Workplace Stress: Organisational Behaviour in the Office

 In Resilience, Stress Management

Office Workplace Environment Impact on Workplace Stress Levels

Abstract

Occupational stress is a common issue within the workplace. Research suggests a strong link between Job Satisfaction and Occupational Stress. The issues arising from the work environment and its impact on stress levels within an office environment is an area where further development can be documented and is the aim of this report. The relationship between the office environment and the result or impact of stress was investigated as part of an interview report. Also it was hypothesised that when individuals had control of workplace environment conditions they also had a level of control over their own stress levels. The three participants involved were from local Australian Businesses and employed on a fulltime basis. The participants are from different job roles; however all are employed or self employed in an office environment and the data was collected using a face to face interview. Several areas were identified as environmental stress factors. The interview demonstrated that well designed office environments create high job satisfaction and less stress as a result. By changing work environments employers can create high job satisfaction levels and reduce stress of employees.

The workplace environment is an area where employees spend a large amount of their time. The environment in which employees work can affect the results they deliver, improve job satisfaction and decrease stress. Employees who suffer from poor working conditions may suffer increased stress and lower job satisfaction.

Early work leading to this current study came from Kerry Fairbrother and James Warn, (2003) where the link between workplace stress and the work environment was presented. In the study of Naval Personnel it was demonstrated that physical discomfort was a result of the enclosed working environments (Suedfeld and Steel, 2000). Also metal surfaces surrounded the physical workplace; and employees experienced noisy, confined working environments. Personnel were exposed to environmental conditions including high temperatures, rough movement, and the close proximity of chemicals, vapours, ammunition or explosives, fuel, electromagnetic radiation.  (Warn, 1994). The job strain model (Karasek, 1979) illustrates how those stressful demands of employees job roles can be lessened if the employee has some level of control or decision making ability.

The aim of this current study is to provide additional information on the link between the work environment and how it impacts on the stress of employees and reduces job satisfaction.  Subsequent research has found the increase of emotional exhaustion, psychosomatic complaints and lower job satisfaction when job demands are raised or there is a loss of job control. De Jonge et al. (2000) Job dissatisfaction can create negative feelings about the work environment and contributes to workplace stress. As a result employers have disrupted working conditions, absenteeism and loss in turnover. Employees are committed less and employee health is diminished due to the poor working conditions. Confined working spaces, workplace layout, and noise levels of the environment can also effect the stress levels of employees as shown within the study from Kerry Fairbrother and James Warn, (2003). The link between workplace stress and the workplace environment cannot be disregarded as the results from these previous studies provide evidence of the relationship and link between these two factors.

This current study is sought to produce and extend on the information provided by providing further evidence of the link between workplace stress and the office environment.

It was hypothesised that there would be a direct link between the level of work environment conditions and the level of workplace stress they suffer.  Also, it was hypothesised that the control over an individuals working environment would impact the level of job satisfaction and stress levels. There were no specific predictions with regards to gender or age differences; however, if one person handled a situation better than another it would provide information on individual personality traits and learnt coping skills (Beehr and Newman, 1978; Cooper and Marshall, 1976; Kirkcaldy et al., 1999).

Method

Participants

The sample consisted of four individuals, each currently working fulltime from an office environment with different environmental working environments. One female and three males, with the mean age of 25 were randomly selected from local businesses for a face to face interview with 11 questions submitted to each individual.

Materials

The strategy adopted was a face to face interview with randomly selected office employees. The employees provided information in relation to the questions asked. The interview constituted of 11 questions that investigated the job role, surrounding work environment, the participant’s thoughts on the workplace environment and the stress  encountered by each participant from the office design and environment. The individuals also commented on how the office environment could have been well designed and also their level of stress in comparison with other work environments previously worked in.

Procedure

After a permission form was gained by each individual, the employees were asked to answer the 11 questions, one at a time. The individuals met at times after working hours to provide the information.  The data was collected as the participants responded immediately to the questions posed, and the interviews lasted approximately 15minutes. The interviews were recorded so as to provide correct quotations for comments and explanation of results.  Participants were asked to provide honest information in the interview and were informed of the reason for the report. If a question was misunderstood, the question was repeated. Each individual was asked the set of 11 questions in the format attached in the appendix.

