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Factors Which Lead to Stress in the Workplace

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Published: Tue, 06 Mar 2018

Phones 4 you Case Study

Chapter One: Introduction

Phones 4u is a large independent mobile phone retailer in the UK. Since opening in 1996, it expanded to 400 stores throughout the United Kingdom. Head office is based in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire and was until recently part of the The Caudwell Group formed by John Caudwell. In September 2006 the group was sold and Phones 4u is now owned by Providence Equity Partners (Minter, 2003, 18)

Stress is the condition that results when person-environment transactions lead the individual to perceive a discrepancy, whether real or not, between the demands of a situation and the resources of the person’s biological, psychological or social systems. In medical terms, stress is the disruption of homeostasis through physical or psychological stimuli. Stressful stimuli can be mental, physiological, anatomical or physical reactions.

Lost car keys, tardiness, family death, and loss of job, pressure, frustration, and social changes-these are different types of stress, the process by which one appraises and copes with environmental threats and challenges. The events of daily life flow through a psychological filter that helps a person the react in certain ways. Some stress early in life is conducive to later emotional and physical growth. But stresses, or conflicts, can also threaten a person’s life as well and health (Amatea, 1991, 48).

Behavioral psychologists have determined there is a correlation between stress and the declination on one’s behavior. One may increase his usage of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs to escape his stressful state. Other problems include arguing with friends, neglecting appearance, crying easily, difficulty concentrating, and withdrawing from family and friends. In extreme cases, stress can cause insanity.

Emotional changes are also a common effect of stress. Symptoms include anger, anxiety, depression, nervousness, loneliness, and rejection. Changes in emotional state may lead to psychological disorders or even death, if not treated. Suicide is among the leading outcomes of stress-related depression (aspinwall, 1992, 48).

Not only does stress effect one’s emotional and behavioral states, buy it also plays a large role in one’s physical state. Symptoms of stress include, but are not limited to, allergies, back pain, respiratory infections, fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, sleeping problems, and dizziness. British scientist Hans Selye made a basic point of stress. It states that although the human body comes designed to cope with temporary stress, prolonged stress can produce physical deterioration. MRI brain scans of people who have experienced a prolonged amount of stress often show the results of a shrunken hippocampus, the inner brain structure vital to laying down explicit memories. Stress can put people at risk for one of today’s four leading causes of serious illness and death: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lung disease. Such findings were proven true by studies done by cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman in 1956. Psychophysiological illnesses are stress-related. They are illnesses, such as high blood pressure, that are caused by high levels of stress. Immune responses may also be effected by stress. They can either speed up or slow down causing a variety of illnesses such as lupus or multiple sclerosis. Stress does not make one sick, but it does restrain one’s immune functioning, making him more vulnerable to foreign invaders (Bandura, 1986, 58).

Stress in unavoidable. If one can not eliminate stress by changing or ignoring a situation, one must learn to manage it by confronting or escaping the problem. Stress management may include aerobic exercise, relaxation, and social support. Without knowledge of stress and ways to manage it, people are more susceptible of disease and psychological disorders.

There are various sources of stress. The very definition of stress is: A mentally or emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition occurring in response to adverse external influences and capable of affecting physical health, usually characterized by increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, muscular tension, irritability, and depression. A stimulus or circumstance causing such a condition. In today’s world of competition and success, the limits of our threshold are being pushed to succeed. Success is the driving force behind many people pushing their bodies to the limits. A human body needs a delicate balance between work, and relaxation. When this equilibrium is not maintained, problems occur, which might have repercussions later. These repercussions take the forms of Burnouts, break-downs, and sometimes extreme cases of heart attacks.

In most cases of the systems breaking down, there are methods of control and mechanisms of improvement of the situation. Stress can be handled very effectively in today’s world. Healthy and wholesome living is the new day mantra for better work efficiencies.

What causes stress?

There are various triggers to stress. Work, personal life and external factors (Banyard, 1993, 45).

Work: the pressures of work are one of the greatest factors contributing to the high stress levels today. Long working hours, constant pressures of deadlines, and the inevitable fear of job security pushes people to work very hard.

Personal Life: outside the work place, people are always subject to constant pressures from family, friends, and well wishers. Handling these pressures in the most effective way is the tact of the new manager. Family life can cause stress, especially if there is some friction between partners, the ill heath or sudden death of a partner can cause great levels of stress.

External factors: personal finances, world events and other non classifiable events also add to stress. Time management or lack of thereof is another cause of external factors of stress.

How does one handle stress?

