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Stress management at the workplace - a systems approach.
I History
Work-related stress is a growing concern for employers and employees worldwide. In the European
Union according to the Fourth European Working Conditions Survey, 22% of all European workers
reported suffering from stress, fatigue and pain at work. In the UK, it is estimated that around 9 million
working days were lost in 2010 due to work related stress alone
. The WHO estimates cost of stress to
American businesses is around $300billion. The European figures are probably just as close. Stress
was the most common cause of long-term sickness absence for both manual and non-manual
employees in CIPDs 2011 Absence Management Survey (a global HR development organization.)
Theres a long history about how to cure stress symptoms at the workplace. In the sixties, an engineer
often had the role to ensure a minimum stress level and eventually he got assistance from a
physiotherapist. In the early days, it was thought that the environment caused stress and relaxation
was the best remedy. With further development, the individual experience was brought into focus i.e.
stress could be measured and even cured by means of answering questionnaires about workers
experience of stress. This approach was not easy to evaluate regarding efficiency on stress levels of
the individual workers.
Today there is a still greater need for stress reducing measures at almost every workplace. The
negative effects involve not solely the single person but the organization as a whole but economy and
efficiency all over and even individual families are affected. This means that it pays off on many levels
to cure and prevent job stress.
There has been a tremendous development within stress research during the last couple of decades.
As a result of this, there is evidence for the efficiency of several measures that can be applied for
managing the stress at the different levels i.e. work, family etc. The basic idea is that man is best
described as an example of living systems theory. This has many implications, mainly that each
single part plays a role at an superior level each cell builds organs, each man builds groups, groups
etc. Another important finding, according to cognitive psychology, is that behavior is the key factor for
reducing stress effects. What people really do is the key factor behind attitudes, emotions and health..
II Measurement
Modern stress management will include many system levels in order to be efficient. Every level is
measured and analyzed regarding its impact on all parts of the system. This means that information
from many levels must be analyzed. In the iOpinion system questionnaire for example, we examine
five different aspects namely: A Habits profile B Symptoms profile C Physical environment and
exposure D Psychosocial factors E Blood samples (i.e. stress hormones). This information is collected
from each person in a system used for analysis and report.
The analysis of measurements is performed by statistical means. In order to ensure a good end result
on stress levels there is a need to follow a few steps in order to get the participation of everyone in the
1. Information to everyone in advance about the stress management procedure to come.
2. A questionnaire is answered for information of symptoms at different levels.
3. A health checkup gives data about individual health status and need of medical care etc.
4. A report is prepared for each department and/or each group.
5. The results are commented in each group arranged by manager with support from the health team.
This discussion will be continued with discussion of concrete examples from everyone.

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III How to build a healthy workplace
70% of healthcare costs and issues are driven by peoples behaviors. Being able to determine the
health behavior of the workforce and working with them to promote better health is crucial in building a
healthy workplace. There are also other factors that affect a healthy workplace including the physical
environment and psychosocial factors. Understanding what is working and what is not e.g. lighting or
communications can also help in ensuring a healthier and happier workplace.

IV Conclusion
There are several things to be pinpointed in this procedure as crucial for reaching the stress
management target: Use of simple models giving a realistic understanding the crucial points behind
stress. Behaviors can be changed and give a sustainably reduced stress levels as well as renovation
of physical environment and tools of different kinds. Harvard business professors Michael Porter,
Elizabeth Tisberg and Scott Wallace recommended in their HBS Working Knowledge study that
Companies "mount an aggressive approach to wellness, prevention, screening and active
management of chronic conditions." As such, making a workforce health and productive and invariably
stress free requires a proactive approach- and not a reactive one. Companies that take strong
measures to define, predict and promote the right stress environment with their employees would
invariably be the ones that have an engaged workforce. Its a win-win: for the company and for

Finally the absence of sickness in the workplace must not be confused with a healthy workplace. To
move people from just being not sick to being more healthy, conscious, happy and productive, we
will need

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Jan Lindell is the founder and owner of SLOT (Sandberg - Lindell Organization Test), which is a
leadership, and organizational development tools used in Sweden since 1984. The report has been
made in the form of easily understood charts and also for individual issues and on a global level based
on psychometric principles with psychological / mathematical models. Jan is responsible for iOpinion

Gbenga Ajayi has been working with companies and occupational health providers across Europe to
help them proactively know the state of their organizational health and understand how that connects
to business growth through qualitative and quantitative data analysis.