Example research essay topic: Effects Of Stress And Balancing Stress In The Workplace – 1,780 words

1. Introduction Stress is a very complex
phenomenon. It is very much a personal condition
and individuals vary in their ability to cope with
different forms and levels of stress. In fact we
all need some level of stress, as stimulus, to get
going and live (Green 1993). However, higher
levels of stress can greatly affect individual and
organisational performance. It is not a
stress-free environment that organisations and
individuals need to aim for at work but a
stress-controlled one, which is beneficial for
everybody.

It is important for organisations to
recognise this and apply appropriate methods and
processes to reduce stress. Creation of an
inclusive, participative, inspirational and
respectful work environment would not only reduce
stress at work but also improve individual and
organisational performance. 2. How Does Stress
Affect Performance? This section explains the
linkage between stress and performance. A specific
work related definition by the US National
Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH
1999) defines work stress as the harmful physical
and emotional responses that occur when the
requirements of the job do not mach the
capabilities, resources and the needs of the
worker. Stress can lead to poor health and even
injury.

A certain degree of stress is necessary
for good mental and physical health. This is
termed eustress. To much stress can lead to
distress. Hawkins (1994, p.14) states that too
much or too little stress can have deleterious
effects on performance with resultant effects on
the health of the individual and the organisation.
(see Figure 2.1) Stress can arise in white as well
as blue-collar occupations. Surveys have found
little difference between white and blue-collar
workers in terms of somatic complaints, health,
life satisfaction, depression or other indicators
of stress (Jones 1999). However, sources of stress
are thought to differ between white and
blue-collar workers.

According to the Australian
Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI 1990),
sources of work-related stress can be grouped into
four general categories: Work load – too much
work; too little work; work too difficult; work
too easy. Work conditions – organisational
structure; office politics; poor job design;
organisational culture; low work control and
autonomy. Work patterns – shift works; repetitive
work; machine-paced work. Work roles – role
ambiguity; conflicting job demands; conflict
between job and personal commitment. American
Psychological Association (APA 1996) reported that
in recent insurance industry studies, nearly half
of American workers say their job is very or
extremely stressful and 27 per cent said their job
was the greatest source of stress in their life.
The level of stress under which each individual
operates is important; and if there is not enough
stress individuals may find that their performance
suffers because they are bored and unmotivated. If
there is too much stress the individual will find
that her/his work suffers as stress related
problems interfere with her/his performance.

It
should be noted that the graph and the zone of
optimum performance are different shapes for
different people. For example some people may
operate most effectively at a level of stress that
would leave other people either bored or in
pieces. Signs of stress amongst employees are
purported to manifest themselves in higher
absenteeism; higher labour turnover; higher
workers compensation claims; lower productivity
and/or efficiency; and poor safety records. Miller
and Smith (1997) reported that in terms of lost
hours due to absenteeism, reduced productivity and
workers compensation benefits, stress costs the
American industry more than $300 billion annually,
or $7,500 per worker per year. Jones (1999, p.118)
reported that National Rail Corporation, formed in
1995, had been operating at an annual loses of
about $350 million. This was related to stress
because tired drivers (too much work and shift
work) would press brakes more often than
necessary.

Drivers could not judge whether danger
was real or imagined, so they put on the brakes,
costing $400 each time. This clearly indicates
just how serious a problem stress can be. In its
magazine 31, SafetyLine reported about the
increase in compensation claims in Western
Australia. There were 380 cases of work-related
stress in 1994/95, a substantial increase over
1993/94 where 205 claims were made. Male workers
recorded a rate of 0.27 stress cases per million
hours worked, while women recorded a rate of 0.49,
almost twice as high as that of men. The average
cost per work-related stress claim was $16,289 for
men and $17,854 for women, which is well above the
cost averages of other types of injury.

This can
be seen from the following table: WRS Cases Per
Million Hours Worked 1988/89 1989/90 1990/91
1991/92 1992/92 1993/94 1994/95 WRS Cases –
FemaleWRS Cases – MaleWRS Cases – Total 262551
333568 6862130 7371144 111109220 12778205
191189380 Figure 2.2 Work Related Stress (WRS) –
Western Australia – 1988/89 – 1994/95 Source:
SafetyLine, Magazine 31; FREQUENCY RATES All this
leads us to conclude that stress can have great
effects on performance and impede efficient
operation in the organisation. So, stress
prevention and creation of a stress controlled
work environment (optimum level of stress) should
be one of the primary issues for the organisation.
It should be focused on the identification of
sources of stress, both work and non-work
environment, and the development of procedures to
reduce the effects of these. As a general rule,
the actions to reduce job stress should give top
priority to organisational change to improve
working conditions. NIOSH (1999) recommends a
combination of organisational change and stress
management as the most useful approach in
preventing stress at work. 3. What Can Be Done
About Stress? Start every day with a smile and get
it over with.