There are several ways of fighting stress in one’s life. This essay will briefly attempt to touch base with some important methods which can be imbibed in handling stress.

1)         Time Management: Time management is one of the greatest methods of combating stress especially in the workplace. Effective time management helps us prioritizing, planning, allocating and executing effective schedules in order to maximize our most valuable resource, time. Once a person has been able to handle time effectively, he or she would be able to handle many tasks which have been allocated (Baruch, 1987, 59).

2)         Health: stress has a great impact on the personal health of the individual. Ageing is speeded up and white hair apparently comes aplenty. Living a healthy life helps in handling stress better. A regular routine, the offshoot of effective time management, allows us time to regularly exercise. Exercise, as many say release endorphins, these help combat stress and depression, a stress induced side effect. Healthy foods, such as greens, and maintaining a balanced diet are some other ways, which when coupled with exercise help us maintain a healthy body.

3)         Non Conventional Methods: going back to the basics is a term that is used very regularly today. When one says going back to the basics, it includes going back to the past. Yoga, pranayama and other methods of controlling the mind, body and soul, have existed in our country for a very long time. This is fast gaining popularity as methods of combating stress. Yoga has immense powers to help us maintain our minds and body in shape.

From the above, we can see one of the greatest factors of handling stress is to maintain a healthy mind, body and soul. Prevention is better than cure, preventing stress by having a healthy life style and a healthy mind, is a plus point which has no substitute in today’s world. However there is no effective way of handling self induced stress. Calming the mind and regulated breathing can ease the stress, but it will be rendered ineffective if the person is not willing to practice it in the positive way (Bem, 1981, 49).

Stress is one of the greatest hindrances to efficient productivity in todays workplace. Production efficiency is the key word today and this does face a serious threat with stress. Combating stress on a war footing is the need of the hour, and some of the above points will assist in effective stress management through a healthy mind , body and soul.

Stress is a combination of responses in the body. Stress can be short-term (acute) or chronic. Acute stress is the fight or flight response. If a car is careening toward you at a high rate of speed, you will (or should!) experience acute stress. It is when you experience so many common stressors, such as heavy traffic, noise, money worries, illnesses, relationship problems, rising crime rates, or work frustrations, that stress takes a chronic form. In the short term, stress can be vital. Over time, it turns destructive .

How destructive can stress be on your body? Research has shown that prolonged stress can produce actual tissue changes and organ dysfunction. With the new MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) techniques, scientists are able to prove visibly that chronic stress can shrink an area in the brain called the hypothalamus. Read More On This They have found that the brains of war veterans, as well as women who have been victims of childhood sexual abuse, have a marked reduction in the size of their hypothalamus (Betz, 1987, 29).

Stress also affects your brain by releasing powerful chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine (also called adrenaline). The hypothalamic/pituitary-adrenal portion of your brain releases steroid hormones, including the primary stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol affects systems throughout your body, including an increased heart rate.

Your heart, lungs, and circulatory system are influenced by the increased heart rate. Blood flow may increase 300 to 400 percent. Blood pressure increases and breathing becomes rapid. Your mouth and throat may become dry. Skin may become cool and clammy because blood flow is diverted away so it can support the heart and muscle tissues. Even digestive activity shuts down.

Once again, occasional stress is normal. Once you’ve handled the situation, the stress goes away and you heal from the episode. But, if stressors accumulate over time, eventually the body becomes inefficient at handling even the least amount of stress. The brain, heart, lungs, vessels, and muscles become so chronically over or under activated that they become damaged. It is this sort of stress which may trigger or worsen heart disease, strokes, susceptibility to infection, sleep disturbances, sexual and reproductive dysfunction, memory and learning dysfunction, digestive problems, weight problems, diabetes, pain, and skin disorders.

Extensive multidisciplinary studies have presented unequivocal evidence that our psychological responses to stress and our perceptions of stress to a considerable extent affect our susceptibility to disease. In active relationship, the immune, neuroendocrine, and nervous systems respond to the brain and psyche. Virtually all illnesses, from the flu to cancer, are influenced for good or bad by our thoughts and feelings. R. Lloyd, 1990 Healing Brain: A Scientific Reader (Betz, 1987, 48)

Statement of the Research Problem

How do the employees cope with stress in the workplace to achieve a more balanced lifestyle at Phones 4 you ? 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 Phones 4 you 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 Phones 4 you; 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 British 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 (Bollen, 1993, 18).

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 (Moos, 1989, 58).

