Work’s world is changing so continuously and rapidly that, in the Organizations, the management and the prevention of work’s stress is becoming more and more important since it is nothing more than an adaptive response of the human being in relation to the environment in which it is located.
But how can stress be defined?
What are the aspects of an organization that can really be considered stressful?
Selye (1956) defined stress as the non-specific response to any demand. Stress, according to French, Rogers and Cobb (1974) is a misfit between a person’s skills and abilities and demands of the job, and a misfit in terms of a person’s needs supplied by the environement. Beehr and Newman (1978) define (job) stress as a condition wherein job related factors interact with the worker to change (disrupt or enhance) his/her psychological or physiological condition such that the person (mind and/or body) is forced to deviate from normal functioning. And lastly McGrath (1976) defines stress in terms of a set of conditions having stress in it: ‘Stress involves an interaction of person and environment. Something happens “out there” which presents a person with a demand, or a constraint or an opportunity for behaviour.
Based on these definitions, stress is defined here as a dynamic state associated with opportunities, constraints or demands. So it can be negative (related to a constraint or a question), but can also be positive (related to an opportunity). This depends on the interaction between the environment and the individual: the environment is in fact composed of dynamic conditions including potential stress factors (for example, equipment, change, career development, organizational structure, relationships) that if managed by the Organization they can be perceived as an opportunity.
Stress is a factor that must be managed in Organizations in according to the European Agreement on Stress Related Work in 2004 that has defined it as “a condition that can be accompanied by physical, psychological or social disorders or dysfunctions”. In Italy, the current regulatory framework, established by Legislative Decree 81/2008 and subsequent amendments, obliges employers to assess and manage work-related stress risk on a par with all other risks, in the implementation of the contents of the Agreement European.
Work-related stress has been officially recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), which has included it in its large list of medical disorders categorizing it as a “problem associated with the profession”. Symptoms: exhaustion in the workplace, cynicism, isolation or in general negative feelings and reduced professional effectiveness. The result is a “syndrome that leads to chronic stress that cannot be successfully treated”. The decision comes after decades of studies.
“How can I be less stressed at work?” Almost all employees at one time or another have asked this burning question, but not many have found the magic bullet to solve it. One potential answer may lie in Robert Karasek’s job demands-control model (JD-CM), which was developed to explain how different levels of job demands and control could influence strain, job satisfaction, and learning in the workplace. In order to fully understand this model, it is important to see that strain is the result of an imbalance between job demands and job control within an organization.
The World Health Organization describes stress as the “global health epidemic of the 21st century”. A fact is an employee subject to stress, more easily it will produce less and it will be absent much more often from the workplace. The phenomenon of absenteeism could occur. How can companies effectively prevent stress? Perhaps a good resilience training program could help fight stress development: resilience is indeed the set of means by which people transform challenges into opportunities. Some research shows that the increase in resilience is associated with increases in performance, subjective well-being and reduction of psychological disorders.
APRESO offers to help Organizations of the assessment of work-related stress risk that concerns the identification of any critical issues related to those factors of Work Content (workload, schedule, task planning, etc.) and Work Context (role, decision-making autonomy, interpersonal relationships, etc.) present in every type of company and organization. Subsequently, starting from the detailed analysis of the critical issues that emerged, we continue implementing an adequate risk management, which allows us to improve the working conditions and levels of protection of workers’ health and safety, positively impacting the competitiveness of companies and quality of the products and services provided.
Schuler, R. R (1982). An integrative transactional process model of stress in organizations.” Journal of Occupational Behaviour, Vol 3, 5-19.
Perrewe, P. (2010). Karasek’s (1979) Job Demands-Control Model: A Summary of Current Issues and Recommendations for Future Research. In New developments in theoretical and conceptual approaches to job stress. Bingley: Emerald.
Farago, P. (2015). How High Job Demands Can Actually Lower Your Stress.
Barilli, R. (2017). Resilience can be trained, and here’s how to do it!