at either the individual worker or the workplace. More commonly, interventions to prevent and manage stress are often categorised into one of three levels of interventions: A simple schema is usually used to describe the three different levels of interventions.

Although debatable in some of its detail, at a superficial level it is a useful aid to understanding and practice.

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Often policy-level interventions are ignored in such schema: Table 1 provides a summary of the definition of each level of intervention, its primary target, and some examples [21]. The design of primary intervention should be informed by the results of a risk assessment [24]. Elkin and Rosch 1990 summarised a useful range of possible strategies to reduce workplace stressors:

  • This article will summarise the key issues in relation to work-related stress and will discuss how stress at work can best be managed;
  • What is work-related stress?
  • At a national level, stress has been found to have significant and real costs to employers and to society-at-large;
  • This article will summarise the key issues in relation to work-related stress and will discuss how stress at work can best be managed;
  • In the UK, an estimated 70 million working days are lost annually through poor mental health and 10 million of these are the result of anxiety, depression and stress.