Creating the Productive Workplace

By Derek Clements-Croome | Go to book overview

Chapter 7

Stress and the changing nature of work

Valerie Sutherland and Cary L. Cooper

One consistently emerging theme identified with organisational life in the 1990s is that of constant change, and it is likely that this trend will continue into the next millennium. In addition to predictable life event changes, we face endless modification to our work structure and climate, much of which is fuelled by rapid technological development. Many have raised concerns about the impact of such change on productivity, performance and quality of life. As Richard Hooker (1554-1600) said, 'change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better'. The implication is that exposure to change is, in some way, costly to the individual, business and society. Informed organisations are only just beginning to understand the real costs and acknowledge the notion of 'healthy workforce-healthy organisation'. Thus, is it necessary to understand the relationship between 'change' as a source of stress and our responses to it in both physiological and behavioural terms. However, if change is inevitable, dysfunction and/or distress is not, since it is mismanagement of the change process that is damaging in its consequences. Identification of sources of stress or pressure by diagnosis of potential problems informs action. This proactive approach helps to prevent problems and the need to rely on costly, often ineffective, curative strategies for stress management in the workplace.


Introduction

Research evidence indicates that a wide variety of workplace conditions cause stress, strain or pressure which is associated with a range of physical and psychological ill-health problems. Costs to the individual, business and society are well documented, and informed organisations are only just beginning to understand the real costs of mismanaged stress in terms of business profitability. It is clear that health, well-being and quality of work life are associated with performance and productivity, and so understanding stress and pressure at work is vital if we wish to create a productive workplace. However, for many people at work the changing nature of the work environment is a potential source of stress and pressure which must

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