Causes of work-related stress and individual strategies in knowledge work

Christine Ipsen, Per Langaa Jensen

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    Recent studies point to work-related stress as an increasing problem for knowledge workers. This is a critical and not fully uncovered problem. The working life in knowledge-intensive companies is often described as good and stimulating. This study shows that some aspects of knowledge work can have a negative impact on daily activities and cause frustration and work-related stress. The study also finds that few primary preventive activities have been initiated. Based on an empirical study, the authors outline the characteristics of the job as knowledge worker and how it is being experienced. The study also points out the activities causing the prob-lems, how the problems are managed, and the reason for the approach used. The study and con-clusions are based on qualitative research in five knowledge-intensive companies. Knowledge work is described simultaneously in both positive and negative terms – it can be both exciting and stressful. With regard to causes, it is evident that the strains of knowledge work are often caused by the organization and management of the knowledge worker. Autonomy and individualized responsibility causes both a formal and informal transfer of responsibility to the individual for his or her working life. Self-managed knowledge workers thus experience that they stand alone when it comes to work-related problems and stress. The stress intervention applied is characteristically short-term and focused on the individual. The individual perspective consequently affects the long-term prevention, which focuses on changing the organizational and managerial circumstances. It is however possible to change this approach, if both managers and employees become aware of the problems and see the impact of their consequences. If working processes were optimized, the various benefits could be reduced absenteeism and turnover, higher productivity etc.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationKgs. Lyngby
    PublisherDTU Management
    Number of pages36
    ISBN (Print)978-87-90855-79-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2010
    SeriesDTU Management 2010


    • work-related stress
    • knowledge work
    • causes and prevention


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