Organizational options for preventing work-related stress in knowledge work

Christine Ipsen, Per Langaa Jensen

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    Abstract

    Recent studies point to work-related stress as an increasing problem for knowledge workers. However, the working life in knowledge-intensive companies is often described as good and stimulating. The aim of this study is to explore the organizational options for preventing work-related problems in knowledge work. This calls for a study of the characteristics of knowledge work, stress management interventions and an in-depth analysis of the organizational factors causing frustrations and work-related problems in relation to knowledge work. In a qualitative study, 27 respondents were interviewed. They represented different stakeholders in five Danish knowledge-intensive companies, which comprised two consultancies and three engineering consulting companies.

    The study shows that knowledge work comprises a paradox, since the same work-related or organizational issues could be experienced as both an opportunity and a source of stress. The stress interventions applied are short-term and focus on the individual; consequently, they affect long-term prevention, which focuses on changing the organizational and managerial circumstances. Finally, the in-depth analysis shows that the organizational factors in the organizational design are not aligned, which consequently has an unsolicited effect on both daily activities and the human factors.

    The findings suggest that if the central components in the organizational design were aligned, the benefits could include reduced absenteeism and turnover as well as higher productivity. Relevance to industry: The paper identifies organizational options on which managers, employees and ergonomists can focus when initiating new stress management practices and preventive changes aimed at redesigning knowledge work. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInternational Journal of Industrial Ergonomics
    Volume42
    Issue number4
    Pages (from-to)325-334
    ISSN0169-8141
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

    Keywords

    • Human factors in knowledge work
    • Stress management practice
    • Stress prevention
    • Job redesign

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