Stress in the Workplace

Essay by John HowardUniversity, Bachelor'sB+, November 1997

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Statement of the Research Problem

How do you cope with stress in the workplace to achieve a more balanced lifestyle? Stress is a part of everybody's life. Depending on the level of stress, it can control our lives, especially in the workplace. We begin to spend several long hours at work, and thus have less time for other things. Stressed employees may be unhappy and thus produce nominally. Stress can deteriorate social and family relationships and eventually burn you out; ultimately it can take toll on your health. Organizations need to recognize stress as a problem and decide whether or not to act upon it.

Background Information

This question needs to be answered because stress is a problem that all organizations must deal with; stress can cause poor work performance and lower employee morale. These factors can increase employee turnover rate and lessen quality of life. We all must deal with stress; question is how we handle and control it.

With downsizing the buzz word in the modern corporate world, companies have become mean and lean. Employees are compelled to be more efficient; they find themselves taking on the work of what used to be two. The result is longer hours, less time for outside activities, and consequently increased stress.

According to Business Week, the typical American works 47 hours a week, and if current trends continue, in 20 years 'the average person would be on the job 60 hours a week.' Another factor that increases stress is technological advancements. With all the new technology one is always connected to work and accessible 24 hours a day 7 days a week. According to Business Week, it is now possible, and thus increasingly expected, for employees to be accessible and productive any hour, any day.

At a workplace, one observes several sales people working long hours, claiming it is due to under staffing. Employees reach a point of diminishing returns. The more hours they work, the less productive they are. This stressful condition causes the quality of work to dwindle. Consequently, clients recognize this, and eventually they terminate the business relationship. Soon the company loses, as it is built on these clients.

Statement of the Objectives

In this research, I expect to discuss factors which lead to stress in the workplace. Are individuals stressed in the workplace? What causes stress in the workplace? Who is mostly stressed: men or women? Are individuals being exposed to stress management techniques? Should employers implement stress management techniques? As a future manager, I would like to be able to determine if stress is a problem for employees; if so, implement a strategy to curtail stress in the workplace. By recognizing stress in the workplace, employers can act appropriately to reduce stress. The outcome can benefit social and family relationships, as well as preserve ones health and make us more productive in our organizations.


The research project will comprise of a sample size of 30 individuals, randomly selected from general business areas. The study will analyze stress factors in the U.S workforce and its impact on the American organization. Effective stress management techniques will then be presented, which will allow individuals or organizations to implement. Secondary information from various sources will be utilized to explore effective methods of coping with stress. The conclusions and recommendations I will draw will be applicable to any American organization with stress as a problem. Although this study will generalize from the small population, it can be used as a starting point to recognizing the problem, as each organization can require a different approach.


The sources utilized in the research will be extracted from current articles (1994-present) from online services, the Internet, and public libraries. A survey will be given to individuals of randomly chosen organizations and will not target any specific company or industry. Due to time constraints, the population will be limited to 30 individuals. The research will explore factors causing stress in the workplace and its impact on organizations. Effective methods of coping with stress will be given, but limited to ones examined in the secondary resources.

Research Procedures

The project will focus on stress factors in the workplace and effective methods to balance a healthy lifestyle. The sample group will consist of 30 individuals randomly selected from general business areas. The survey will be conducted during lunch periods when several employees leave and return to the workplace. The questionnaire will attempt to see if the sample individuals believe stress is a problem and what can be done to resolve it. The questionnaire will be delivered in person and each individual will fill out the survey at that point.

Since the survey will be conducted in a general public area, no authorization is needed to administer. Once I receive all the surveys, I will quantify the data into an Excel spreadsheet. I will report the data mostly in percentages (e.g. 70percent of the individuals acknowledge that stress is a problem in the workplace). The data will be utilized to see if stress is a factor impacting the American workforce. Stress management techniques will be presented where appropriate.

Additional Information

Data and references will be collected between now October 12, 1996 through November 5,1996. I will conduct the survey individually. The gathering of references will also be done on my own. The study will take approximately 25-40 hours to complete, not including data collection time.



