How to Avoid Occupational Stress at Work

Term Paper, 2014

24 Pages


Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

List of Figures

List of Tables

1 Introduction

2 Objectives

3 Methodology

4 Stress fundaments
4.1 Terms and models
4.2 Stress as risk and opportunity
4.3 Stress symptoms

5 Occupational stress
5.1 Potential stressor at work
5.2 Stress management at work
5.2.1 Structural prevention Qualification factors Work organizational factors Social factors Technical and ergonomic factors
5.2.2 Behavioral prevention

6 Case study DB AG

7 Conclusion

8 Outlook

Bibliography XIX

List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

List of Figures

Figure 1: Mechanical model of stress and strain

Figure 2: Job-Demand-Control-Model

Figure 3: The transactional stress model to Lazarus & Folkman

Figure 4: Largest stress factors in Germany by gender 2013

List of Tables

Table 1: Stress symptoms on different levels

Table 2: Stressors at work

Executive Summary

In all areas of life we are surrounded today by stress, which is why people feel constantly stressed. Especially at work we are tending more and more to be stressed because of deadlines, hectic, constant accessibility and modern communication. Stress at work affects not only the health and quality of life of individuals but also harms businesses and the entire economy. The medical costs for mental diseases have been increased dramatically in the last five years.

There are various models such as the “Stress and Strain-Modell” from Rohmert and Rutenfranz, the “Job-Demand-Control-Model” from Karasek or the “Transactional Stress Model” from Lazarus & Folkman, all trying to explain what is stress and how it can be combated. What all models have in common is the fact that is always assumed an imbalance between requirements and available resources to cope the situation. As already mentioned occupational stress is the largest stress factor in Germany. The reason for this is certainly the changing world of work and the variety of stressors that lurk at work for us. These can be divided into different groups. Typically a stressor does not occur by itself but in combination with other stressors at the same time. What a person can handle depends on the duration, intensity and number of stressors and other occupational exposures. Basically it existing two different approaches to reduce work-related stress. On the one hand there is the structural prevention that focuses on the improvement of qualification factors, work organizational factors, social factors, technical and ergonomic factors and on the other hand there is the behavioral prevention that is concentrating on the improvement of coping skills of employees. Important is to consider and address the phenomenon of stress holistically. The company Deutsche Bahn AG has recognized the signs of the times early and offers a bunch of different tools to protect their employees from stress. In the future stress will become more and more common and the public will pay more attention to this topic because the number of mental diseases will continue to rise. Therefore there has to be a focus on occupational health and safety. In the light of demographic change, it is more important to counteract growing absenteeism and early retirement. Stress, however, can never be completely avoided so the topic of occupational stress will be at the top of the political and companies’ agenda.

1 Introduction

Stress at work, stress at home, stress with your partner or the children obviously stress is an experience that everyone makes in the course of his life. It increasingly influenced our daily life and occurs in various areas of our life. There are countless self-help books that discuss the topic and the different theories and approaches. To be stressed is apparently a new trend, because who has stress, is required. Especially at work we are tending more and more to be stressed. Deadlines, hectic, constant accessibility and modern communication techniques are only one possible explanation. Another is certainly the changing world of work of physical labor to activities with increasing emotional and cognitive demands. It is undisputed that the outlined changes in work can hardly be reversed. But it is even more important to identify the changing or optionally also newly developing strains since more and more people feeling permanently on or even beyond their breaking point. Negative effects of prolonged stress are internal unrest, sleeping problems and mood swings, which can also cause serious health problems in the longer term. This is the reason why the World Health Organization considers that stress is one of the biggest health risks of the 21st Century.

Stress at work affects not only the health and quality of life of individuals but also harms businesses and the entire economy because stress is often the starting point for physical and mental diseases that substantially reduces the power of the affected employees. According to latest figures the Federal Statistical Office estimates the medical costs of mental diseases in 2008 at around 29 billion euros in Germany.[1] The cost for this kind of diseases has been strongly increased to around 33 billion euros till 2012.[2] Would it be possible to reduce or avoid stress by, for example, certain preventive measures, the employee would possibly remain efficiently and as a consequence there might be significantly cost reduction for businesses and economy. Therefore, not only employees but also employers and government should have an intrinsically useful interest in this subject.

2 Objectives

This assignment will discuss the different ways how to avoid occupational stress at work. Therefore it will provide fundamental knowledge about what is stress, how stress is created and what impact has stress. Furthermore this assignment will show how to approach stress properly. Also this work will demonstrate how the biggest German rail way company the DB AG is dealing with this important topic.