Statement of the Objectives

This research expects to discuss factors which lead to stress in the workplace at Phones 4 you. Are individuals stressed in the workplace at Phones 4 you? What causes stress in the workplace Phones 4 you? 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 (Moos, 1982, 25).

Scope

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.K workforce and its impact on the British 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 British 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 (Parkes, 1986, 36).

Limitations

The sources utilized in the research will be extracted from current articles (2006-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 (Portello, 1996, 548).

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 British workforce. Stress management techniques will be presented where appropriate (Browne, 1993, 578).

Chapter Two: Literature Review

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 (Carmines, 1981, 48).

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.

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 . 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 ) (Rock, 1997, 4).

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, 88). 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, 48).

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, 87).

Stress is an epidemic in British life. In nationwide polls, 89 percent of Britishers 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, 57). A five year study of the British 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, 4). Balancing work pressures and family responsibilities leaves many workers feeling burned out.

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.K. West stated that work still needs to be done, but with fewer people (Scott, 1996, 41). 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, 35).

Occupational Stress is the harmful physical and emotional response that occurs when there is a poor match between job demands and the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Stress-related disorders encompass a broad array of conditions, including psychological disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder) and other types of emotional strain (e.g., dissatisfaction, fatigue, tension, etc.), maladaptive behaviours (e.g., aggression, substance abuse), and cognitive impairment (e.g., concentration and memory problems). In turn, these conditions may lead to poor work performance or even injury. Job stress is also associated with various biological reactions that may lead ultimately to compromised health, such as cardiovascular disease (Rosenfield, 1989, 5).

Prevalence

Stress is a prevalent and costly problem in today’s workplace. About one-third of workers report high levels of stress. One-fourth of employees view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives. Three-fourths of employees believe the worker has more on-the-job stress than a generation ago. Evidence also suggests that stress is the major cause of turnover in organizations (Scheier, 1985, 65).

Health and Healthcare Utilization

Problems at work are more strongly associated with health complaints than are any other life stressor-more so than even financial problems or family problems. Many studies suggest that psychologically demanding jobs that allow employees little control over the work process increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. On the basis of research by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and many other organizations, it is widely believed that job stress increases the risk for development of back and upper-extremity musculoskeletal disorders. High levels of stress are associated with substantial increases in health service utilization. Workers who report experiencing stress at work also show excessive health care utilization. In a 1998 study of 46,000 workers, health care costs were nearly 50% greater for workers reporting high levels of stress in comparison to low risk workers. The increment rose to nearly 150%, an increase of more than $1,700 per person annually, for workers reporting high levels of both stress and depression. Additionally, periods of disability due to job stress tend to be much longer than disability periods for other occupational injuries and illnesses (Schwartz, 1993, 58).

Causes of Occupational Stress

Job stress results from the interaction of the worker and the conditions of work. Views differ on the importance of worker characteristics versus working conditions as the primary cause of job stress. The differing viewpoints suggest different ways to prevent stress at work. According to one school of thought, differences in individual characteristics such as personality and coping style are most important in predicting whether certain job conditions will result in stress-in other words, what is stressful for one person may not be a problem for someone else. This viewpoint leads to prevention strategies that focus on workers and ways to help them cope with demanding job conditions. Although the importance of individual differences cannot be ignored, scientific evidence suggests that certain working conditions are stressful to most people. Such evidence argues for a greater emphasis on working conditions as the key source of job stress, and for job redesign as a primary prevention strategy. Personal interview surveys of working conditions, including conditions recognized as risk factors for job stress, were conducted in Member States of the European Union in 1990, 1995, and 2000. Results showed a trend across these periods suggestive of increasing work intensity. In 1990, the percentage of workers reporting that they worked at high speeds at least one-fourth of their working time was 48%, increasing to 54% in 1995 and to 56% in 2000. Similarly, 50% of workers reported they work against tight deadlines at least one-fourth of their working time in 1990, increasing to 56% in 1995 and 60 % in 2000. However, no change was noted in the period 1995–2000 (data not collected in 1990) in the percentage of workers reporting sufficient time to complete tasks. A substantial percentage of Britishers work very long hours. By one estimate, more than 26% of men and more than 11% of women worked 50 hours per week or more in 2000. These figures represent a considerable increase over the previous three decades, especially for women. According to the Department of Labour, there has been an upward trend in hours worked among employed women, an increase in extended work weeks (>40 hours) by men, and a considerable increase in combined working hours among working couples, particularly couples with young children (Shaw, 1993, 4).

