The management of stress is becoming more of greater importance particularly in the 21st century because there are greater avenues for working, opening up a whole new world to employment opportunities. We have seen a huge development of job roles and an increase in the creation of jobs , a huge emphasis is now being placed on incorporating new media technologies into the working environment, for example the internet, video conferencing etc. (Bratton & Gold, 2007) The government has also had influence on the move towards managing stress by improving the work-life balance of UK employees from the implementation of family friendly policies.
With pressures being put on businesses to meet the personal needs of workers through a flexible benefit scheme, it shows that flexibility is vital not only for the employee but the employer in order to meet the demands of rapid changes to the workplace environment. (Callan,2007) The greater demands made on employees to perform are a result of increased intensification of global competition. (Bratton & Gold, 2007) The average employee in the UK works longer than 48 hours in order to meet the demands of life.
A handful of employees are finding it increasingly difficult to cope and this has resulted in a high number of reported stress related illnesses at work, depression , high absenteeism , and high staff turnover , has well as an increasing amount of workers regularly pulling ‘sickies’. (Work-life balance,2005) With this is mind it is important to understand why this is happening and what factors contribute to stress in the workplace? And why the management of stress is gaining more importance in the workplace. In which there are a few factors to consider.
Firstly what is stress? This is defined has a “state accompanied by physical , psychological or social , dysfunction which results from individuals feeling unable to bridge the gap between the expectations and requirements placed on them”. (Cooper, 1996) However this definition seems more of a generalised term when describing stress, in order to focus more on the matter involving the organisation we have to look at workplace stress. This can be defined as “stress that arises from interaction between people and their jobs.
Stressors that could occur in the workplace are environmental, these can include technological factors which can be a problem for employees if they have to constantly adapt to technical change. Organisational, (immediate social context), this can involve difficulties with supervisor and peers, and individual stressors. (which includes problems with role ambiguity and conflict) This also includes role overload which can all result in low job satisfaction, low motivation and even depression. (Rollinson & Broadfield, 2002) Stress can be viewed as something bad, however positive aspects do occur.
Research suggests that some people may find a mild amount of stress has stimulating making them more alert whilst improving their ability to function better. (Rollinson & Broadfield, 2002) To understand why stress management is gaining greater importance there is a need to understand the view that stress holds within the theorists and society. In the last three decades however we see stress becoming more of a common occurrence in the workplace, this is because of a few main factors which are globalisation, economic and competitive challenges, and external and internal challenges to the workplace.
The rationale behind the effects of globalisation on stress management is that for many organisations in a bid to stay competitive during the 1980’s and 1990’s the trends that followed was the reduction in the size of the organisations, which meant the increase in redundancies, wage cuts, and a greater emphasis on technologies which were replacing workers jobs. The result of this meant that for the survivors work life was more stressful, and more physically demanding due to working longer hours.
Workers were also finding it difficult to balance the work and family divide occurring in downsized firms, because it is the norm that they take work home. (Jones & Fletcher, 1993) Economic and competitive challenges have meant that the attitudes of employees are changing, according to statistics (central statistical office, 1996) the population of the UK has uncertainty about the future resulting in avoiding the risk in spending money in order to survive conditions in the future.
Employees are also remaining in their jobs in order to avoid unemployment. (Central statistical office, 1996) Research also suggests that the effects of stress in the workplace can cause low productivity, absenteeism and staff turnover, this was found in a nationwide study of occupational stress (Northwestern National Life, 1991) and reported that 69% out of 600 workers, productivity was low because of high stress levels. With 1 in 3 of those workers admitting that job stress was the highest stressor in their working lives.
The study also showed how job stress contributed to absenteeism, 17% reporting missing one or more days off from work because of high stress levels. However conflicting research suggest that the job may not be the highest contributing factor (Jinhee, Sorhaindo & Garman, 2003) found a relationship between financial stress and workplace absenteeism , for example excessive debt in the UK on average total personal debt equates to i?? 1,088bn during April 2005 with an average household debt of 44,408 including mortgages.
(Debt Statistics, 2005) workers are finding it difficult to meet up with the financial demands of life. A model of stress (Jinhee, Sorhaindo & Garman, 2003) showed that there are other contributing factors such as satisfaction with family relations and work-life balance as mentioned previously, it was also found that family problems involving marital conflict and childcare was one the highest stress related factors relating to high absenteeism at work. For example in the UK the cost of absenteeism is huge with 40 million days being lost each year. (BBC News, 2004)
It also important to note that because of high absenteeism the UK has one of the lowest in the EU productivity levels. Also in the UK there is a culture of long hours, within the UK they work the longest compared to the rest of Europe. Statistics are that 1 in 3 fathers work more than 48hours in a week which exceeds the limit set by the European working time directive (IDS, 1993). The greater effects of this socially is that fathers spend less time with their children and this can have a massive effect on the relationship of those in the family causing stress. (work-life balance,2005)