In a recent study published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Canadian researchers have discovered that there are certain associations with job stress that may have been disregarded by prior researchers. In their study of 2,237 working adults, they found the following four main things:
- Chronic exposure to high work stress can transform into burnout, mental disorders, and disability.
- Workers with disrupted marriages and managers/professionals are more likely to identify their job as being associated with high stress.
- Workers describe their jobs as being highly stressful, when they perceive that their actions have an effect on co-workers, the environment, and their company.
- There are differential findings for calling jobs very stressful, depending on age, education, and marital status.
(list adapted from Page 37 of their study)
Now, these things are not incredibly profound (or, actually, profound at all), there is something to be said about one of these key takeaway points from this article. First, let me talk about the other three points that are not surprising:
1. About 1 in 5 of these workers stated that their jobs were “high stress.”
2. Male workers who said that they were satisfied with their jobs did not report similar levels of “high stress.”
3. Individuals were more likely to report their jobs as being “highly stressful” when those individuals felt that their actions would have an effect on others around them.
Of course, these points make sense and are not incredibly surprising. What is surprising is that, with a study population so large, these workers reported a great deal of stress when there was an impact on those other people in their environment, which sort of indicates that the non-work stress factors act in a non-recursive manner with work-stress. Also interesting in this study is that when individuals reported that their jobs were “careers,” they reported more work stress than when they reported that they just had “jobs,” potentially indicating how people felt engaged in their workplaces. The authors say “respondents who identify the potential impact of their actions on outcomes for their companies or who view their work as a ‘career’ vs a ‘job’ are more likely to experience work pressure because their is less distance perceived between him/herself and work.”
I think the important point here is that, in the workplace, there are a variety of factors that may impact an individual’s capacity to view their own environment as stressful. Also, it does appear that when individuals feel that they have more to gain or lose in their own careers (either through internal or external forces), they report greater stress. At a practical level, I think that this also underscores the importance of developing organizational systems to help individuals cope with their own stressful situations. Also, organizations could create supportive networks that would help individuals manage their work and non-work conflict in more meaningful and healthy ways.