Workplace Stress

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Sources of stress in the workplace

  • Home-work interface: balancing demands of work and home
  • Physical environment: noise and heat make work more difficult and more energy has to be expended to overcome them
  • Lack of control: in many organisations, other people determine workload and work patterns
  • Work load: how much work and type of work the person does. Too much and too little can lead to stress

Workplace stress

Marmot et al (1997)

Aim: to investigate the effects of high workload and low job control on stress and illness. 

Method:  civil service employees in London were invited to take part and over 7,000 agreed to take part by filling in a questionnaire and by having a health check to assess signs of cardiovascular disease. They were reassessed five years later


  1. higher grade workers developed NO cardiovascualr problems
  2. lower grade workers exoressed a lower sense of job control and less social support
  3. workers with cardiovascular disorders were more likely to be low grade workers but they were also more likely to be stressed and overweight

Conclusions: low control is related to higher stress and greater risk of cardiovascular disease, but high job control is not linked to greater stress and illlness

Evaluation of Marmot et al

X - sample was biased (only London based civil servants) so may not be generalisable to other cultures/countries or professions

X - lower grade workers are also more likely to smoke, live in stressful environments and have poor diets and these could have contributed to their higher risk of developing cardiovascular diesease, rather than their level of control at work

+ - However, further research does support lack of control as a risk factor for high stress levels

+ - Van der Doef and Maes (1998) meta-analysis found that combination of high demand and low control increases the risk of heart disease.


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