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Job Stress Prevention & Control: Developing Best Practice

News & Views for CPH-NEW

May 2, 2012

Contributed by Tony LaMontagne, ScD, MA, MEd, from the McCaughey Centre, Melbourne School of Population Health, University of Melbourne (AUSTRALIA).

                This edition of News & Views highlights a recently-published open-access resource for policy-makers and practitioners that summarises the evidence on job stress and its impacts on human and organizational health as well as international best practice in job stress prevention and control.1 The current report builds on two previous job stress reports, all published open-access by the (Australian) Victorian Health Promotion Foundation.2,3

            Reducing Stress in the Workplace summarises current evidence on:

  • The health, social, and economic impacts of job stress;
  • The benefits of reducing job stress;
  • Working population groups that are most at risk;
  • Workplace intervention strategies to prevent and control job stress, including:
    • The major components of effective interventions;
    • Principles, frameworks, and models to guide the design and delivery of interventions;
    • Tools and resources to support implementation, and
    • Case studies.

            Policy-makers and practitioners will likely be most interested in the final and largest segment of the report on intervention strategies.  The recommendations and (mostly) web links to more specific resources are structured around the key features of best practice approaches to reducing job stress identified in an extensive review of the job stress evidence conducted in the development of the European Psychosocial Risk Management-Excellence Framework (PRIMA-EF).4  These key features, in brief,  suggest that to most effectively prevent and control job stress, interventions should:

  • be founded on a solid evidence base;
  • have clear aims, goals and tasks;
  • include a risk assessment;
  • be tailored to suit specific sectors, workplace sizes, or other general contextual factors, but remain flexible and adaptable for implementation in specific workplaces;
  • be accessible and user-friendly to individuals at all levels of an organisation;
  • apply a systems or comprehensive approach, with mutually reinforcing components of the intervention aimed at working conditions, workers, and the organisation;
  • facilitate competency building and skills development;
  • be developed with the participation of those who are being targeted by the intervention.

 The report concludes that exposure to workplace stressors predicts serious adverse effects on mental and physical health, including after accounting for other established contributors. Given the widespread exposure to job stressors among working people, this translates to large preventable burdens of job stress-related illness and disease. Job stress-related workers’ compensation claims statistics substantially underestimate the burden of job stress-attributable common mental disorders, particularly among lower status workers. Job stress is a large and growing public health problem, warranting a commensurate public health response. Feasible and effective systems approaches are available for addressing job stress in the workplace. Despite the extensive evidence in support of systems approaches, prevalent practice in workplaces in most developed countries remains disproportionately focused on individual-level intervention with inadequate attention to the reduction of job stressors. The available evidence suggests that priority groups for intervention include younger workers, working women and workers in lower skilled occupations and precarious employment arrangements.

The substantial and inequitably distributed job stress-related disease burden could be addressed by applying a systems approach to job stressors and other psychosocial working conditions. In addition to being a concern for workers, unions, employers, occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation systems, job stress should be a matter for physical and mental health promotion agencies, government public health authorities, medical practitioners, community advocacy groups and others. An optimal public health response to job stress would encompass participation by the full range of stakeholders.

References

LaMontagne AD and Keegel T (2012): Reducing Stress in the Workplace, An Evidence Review: Full Report.  Melbourne: Victorian Heath Promotion Foundation, 52 pages.  Open access at http://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/workplace .  Co-published with a plain language summary version:

VicHealth (2012): Reducing Stress in the Workplace,  An Evidence Review: Summary Report.  Melbourne: Victorian Heath Promotion Foundation, 20 pages. Access at http://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/workplace.

LaMontagne AD, Sanderson K, and Cocker F (2010): Estimating the Economic Benefits of Eliminating Job Strain as a Risk Factor for Depression.  Melbourne: Victorian Health Promotion Foundation.  See http://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/jobstrain for Full Technical (37 pages) or Summary/Plain Language (13 pages) versions.

LaMontagne AD, Shaw A, Ostry A, Louie AM, and Keegel T (May 2006): Workplace Stress in Victoria: Developing a Systems Approach.  Melbourne: Victorian Health Promotion Foundation.  See www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/workplacestress for Full Technical (152 pages) or plain-language summary (24 pages) versions.

Leka S & Cox T (Editors) (2008): The European Framework for Psychosocial Risk Management: PRIMA-EF, Nottingham (UK): Institute of Work, Health & Organisations.

 

 

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