Business Group Blog

Addressing Stress in the Global Workforce

Work-place Stress Relief


According to the World Health Organization, “work-related stress is the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope. Stress occurs in a wide range of work circumstances, but is often made worse when employees feel they have little support from supervisors and colleagues, as well as little control over work processes.”


Work-related stress has some benefits

Eustress, as defined by Hans Selye, may actually be positive and lead to motivation and excitement. However, extended periods of stress can cause negative effects, including:

  • Physiological responses: increased heart rate, blood pressure, hyperventilation and secretion of stress hormones
  • Emotional responses: feeling nervous or irritated
  • Cognitive responses: reduced attention and perception, increased forgetfulness
  • Behavioral responses: aggressive or impulsive behavior, making mistakes


Factors That Cause Job Stress 

  • Work content: monotony, workload/pace, working hours, etc.
  • Work context: career development, job instability, poor relationships with colleagues, unclear or conflicting roles, etc.
  • Lack of job security: pending layoffs, unstable economy, etc.

The global economy and modern life trends — global competitiveness, increased multiculturalism, older workers and adult caregiving responsibilities increase stress among employees and affect overall health around the world. In developing countries, where there is often “a lack of awareness of work-related stress and shortage of resources to deal with it,” globalization itself has increased stress due to new systems of work organization and a growing sense of inequality.

To measure employee stress levels, employers incorporate stress questions in their health assessments or employee surveys. Tailor questions to specific work contexts to gain more useful information compared to generic questions. Track sickness absences, staff turnover, performance levels, accidents and mistakes to gauge changes in employee stress levels, particularly after preventive programs are implemented.


Practical Steps to Support Managers to Reduce Work Stress Levels

  • Redistribute work among colleagues to relieve individuals with particularly high workloads
  • Rotate employees among different jobs or tasks to reduce monotony
  • Add more difficult tasks to enrich job responsibilities
  • Provide training to assist employees in doing their job more effectively (e.g., managerial training or time management training)
  • Improve work schedules
  • Provide on-site child care
  • Provide elder care resources or related information
  • Provide clear job descriptions and promotion paths
  • Improve communication between groups of workers and workers and supervisors


Employers who want to learn more about this topic can join us at the 2017 Employers' Forum on Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being in San Francisco, California, January 25-26, 2017.

Employers' Summit on Emotional Health & Well-being

For more tools and resources on mental health and resilience, Global Business Group on Health members can access the GBGH website.