-W.C. Fields Organisational
strategies Organisations play an important role in
reducing the employees stress level. The following
section will deal with strategies that
organisations can apply in order to reduce stress
and its effects on performance. Some of the
strategies recommended by Hawkins (1994) include
introduction of stress awareness and conflict
resolution programs (stress management program –
training). Stress management training could be
used to teach employees about the nature and
sources of stress, the effects of stress on
health, and personal skills to reduce stress. Two
outcomes of stress management training could be
better time management or relaxation training.
According to NIOSH (1999), such programs may
rapidly reduce stress symptoms and they are
inexpensive and easy to implement but they have
two disadvantages: the beneficial effects on
stress are often short-lived and they often ignore
important root causes of stress because they focus
on the work and not the environment.

In addition
to these programs, organisational change can be
used as a strategy to alleviate stress at work.
Hawkins (1994) recommends job design and
assessment of corporate culture as strategies that
could be used to reduce stress at work. This
approach is a direct way to reduce stress at work.
Use of these strategies could include
identification of stressful aspects at work (e.g.
work overload, complex or repetitive tasks,
inappropriate policies and procedures) and the
design of methods to reduce or eliminate the
identified stressors. This approach has advantages
because it deals directly with the root causes of
stress at work. Individual strategies Some of the
individual strategies have been discussed in the
previous section and they include information to
improve stress recognition by employees (e.g.
trainings including time management, general
skills, assertiveness training, job related
skills, counselling, nutrition information and/or
programmes, relaxation techniques). Dr Dawid
Lewis, cited in Green (1996), suggests the
following techniques that individuals can use to
bring stress under control: change ones viewpoint;
laugh at life; put problems into perspective; stop
worrying; be positive; slow down. He suggests
individuals to be assertive, optimistic, breaking
problems into smaller ones, laugh, listen to
music, say positive things to themselves, and give
their mind and body a break.

People worry about
everything, whether it might be unimportant or
uncontrollable. Everyone has a tendency to imagine
and think the worst of situations. Employees
should think positive thoughts and change their
perception or interpretation of a stressful event
to something that is positive and not stressful.
Individuals should also set time aside for leisure
and non-work related activities. When dealing with
stress, people have to learn to be kind to their
bodies as the human body, like any machine, could
always do with a break. It also helps to sometimes
laugh as it relieves stress by allowing the person
to just forget for a while what stress he/she has.
4. Conclusion Stress causes medical problems and
also affects job performance.

This report
described the relationship between stress and
performance and explained common sources of work
related stress. Organisations can play their part
in helping to reduce employees stress by
implementing changes in the organisational
structure, culture, nature of the job and by
introducing stress management training.
Individuals can reduce their stress levels by
changing their lifestyle and behaviour and using
psychological and cognitive techniques. 5.
Recommendations Organisation Ensure that the
workload is in line with the employees
capabilities and resources. Design jobs to
provide meaning, stimulation (less monotony) and
opportunities for employees to use their skills. Clearly define employees roles and
responsibilities. Give employees opportunities to
participate in decisions and actions affecting
their jobs.

Improve communications – reduce
uncertainty about career development and future
employment prospects. Provide opportunities for
social interaction among employees. Establish
work schedules that are compatible with demands
and responsibilities outside the job. Individual Understand nature and sources of stress. Manage
time effectively and efficiently. Follow an
appropriate lifestyle (nutrition, sleep and
regular exercise).

Develop a personal strategic
management process (have a mission, set achievable
goals, allocate resources and periodically assess
the situation). Be systematic in decision-making
and problem solving. 6. References Hawkins, M.
1994, Occupational stress: the management
challenge, Management, Australian Institute of
Management, October, Sydney pp.14-16. Green, J.
1996, Managing stress – how to reduce its impact,
Australian Company Secretary, November,
pp.438-439. Green, H.

M. 1993, Management Magazine
– no.7, accessed 10 May 2001,
http://www.worksafe.gov.au/publications/pamphlets/
s/003155.htm, August 1993, pp.19-21. Jones, A.
1999, Fatigue at the top is a threat to the bottom
line, Business Review Weekly, 24 September,
pp.116-119. Mind Tools, Effective Stress
Management – Understanding Optimum Stress Level,
http://www.psychwww.com/mtsite/smoptstr.html,
accessed 07 May 2001. SafetyLine, Increase in
Stress, Magazine 31 – Work Related Stress in
Western Australia,
http://www.safetyline.wa.gov.au/PageBin/wswaslmg00
75.htm, accessed 16 May 2001. NOHSC, Information
paper on stress adopted at the meeting of the CAI
General Council, Australian Chamber of Commerce
and Industry,
http://www.worksafe.gov.au/publications/pamphlets/
i/003432.htm, accessed 10 May 2001, 09 November
1990, 7p.

APA 1996, Get the Facts: Psychology at
Work – Doing More and More With Less & Less,
http://www.apa.org/work/less&less.html,
accessed 07 May 2001. Miller, L.H. & Smith,
A.D. 1996, Get the Facts: Psychology at Work – How
Does Stress Affect Us, American Psychological
Association, http://www.apa.org/work/stress2.html,
accessed 07 May 2001. NIOSH, Stress at Work,
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/jobstres.html, accessed
07 May 2001..

Research essay sample on Effects Of Stress And Balancing Stress In The Workplace