Topic 2: Stress and its Relationships to Organizational Changes and Improvement of the Work Environment

Several studies have provided ample evidence of the effect of psycho-social factors at work on health and well-being. Between new forms of employment/work organisation and working conditions have a relationship. Work organisations change more rapidly and employment relations have become more flexible. Stressors are, among other things, monotonous work, tight deadlines, bullying, job insecurity and long-working hours, which constitute collective elements which can be tackled by social dialogue at enterprise as sector's level.


We believer that there is a clear parallel between the scientific literature regarding the design of work as a means of increasing motivation and organizational effectiveness and work design as a means for improving individual well-being. Enhancing organizational effectiveness and individual physical and mental health are from the standpoint of work design, complementary issues.

We must remember that issues such as poor work organization resulting in excessive job stress, the changing nature of work, and occupational violence do not respect national boarders. In order for our working group to proceed in an expeditious manner, it will be necessary to develop more formal interactions and partnerships between international and national authorities, bodies and organizations with an interest in reducing their health and associated economic burdens.

In part, this could be accomplished by utilizing the existing EU/US website as a means by which relevant scientific and workplace specific data on job stress, work organization, work hours and workplace violence. Best practices case studies, and methodological tools to conduct workplace research and interventions could be posted and evaluated. This could be initiated by the posting existing body of current information regarding the identification, prevention and resolution of job stress, work-family conflict, and workplace violence as well as information regarding education and training in these areas.

The work group looks forward to continued and expanding sharing of information regarding successful prevention and intervention strategies involving representatives of government, labor and employers.



  • Job stress is clearly a problem for both employees and employers.
  • Common understanding that the term stress is misunderstood.
  • Large numbers of workers in the EU and the US report that they have job related stress
  • Little reliable data regarding the costs and prevalence of job stress.
  • The medical and business communities don’t have a sufficient understanding of the stress concept.
  • Occupational Health Psychology is an emerging field in both the EU and the US that can help further understanding.
  • Existing intervention research does not convincingly demonstrate the health and financial benefits of organizational level interventions. More intervention research is needed.

Occupational stress is a multidisciplinary issue. It is often difficult to measure job stress and the factors that cause it.


  • There is a need to have healthy people in healthy organizations. This can come about by adopting positive approaches to job stress.
  • There is a need to adopt preventive rather than reactive approaches to job stress.
  • Stress prevention needs to be a management issue.
  • There is a need to include courses on job stress in the curriculum of business and medical schools.
  • There is a need for better data on the costs and consequences of stress.
  • There is a need to know more about the intervention process.
  • There is a need for more study of stress and human reliability.



  • Global changes in the organization of work have outpaced our understanding of their implications for work like quality, and safety and health on the job.
  • The capacity to describe and track changing patterns of work is very limited.
  • A need exists for better surveillance of the trends, exposures and their consequences.
  • It is recognized that while “better” data are needed, simply providing more statistics will not convince employers of the benefits of work organization interventions. Case studies including evidence of the economic and health benefits of changes are needed.
  • While supplying better data to employers is important, it is recognized that once given the data, managers must be allowed to make the decisions.
  • It is recognized that “one size does not fit all”. Not all interventions/changes will work for all industries and companies.
  • Arrangement of work hours are best made with worker participation.
  • It is recognized that not all countries have the same nature and level of problems.
  • It is recognized that work needs to be designed to accommodate human reliability and well-being.


  • Identify multinational organizations willing to engage in cross-national studies and comparisons.
  • Identify companies in various countries that represent models and develop case studies that include data on the financial benefits of model programs. (need follow-op on responsibility and co-ordination).



  • Recognition that there are both individual and organizational consequences of workplace violence.
  • Recognition of common risk factors for workplace violence.
  • Recognition of societal, organizational and individual responsibility for workplace violence.
  • Recognition that working conditions (e.g., workplace design and work practices) contribute to risk for violence.
  • Need to broaden understanding of risk factors for workplace violence.
  • Need for more training for both traditional forms of violence and new security threats.
  • Psychological bullying is not yet widely understood.
  • Need to raise awareness of the nature of psychological violence.
  • Need to establish best practices for security at work.