Academic journal article Management : Journal of Contemporary Management Issues

Strategies and Programs for Managing Stress in Work Settings

Academic journal article Management : Journal of Contemporary Management Issues

Strategies and Programs for Managing Stress in Work Settings

Article excerpt

In this paper, the term stress is firstly defined. The economic consequences of stress are also presented. Then, the factors within the work environment and the factors outside the work environment that may cause stress are described. In particular, the individual differences that influence our inclination to stressors and, also, how to manage them efficiently are examined. In addition, the strategies and programs developed in organizations to assist their employees to more easily control stress are discussed extensively.

1. INTRODUCTION

The word "stress" is one of the most frequently used words today. We live in a fast developing world which requires constant adaptation. Technology is changing, so are social habits, values, social structures, and people. Everybody has to cope with those changes, not only individuals, but organizations and governments as well (Pettinger, 2002; McLean, 1980; Moss Leonard, 1981). The pace of life is getting quicker, too. What was new yesterday, is already old today. A lot of people are aware of the positive values of those changes, but very few think of the negative consequences that may ensue.

According to certain estimates, humankind loses 100 million workdays every year due to the aftermath of stress. More importantly, 50 to 75 % of today's diseases are related to stress. The European Agency for Health and Safety at Work states that stress within organizations is the second most frequent problem and affects as many as 28 % of employees (EAHSW, 2003; EAHSW, 2004).

Loss of health due to stress constitutes neither the biggest nor the only cost in companies. Mistakes and/or false decisions, which employees make under the effect of stress, are even more costly than loss of health. Therefore, it is necessary to think carefully about what to do to prevent stress among employees. In order to solve this problem, various stress management strategies and programs can be developed in the company.

2. DEFINITION OF STRESS

The term "stress" is frequently used in everyday life. Hearing the word stress, makes us first think of something unpleasant, something menacing and beyond our control. However, stress, a factor which has helped people to survive for millenia; today is now considered as enemy number one. To it one has even ascribed the causes of many accidents, diseases, early deaths, suicides, disatisfactions and tensions. In addition, it is difficult to calculate the losses it causes to the economy (Schmidt, 2001).

Nobody is completely imune to stress. It can affect anybody, since it is an important and vital part of our lives. Stress occurs as an inevitable consequence of our relations with our constantly changing environment we have to which we have to adopt (Looker, Gregson, 1993).

The word stress comes from the Anglosaxon world and was first applied in physics for designating mechanical force. It denotes the exterior pressure, tension, load upon an object (Newhouse, 2000). The term stress was first introduced into medicine by Hans Selye in 1949 (1976, 1986). According to his definition stress is a way of physically adaptating to new circumstances or a reply to the irritations that disturb the individual balance (Luban, Pozza, 1994).

Ivanchevich and Matteson (1993) define stress simply as "an interaction of the individual to his or her environment". They also define this term in detail as: "adopted response of a person as a reflection of their diversity and/or psychological processes to activities, states, or events in the environment creating exaggerated psychological and physical needs."

Greenberg and Baron (2000) define stress as "a complex pattern of emotional states, physiological reactions and related thoughts in response to external demands". They refer to the demands emanating from the environment as stressors. Examples of stressors are: the demands of work assignments, interpersonal relations between co-workers, one's relations with one's spouse and children, and social obligations. …

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