Signs of Occupational Stress

Mood and sleep disturbances, upset stomach and headache, and disturbed relationships with family, friend and girl/boy friends are examples of stress-related problems. The effects of job stress on chronic diseases are more difficult to see because chronic diseases take a long time to develop and can be influenced by many factors other than stress. Nonetheless, evidence is rapidly accumulating to suggest that stress plays an important role in several types of chronic health problems-especially cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and psychological disorders (Sherer, 1982, 36).

Prevention

A combination of organizational change and stress management is often the most useful approach for preventing stress at work.

How to Change the Organization to Prevent Job Stress
  • Ensure that the workload is in line with workers’ capabilities and resources.
  • Design jobs to provide meaning, stimulation, and opportunities for workers to use their skills.
  • Clearly define workers’ roles and responsibilities.
  • Give workers opportunities to participate in decisions and actions affecting their jobs.
  • Improve communications-reduce uncertainty about career development and future employment prospects.
  • Provide opportunities for social interaction among workers.
  • Establish work schedules that are compatible with demands and responsibilities outside the job.

St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company conducted several studies on the effects of stress prevention programs in hospital settings. Program activities included (1) employee and management education on job stress, (2) changes in hospital policies and procedures to reduce organizational sources of stress, and (3) establishment of employee assistance programs. In one study, the frequency of medication errors declined by 50% after prevention activities were implemented in a 700-bed hospital. In a second study, there was a 70% reduction in malpractice claims in 22 hospitals that implemented stress prevention activities. In contrast, there was no reduction in claims in a matched group of 22 hospitals that did not implement stress prevention activities (Smith, 1981, 24).

Chapter Three: Research Methodology

Design

The data reported here are from two separate data sets. In order to cross-validate the model, data from the original study of managerial women were used, and these included data from the first three assessments of a 2-year longitudinal study. In the original article (B. C. Long et al., 1992, 165), a conceptual model of stress and coping was tested and developed that was based on data from the first three assessments (Time 1 to Time 3) of 11 assessments completed over 2 years. Status, Sex Role Attitudes, and Agentic Traits were assessed at Time 1; Appraisals, Disengagement and Engagement Coping, Work Environment, and Daily Hassles were assessed at Time 2; and Distress and Satisfaction were assessed at Time 3. These data were used as a base to test the validity of the model on a new set of data obtained from clerical workers, data that have not been reported elsewhere (Snapp, 1992, 32).

Sampling

The managerial women (n = 249) were employed in nontraditional occupations (i.e., fewer than 35% of British employees are women). Their mean age was 38.84 years (SD = 7.68, range = 22–66). More detailed descriptions of the managers’ characteristics can be found in B. C. Long et al. (1992).

The clerical workers who participated were employed in both large and small organizations in the same large western British city in which the managers were employed. The clerical workers volunteered in response to written requests for participants that I circulated in the media and by networking. The notices were directed to full-time female clerical workers and indicated that the purpose of the study was to investigate how clerical workers experienced Occupational Stress. No incentives were offered other than a final summary report. Оf the 284 respondents who made contact by telephone, 273 met the criteria for inclusion (i.e., they were employed in a clerical position, worked more than 20 hours per week, and did not supervise others). Оf the 273 clerical workers who met the criteria and were distributed questionnaires at Time 1, 39 withdrew from the study because of lack of time to participate, 7 no longer met our criteria because of promotion, unemployment, or leave of absence from work (e.g., due to accident or illness), and 4 moved. The overall dropout rate was 18%. Dropout analyses were conducted on the demographic variables measured at Time 1. No differences were found between the retained (n = 223) and dropout (n = 50) respondents. Chi-square analyses of the demographic variables (marital status, education, number of children, job level, and size of the company) were not significant. Because 9 participants identified a personal rather than a work stressor, their data were omitted from the model testing.

All respondents were self-identified clerical workers. Job classifications included clerks (25%), secretaries–stenographers (23%), administrative assistants (34%), and others (18%). The mean age was 39.77 years (SD = 9.46, range = 22–63 years). Fifty-three percent of the clerical workers were married, 22% were single, and 25% were divorced, separated, or widowed. Fifty-three percent were parents. Twenty-four percent had a high school education or less, 42% had special training (e.g., secretarial, clerical), 17% had a college education (2 years postsecondary), and 13% had a university degree. Household incomes ranged from less than $25,000 (British) per year (23.4%) to over $61,000 (British) per year (27.5%). The major industries represented were education (31%), service (35%), utilities and public administration (12%), manufacturing and transportation (10%), and other (8%). On average the women had been in the workforce for 17.02 years (SD = 8.74,


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