3 Methodology

For that work no primary data was gathered, the entire work is based on secondary data as the scope of this assignment does not allow for any explorative approaches, interviews or surveys. The necessary information for the work that were previously scattered published or accessible will be combined, analysed and interpreted by the author. The sources of secondary data are collected form books and sources in the world-wide-web.

In the first part of this work the fundaments of stress will be introduced to get an understanding about the topic stress. Beginning with a description about the best known and most frequently used models over the risk and opportunities of stress followed by the symptoms and consequences of chronic stress. The second part is focusing on particularities of occupational stress. Therefore it will be analyzed the cause of stress at work and demonstrates different way how to avoid stress at work. In the case study about the Deutsche Bahn it will be analyzed how the biggest German rail way company is dealing with the topic stress at work. Afterword a conclusion will be drawn before finalizing with an outlook based on the thoughts about the handling of stress in the future.

4 Stress fundaments

Since stress originally - so in human history - was triggered mostly by physical threats, our body has developed a stress response program, which provided him with energy in stressful situations that helped him to escape or fight. These energies were very helpful e.g. when people met a saber-toothed tiger, because the body adjusted itself to an increased willingness to act. This ancient and very successful program also runs today when we experience stress. Unfortunately, it is completely unsuitable to deal with for example tests or conflicts because these situations cannot cope with neither escape or to fight. So the by stress mobilized energy are no longer reduced and we remain under stress until finally exhaustion occurs. As a consequence we are then no longer able to other situations of stress, because we lack the power.[3]

4.1 Terms and models

General stress is the result of an imbalance between external demands and the available resources to deal with it. It follows that we always get stressed once there is more required than we can actually afford. But not only excessive demand leads to stress the same applies to monotony. Stress is triggered always by external and internal stimuli so called stressors.[4]

There are various definitions and models that try to explain what stress is, how stress is created and how it can be overcome. All models have strengths and weaknesses, but none is all-encompassing. The best known and most frequently used are:

1. Stress and Strain-Modell (Rohmert & Rutenfranz, 1975)
2. Job-Demand-Control-Model, (JDC Karasek, 1979)
3. Transactional Stress Model (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984)

In the German Work Science is the Stress and Strain -Modell the most widespread concept. The illustration in Figure 1 "Mechanical model of stress and strain" shows the relationship between personal characteristics and the individual loads. Therefore mental stress is the sum of all external influences that lie ahead for the people and affect them mentally. The mental stress is the individual effect of the stress in humans. The stress depends on its individual circumstances and his condition. Since stress is processed differently by the people, same loads can lead to different stress in different people. This model offers basically two ways to reduce the psychological stress: You can reduce the external loads or increase the ability of people to resist these pressures and thereby to feel less stress.[5]

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: Mechanical model of stress and strain (source: Wikipedia)

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2 : Job-Demand-Control-Model (source: Karasek 1979)

The second stress model, the Job -Demand-Control-Model from Karasek can be found mainly in the Anglo-American area. The model includes two dimensions psychological demand (work request) and control (action game room) with two values each (high, low) see Figure 2 "Job-Demand-Control-Model". To the qualitative and quantitative requirements count for example, time pressure, complexity of tasks or unwanted interruptions. The room for maneuver is represented by knowledge, skills and decision latitude. The model represents in the fourfold table how work-related illnesses caused by mental stress. A high degree of stress can be found at workplaces with high demands and low control. The stress, however, is low when the scope of action is high and the requirements are low.[6]

The best-known model is certainly the Transactional -Stress-Model to Lazarus & Folkman see figure 3 "The transactional stress model to Lazarus & Folkman". This concept is only not related to the work context and emphasizes the individual as actor of development and considers stress and coping as processes in a complex, cognitively mediated interaction of person and environment factors.


[1] Statistisches Bundesamt (Destatis) 2012

[2] Statista GmbH 2012a

[3] Universität Bielefeld - Gesundheitsmanagement

[4] Lohmann-Haislah 2012 p. 13

[5] Rainer Oesterreich 2001

[6] Lohmann-Haislah 2012 p. 14-15

Excerpt out of 24 pages


How to Avoid Occupational Stress at Work
University of applied sciences, Nürnberg
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Stress, Vorbeugung, Syntome, Stressmanagement, Stress als Risiko und Chance, Stressprävention
Quote paper
Martin Pruschkowski (Author), 2014, How to Avoid Occupational Stress at Work, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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