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Charles Watson
Charles Watson

Stress At Work: Management And Prevention



Work-related stress and resulting sickness absence costs the UK economy about 3.7 billion every year (HSE research). In this jargon-free guide, Jeremy Stranks explains what stress is and what causes it, how people respond to stress and cope with it, how stress can be evaluated and managed and what employers' legal responsibilities are. Written for managers, HR professionals and safety reps, the emphasis of this book is strongly on practical advice and solutions. The author provides simple tools to measure and assess stress and shows how to deal with a range of stress-creating workplace situations, such as bullying, harassment and violence at work. The book also details how to implement a stress management system that complies with the new HSE Management Standards to avoid civil claims and criminal sanctions by the enforcement agencies. End of chapter key points draw out the implications of the preceding text for the employer and an executive summary shows the main aspects that senior management have to be aware of. In addition, the book contains forms and templates to help with managing stress. These are also available for download on the companion website. Stress at Work will also be a valuable reference for students on the following courses as part of modules concerned with Human Factors: NEBOSH Certificate and Diploma courses, MSc courses in Occupational Health and Safety Management, IOSH Managing Safely, British Safety Council diploma and NVQ level 3 and 4 courses in Occupational Safety and Health. Jeremy Stranks has 40 years of experience in occupational safety and health enforcement, management, consultancy and training. He is a founding member of NEBOSH and has lectured on numerous training courses on all aspects of health and safety. His company Safety and Hygiene Consultants offers companies advice in drawing up Health and Safety policies, writing risk assessments and audit procedures.




Stress at Work: Management and Prevention



Fortunately, research on job stress has greatly expanded in recent years. But in spite of this attention, confusion remains about the causes, effects, and prevention of job stress. This booklet summarizes what is known about job stress and what can be done about it.


According to one school of thought, differences in individual characteristics such as personality and coping style are most important in predicting whether certain job conditions will result in stress-in other words, what is stressful for one person may not be a problem for someone else. This viewpoint leads to prevention strategies that focus on workers and ways to help them cope with demanding job conditions.


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


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.


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 stress prevention programs involves three distinct steps: problem identification, intervention, and evaluation. These steps are outlined beginning on page 17. For this process to succeed, organizations need to be adequately prepared. At a minimum, preparation for a stress prevention program should include the following:


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


After reviewing the information collected at the brainstorming sessions, they decided it would be useful for the faculty member to conduct informal classes to raise awareness about job stress-its causes, effects, and prevention-for all workers and managers in the department. It was also decided that a survey would be useful to obtain a more reliable picture of problematic job conditions and stress-related health complaints in the department. The faculty member used information from the meetings with workers and managers to design the survey. The faculty member was also involved in the distribution and collection of the anonymous survey to ensure that workers felt free to respond honestly and openly about what was bothering them. He then helped the department head analyze and interpret the data.


There are many prevention methods that can help reduce job stress. Organizational change can reduce stress levels of employees and increase productivity at the same time. Personal changes can also be made by workers to reduce individual stress levels. The combination of organizational change and individual stress management is often the most useful approach for preventing and addressing stress at work.


Primary prevention methods are proactive actions taken by an organization that aim to prevent illness among individuals by reducing stress exposure. This is the best way to reduce job stress and the illnesses that accompany stress and should be top priority.


Primary prevention strategies can be employed on a number of levels. Legislation and regulation are effective strategies for changing policies that affect whole populations. Examples in work site settings include workplace ergonomic policies, minimum staffing levels for nurses, bans on mandatory overtime, and paid family leave laws. In unionized workplaces, collective bargaining can also be very effective for implementing stress reduction strategies. In non-unionized settings, employee groups and management working together can address workplace stressors through quality improvement teams and other similar participatory interventions.


Secondary interventions aim to modify an individual's response to stressors. They often include providing training and education to employees on stress management to assist employees in coping with residual stress in the environment and reducing its harmful effects.


Stress can be a short-term issue or a long-term problem, depending on what changes in your life. Regularly using stress management techniques can help you avoid most physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms of stress.


According to Angela Armstrong (2019), stress is a choice. Appropriate workplace stress management (personal and organizational) helps us identify ways to control what we can and learn how to see things differently when we cannot.


Table 2 gives an analytical overview of the numbers of respective studies by arts modality. As presumed earlier, most of the studies were conducted and published after 2000. Only five studies (13.5%) were published between 1980 and 1999, four of them on musical interventions, one on MT. No meta-analysis (evidence level Ia) was found on CATs or arts interventions for stress management and stress prevention. In total, we found 27 randomized controlled trials (RCTs, evidence level Ib), accounting for 73% of the included studies. Ten of the RCTs analyzed CATs, the remaining seventeen examined the effects of arts interventions. Five studies (13.5%) were rated evidence level IIa (two on CATs, three on arts interventions), two studies (5.4%) were rated evidence level IIb (all on arts interventions), and three studies (8.1%) evidence level III (all on arts interventions). Most of the studies (16; 59.3%) on the highest evidence level came from the area of Music: 9 studies analyzed MT, seven examined music interventions. With eight studies, AT provided 29.6% of the studies on evidence level Ib (none on AT, all on art interventions), and DMT contributed 11.1% (3 studies; one on DMT, two on dance interventions). Within the arts modalities 72.7% (AT and art interventions), 80% (MT and music interventions) and 50% (DMT and dance interventions) of the included studies were RCTs. Most therapy intervention studies (with several intervention sessions) were found in MT (11 out of 20) and one in DMT (1 out of 6). In AT, only studies on effects of artistic activities or single-session interventions were found. 041b061a72


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