What evidence is there to support the view that the incidence of work-related stress increased dramatically in Australian organisations during the 1990s and early 2000s? Should employers be made responsible for dealing with the negative effects of work- related stress on their employees? If so how could they do this?
Prepared for: Nick Foster
Occupational stress is a major news item, which has captured numerous headlines across the industrialized world and rightly so. Stress is reported to cost employers US$120 Billion p.a. in North America and Europe, 200 million lost production days in the US and the European Union spends approximately 4% of GNP on mental health problems (Warr 2002).
Occupational stress should not be viewed as a negative by-product of work-life. A certain level of stress is definitely beneficial to individual and societal growth. This level of stress, referred to by Foster (2005) as the optimal level of stress' allow employees to cope and overcome obstacles ensuring more productive and efficient output. This said, continuous exposure to work place stressors could have a significant impact on employee well being, both physical and psychological.
Organizations are appreciating the importance of managing stress to the bottom line in terms of improved productivity, through fewer days lost due to accidents, improved moral, team work, enthusiasm, improved reputation, lower incidence of compensation claims etc. The majority of organizational interventions are related to providing external/internal support systems rather than improving internal practices e.g. implementing high performance work systems, which embody empowerment, involvement, and ownership providing employees with a sense of control over their own output.
The approach taken to investigate the claims that there has been a dramatic increase in occupational stress is to provide evidence of the strain on a