Already since the 1960s, a negative change in the work situation can be observed. The transition from an industrialized society to a service and information society means that workers are currently facing different work demands than a few years ago. In the past, physical strain on people in the workplace was the main cause of increased mental stress these days, causing significant harm to both the employee and the employer. This chapter will deal explicitly with the topic of work-related stress, including two work-related stress theories that describe the characteristics of stress-sensitive workplaces. It also gives an overview of the most important stressors in the work, as well as the factors that can promote or reduce stress.

Common workplace stressors are as follows:

■ Task-related stressors, caused by a discrepancy between work requirements and existing resources. Quantitative Excessive demands: High time pressure and too much work in the time available; monotonous, uniform work activities under time pressure (for example, assembly stations).

  • Qualitative Overload: Difficulty or complexity of a task exceeds a person’s existing resources; Incompatibility of work tasks; difficult emotional requirements, such as continued friendliness in dealing with customers.
  • Quantitative underload: too little work volume compared to the power capacity; monotonous tasks such as assembly line work and long waiting for a signal as in monitoring activities.
  • Qualitative underload: work tasks do not correspond to one’s own qualification; Existing skills and abilities are under-challenged, often leading to psychic satiety and frustration experiences and job dissatisfaction.

■ Stressors in the temporal dimension

Extraordinary working hours such as shift and night work: night work against the physiological day-night rhythm; Exchange services; inflexible working hours; Working hours on call and, associated with that, low ability to plan one’s own daily routine; excessive working hours

■ Stressors due to lack of work organization

Overburdening the ability to concentrate through above-average demands on the long-term attention; poor infrastructure: bad tools, lack of support; Lack of room for maneuver: limited autonomy and opportunities to participate.

■ Organizational Stressors

Constant and unexpected disruptions of the work process, especially by colleagues; Interruptions at work; faulty and inadequate process flows; isolated work at individual workplaces; forced group work

■ Social conditions and stressors

Conflicts with the supervisor or colleague; bad working environment and unfair treatment; Mobbing; Role conflicts and role ambiguity; Competition; lack of mutual support

■ Stressors in the professional career

Stagnation of career or uncertainty about their future development; acquired knowledge and skills are usually not sufficient for a whole professional life: rapid technologies or internal changes require lifelong learning; local and temporal flexibility is required.

■ Physicochemical stressors

Harmful environmental conditions: heat, cold wetness, toxic substances, radiation; bad air, insufficient or incorrect lighting, stressful indoor climate, noise, dust, drafts, one-sided posture.

■ Sociocultural conditions as stressors

Lack of recognition and low appreciation of the work; too little or one-sided information; lack of communication; unfair remuneration system; Fear of job loss and the threat of social decline.

■ Stressors at the interface of work and private life

Conflicting demands of the two areas of life: parenting and employment (double burden).

Coping strategies

There are many different coping strategies. Some of these strategies apply individuals naturally and on their own, others need to be learned and require practice. In addition to the development of his world-famous stress model, Lazarus has also significantly advanced research on coping with stress called coping and contributed to its dissemination. In his transactional stress theory, he distinguishes problem-oriented (instrumental) and emotion-oriented (palliative) coping. Problem-oriented coping aims to change the person-environment relationship and tries to identify the problem or the stressor and to deal with it directly or reduce it. In the process, the resources that are available for coping with the situation are evaluated and the person then carries out a direct one

Action appropriate for the elimination or reduction of the burden. An example of this is learning for an exam to avoid bad grades. Emotional coping, on the other hand, refers to the alleviation of stress symptoms and the regulation of emotions. According to Zimbardo, it is about changing oneself and not about changing the stressor. The goal is to alleviate the emotional effects of stress. This form of coping is based on the body or psyche and involves cognitive processes designed to prevent or reduce negative “stress feelings” such as anxiety or overwork. 

These include soliloquy, the avoidance of certain actions, reinterpretation and trivializing of stressful situations, or attempts to get something positive out of negative situations. But also sports activities and methods of systematic relaxation or medication belong to strategies of emotion-oriented coping. This type of coping is best suited for coping with uncontrollable stressors, whereas problem solving efforts are most effective when the situation is controllable and the stressor can be changed or managed by one’s own actions. At the same time, the importance of coping is already apparent. It contributes significantly to a positive impact on the well-being, health and social behavior of people.

Furthermore, a distinction is made between reactive, anticipatory, preventive and proactive coping. In the latter three methods, the stress event has not yet taken place and, in principle, it is about preparing and adjusting as best as possible for critical events of any kind. Reactive coping refers to past events and ways to deal with them.