Research roundup: Work stress

Workplace stress can take a toll on employee health and well-being, as well as organizational performance

by Marketing and Business Development Staff

July 28, 2010 — Stress. Anxiety. Burnout. Add the recent economic crisis to the mix, and employees can be left feeling overwhelmed and unable to keep up with their job demands. With one third of U.S. employees reporting being chronically overworked (Galinsky et al., 2005), workplace stress can affect both individual well-being and organizational performance.

In national surveys, more than two-thirds of respondents reported that work is a significant source of stress (American Psychological Association, 2008) and more than half said they were less productive at work as a result of stress (American Psychological Association, 2007). In addition to affecting employee health, chronic stress can have serious repercussions for employers. A study of a large, multi-employer, multi-site employee population found that healthcare expenditures for employees with high levels of stress were 46 percent higher than those for employees who did not have high levels of stress (Goetzel et al., 1998). In all, job stress is estimated to cost U.S. industry more than $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity, and medical, legal and insurance costs (Rosch, 2001).

The articles below examine some of the recent research on work stress and its effects on employee and organizational health. These and more than 2,800 other article summaries are available on the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program website. You can skim the featured entries or search the entire database on the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program website.

Flex-time as a moderator of the job stress-work motivation relationship

Personnel Review (June 2010)

This study focuses on the role of flextime in predicting motivation. Furthermore, this study assessed the role of country of residence (Russia, Canada, Israel) as a predictor of motivation. A significant interaction was found between flextime, job stress, and country of residence in predicting extrinsic motivation. In other words, flextime and job stress interacted differently for employees in Russia, Canada and Israel in predicting extrinsic motivation. However, across the board flextime was a direct predictor of intrinsic motivation, such that providing employees with more autonomy and control was associated with greater intrinsic motivation. The authors conclude that human resource professionals need to be aware that although flextime may have some direct effects across the board, some of its benefits may be stronger for workers from particular countries. See full reference.

Can an opportunity to learn at work reduce stress?: Revisiting the job demand-control model

Journal of Workplace Learning (May 2010)

This study focuses on opportunities for learning and development as a potential buffer in the stress process. Specifically, this article tests whether having opportunities for learning and development can reduce the relationship between work demands and the need for recovery. Survey results suggested that having control and having more opportunities for personal development reduce the association between job demands and exhaustion. Hence, the results suggest that giving employees some control over their demands and giving them opportunities for learning and development can assist them in managing the stress that results from those work demands. See full reference.

Job demands, job control, and mental health in an 11-year follow-up study: Normal and reversed relationships

Work & Stress (October 2009)

This study provides an 11-year follow up to a study focusing on the demand-control model of stress and mental health. Results revealed that low job control had a negative effect on mental health, especially when it was coupled with high demands (i.e., high-stress jobs). Interaction effects revealed subsequently that higher levels of job control can provide a buffer from the negative effects of high job demands. Interestingly, job demands alone were not predictive of mental health. See full reference.

Daily work stress and alcohol use: Testing the cross-level moderation effects of neuroticism and job involvement

Personnel Psychology (Autumn 2009)

This study focuses on the relationship between daily work stress and alcohol use. The authors conducted daily telephone interviews with a sample of Chinese employees. Results indicated that daily work stress was positively associated with both daily alcohol consumption and desire to drink. In addition, those with higher levels of neuroticism and job involvement demonstrated a stronger association between stress and alcohol consumption. See full reference.

Effects of occupational stress management intervention programs: A meta-analysis

Journal of Occupational Health Psychology (January 2008)

This article provides an empirical review of stress management interventions, employing meta-analysis procedures. A total of 36 studies were included, which represented 55 stress interventions. The average length of intervention was 7.4 weeks. The overall effect across the studies was .526, which is equivalent to a medium to large effect, indicating that, in general, stress interventions are effective, though the predominant outcome measures targeted psychological outcomes rather than performance or physiological outcomes. The results also revealed that relaxation interventions were the most frequent type of intervention. Further, there were few stress interventions focused at the organizational level. More specific results also indicated that cognitive-behavioral interventions produced larger effects than other types of interventions. See full reference.

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