Managing the Risk of Workplace Stress

By Sharon Clarke; Cary L. Cooper | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

A risk management approach to occupational stress

The previous chapter discussed the association between stress and occupational safety, emphasising that workplace stressors, both acute and chronic in nature, have a significant effect on work accidents. Much of the research has focused on the direct effects of acute stressors, which increase workers’ error proneness. However, the evidence suggests that chronic stressors will have both direct effects on employees’ behaviour (unsafe acts and safety behaviours), and indirect effects mediated by employee health and well-being. Stress management programmes aimed at the reduction of occupational stress are likely to have wide-ranging effects, both in terms of the improvement of employee health, and in terms of behavioural outcomes, including work accidents, absenteeism and productivity. Empirical evidence suggests that workplace interventions can be successful in reducing the experience of stress (Cooper et al. 1996; Murphy 1988) and negative behavioural outcomes, such as absenteeism and productivity (Berridge et al. 1997; Brulin and Nilsson 1994; Terra 1995). In a review of stress intervention practices for the European Commission (Cooper et al . 1996), examples of significant cost benefits over and above implementation costs are reported, illustrating the financial benefits of stress reduction programmes for organisations.

However, stress interventions are often applied as isolated measures, rather than being part of an integrated approach to organisational health. There is some evidence that the beneficial effects of stress management programmes are relatively short lived (Cooper et al. 1996). This may result from an overemphasis on the individual, particularly the tendency of stress management interventions to focus on reducing the effects, rather than reducing the presence, of stressors at work (Kahn and Byosiere 1992).

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