Coming right after musculoskeletal problems, stress at work is the second most prevalent threat posed by the working environment. The surveys carried out every five years by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions showed that stress, as a work-related health problem, affects 22% of working Europeans on average; and that the number of people suffering from stress-related conditions caused or made worse by work is likely to increase.
Stress affecting Europeans workers is due to the changing world of work, which is making increased demand on workers, “through dowsizing and outsourcing, the greater need for flexibility in term of function and skills, increasing use of temporary contracts, increased job insecurity and work intensification and poor work-life balance” says OSHA.
Stress at work can affect anyone at any level. It can happen in any sector and in any size of organisation. Stress affects the health and safety of individuals, but also the health of organisations and national economies. Workers’ stress represents a huge cost not only in terms of human distress but also of impaired economic performance. Stress can cause people ill and misery, both at work and at home. It may also compromise workplace safety, and contribute to other work-related health problems, such as musculoskeletal disorders. And stress significantly affects an organisation’s bottom line. Since the studies also suggest that between 50% and 60% of all lost working days are related to stress problems.
Since the level and the intensity of the stress felt by European workers depends on the country; an analysis of national data is essential to gain a clearer picture and deeper understanding of this problem in each of the EU Member States. In order to tackle stress in its community-wide and national dimension, the survey advises to focus on:
- “Further investigation of the level of awareness and the prevalence of psychosocial risks and work-related stress, as well as of preventive measures employed by the Member States.
- Analysing cultural differences related to the perception and reporting of work-related stress and psychosocial risks in workplaces.
- Exploring different possible indicators of work-related stress.
- Developing appropriate preventive measures (at national and company level) to deal with work-related stress and psychosocial risks, and methods of assessing their efficiency.
- Investigating, especially in longitudinal studies, the possible effects on workers’ health and safety of emerging risks and current trends in the world of work, such as work intensification, job insecurity, third party violence, harassment, demographic changes including an ageing workforce and more women in the workplace, new forms of employment contracts such as temporary and part-time work, and variable, irregular or unpredictable working hours.”