Stress is an adaptive response. It is the body's reaction to an event that is seen as emotionally disturbing, disquieting, or threatening. When we perceive such an event, we experience what stress researchers call the fight or flight response. To prepare for fighting or fleeing, the body increases its heart rate and blood pressure; more blood is then sent to your heart and muscles, and your respiration rate increases (Domar, 1996).

Stress is both positive and negative. Good stress is a balance of arousal and relaxation that helps you concentrate, focus, and achieve what you want. Bad stress is constant stress and constant arousal that may lead to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and worse. The body does not distinguish between negative and positive stress. The same physiological responses can take place whether you are happy or sad about a given situation (Robinson, 1996).

When extending to the workplace, stress may lead to poor work performance and end up costing an organizations several thousands of dollars. The organization loses on salary because they are not receiving satisfactory production and if the employee becomes ill, health and workers compensation rates can soar (Carpi, 1996). The organization must decide whether or no to implement a stress management program, since there are several external stressors that can overtake an individual. Internal stressors, within organizations include technology and corporate downsizing which leads to longer hours and job uncertainty. If one does not know how to manage stress, it can get out of control (Carpi, 1996).

Analyzing Stress on Individuals

In a 1995 survey of 1,705 respondents it is analyzed that stress rises with level of education and job level and is higher than average for women (Robinson, 1996). Fifty-eight percent of the women respondents possess moderate to a lot of stress in the workplace compared to 53 percent of men. From the divorced individuals, 62 percent are stressed in the workplace compared to married and never married at 57 percent, and 58 percent respectively. The widowed respondents maintain the least stress at 38 percent (Robinson, 1996).

College graduate respondents possess more stress at 64 percent than high school graduates at 55 percent. Only 43 percent of the less than high school respondents felt stress in the workplace. Those with more education feel more stress, possibly because their jobs involve greater managerial and financial responsibility (Robinson, 1996).

Stress is an epidemic in American life. In nationwide polls, 89 percent of Americans reported that they often experience high levels of stress, and 59 percent claimed that they feel great stress at least once a week (Hellmich, 1994). A five year study of the American workforce conducted by the Families and Work Institute showed that 30 percent of employees often or very often feel burned out or stressed by their jobs, 27 percent feel emotionally drained from their work, and 42 percent feel used up at the end of the work day (Hellmich, 1994). Balancing work pressures and family responsibilities leaves many workers feeling burned out.

Researchers at Harvard found that as stress increases, performance and efficiency do also. However, if stress continues to increase, the level of performance and efficiency decreases (Hellmich, 1994). Paula Morrow, director of the Industrial Relations Center at Iowa State University College of Business states that According to the Center on Work & Family , 'Flexible scheduling, job-sharing, and on-site child care cut absenteeism and turnover, boosting productivity. The key is for managers to give up control of the process of work and empower employees to determine how it gets done' (Daniel, 1994).

Examining the Effects of Downsizing on Stress

The downsizing of organizations have caused a stressful environment. Downsizing has created concerns over job security, and has forced employees to take on a larger workload. According to a local union representing U.S. West stated that work still needs to be done, but with fewer people (Scott, 1996). Downsizing creates quantitative and qualitative stress. Quantitative stress pertains to doing the same amount of work with fewer people. Reengineering the organization entails shaping the company to be more efficient with less individuals. These individuals are asked to do a wider variety of work functions they are not trained to do, causing qualitative overload (Scott, 1996).

Identifying Job Uncertainty

Elizabeth Fried, president of N.E. Fried and Associates states, 'We have cut out a whole layer of middle management an the pressure has to go someplace, either up or down.' (Tahmincioglu, 1995) Ed Simon, analyst with the Labor Department is concerned that the 'leaner, meaner' mentality will be a trend that continues with us for a while. He states that eventually the people working long hours may not be able to keep that pace up and that it might be to a company's benefit to train and bring in more workers (Tahmincioglu, 1995). Not only are the longer hou