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Key employees are under the most stress


February 1, 2011
By Amanda Ryder


Topics

stressed1NEWS HIGHLIGHT

Key employees are
under the most stress

A workplace’s key employees may be at the greatest risk of experiencing
high levels of work stress, according to a
new study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

Feb. 1, 2011 – A workplace’s key employees may be at the greatest risk of experiencing
high levels of work stress, according to a
new study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

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In a survey of 2,737 workers, 18 per cent reported that their job was “highly stressful.”

The
odds of having high stress were greater if workers were managers or
professionals, if they thought their poor job performance
could negatively affect others, or if they
worked long or variable hours. The study was published in this month’s International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

“The
people who report high stress are the ones most invested in their
jobs,” says Dr. Carolyn Dewa, Senior Scientist and
Head of CAMH’s Work and Well-being
Research and Evaluation Program. “Employers should be very concerned
with keeping this
population healthy. From a business
perspective, it is in a company’s best interest to support these
workers.” 

The
job characteristics associated with stress pointed to workers who were
engaged and responsible. If workers felt their
poor job performance could result in any
physical injury, damage to company’s equipment or reputation, or a
financial loss,
they were twice as likely to report high
stress.

Having
a worksite remote from their home, or having to entertain or travel for
their jobs also increased the odds of being
stressed. So did variable hours such as
being on call, doing shift work or having a compressed work week.

Chronic stress can lead to burnout, and can worsen existing mental health problems or physical disability.

The
study’s goal was to learn how workers view their responsibilities and
job characteristics, and their experience with stress.
This information could be used to help
develop interventions targeting both workers and their work environment,
which is considered
a more effective approach.

“It
is important that employees have access to resources that address their
mental health concerns. In the long run, these
interventions can help save some of the
annual $17 billion in lost productivity in Canada,” said Dewa.
“Employers should be
asking, ‘What am I doing to reduce stress
in my most valuable people?’”

The
survey included Alberta adults aged 18 to 65 who had worked the
previous year in full range of settings, including offices,
manufacturing, construction, farming and
services, among others. Dewa notes, “These sources of stress that we
identified will
be the same for Canadian workers wherever
they are based, as they held true across different locations and
workplaces in our
survey.”

On
the other end of the scale, 82 per cent of workers reported low or no
stress. This group was more likely to be male, single,
under the age of 25 or work in a small
business. In addition, if workers were satisfied with their jobs, they
were less likely
to identify their jobs as being highly
stressful.

Compared with the rest of Canada, Alberta reports slightly lower levels of stress than the rest of the country, the study
notes.


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