Results

To examine whether the office environment was impacting on each individuals health, questions were asked about the surrounding design. The responses from the individuals varied from job role.

As shown in Figure 1.1 the responses given for closed questions within the interview.

Question Participant 1

YES     NO

Participant 2

YES     NO

Participant 3

YES     NO

Participant 4

YES     NO

Is your office environment affecting your level of Job Satisfaction? X     X X   X  
Does your Employer have control to change the office environment? X   X   X   X  
Do you have any direct health influences within the workplace? Eg Smoking.   X   X   X   X
Do you have low job control?

 

X     X X   X  
Do you feel that the current workplace environment impacts on your stress levels?   X   X X   X  

 

Figure 1.1 Responses to closed questions within interview. X indicates response given

 

All participants under management agreed that their working conditions or environment could be improved. Individuals that were self employed indicated that the work environment was under their control and as a result they suffered less environmental stress. Participant Two stated “I have a high level of job satisfaction as I’m self employed, and enjoy my work and work environment.” This was the opposite to those not self employed and suffered less control within their job role.

All five participants agreed that employers could take a proactive role when asked “Do you think your employer has control and could change your environment to suit your job role?” Participant Four replied “Yes, but in the end, each person has to take some responsibility in handling stress and take a proactive approach to helping the company be aware of your situation.”

Several individuals indicated that “better equipment” or “larger working space” would positively contribute to their level of job satisfaction and easier workload. Environmental changes mentioned ranged from a larger desk or a more engaging wall colour or visual stimuli to increase stimulation.

The hypothesis that the work environment impacted on the level of workplace stress was supported as a safer environment with visual stimulation and adequate environmental workspaces were indicated as a requirement to perform job roles. To answer the research question which asked whether workspaces contribute to the level of ability to perform each job role, it was found that individuals reported high job satisfaction when the environment catered for their physiological needs.

In regards to the research question to whether individuals had control over their environmental workspace, it was indicated that those who worked for an employer suffered more stress from loss of control than individuals who were self employed and had the ability to rectify working conditions.

Discussion

The results of this study supported the hypothesis that there would be a direct link between the level of environment conditions and the level of workplace stress individuals would suffer.  It was also supported that with loss of control or the lack of ability to change the office environment, there was an increase in the employee’s stress level and a resulting decrease in job satisfaction.

Participant Four stated “If you’re not happy with your working environment then it is rather difficult to be happy with your job.” Even though the link was mentioned by the participant, the following comments were also made,The environments that do need to change are out of my control.” All participants agreed that their employer was in control of the work environment.

This demonstrated that employees under supervision or management were unable to modify office environments to suit job satisfaction. Participant two had responses that were quite different as the participant was self employed although still within the office environment. The results showed that being in control of working conditions and workplace environments increased job satisfaction and also lowered stress levels.

The results supported findings of De Jonge et al. (2000) where the increase of emotional exhaustion, psychosomatic complaints and lower job satisfaction was reported when the loss of job control was demonstrated.

This provides further support for the increase in stress levels experienced by an employee within a work environment if they have no ability to control their surrounding office environment. Teasdale, E. L. (2006). stated “If we are to expect people’s continued energy and commitment at work we must provide the right environment, in which people feel positive and enthusiastic about what they are doing, have a clear sense of purpose, confidence in their ability to meet the challenges, and pride in their individual contribution to the organisation’s success.”  He then continues by stating: “The dynamic and positive working environment this encourages helps us to attract, develop and retain top talent, and reduces the impact of ill-health.” Teasdale, E. L. (2006).

The current study confirms this as Participant One stated “I have noticed in myself a drastic change for the better when adding certain factors into my working day, such as the added luxury of air conditioning which allows my brain to think on the task at hand rather than the discomfort, and adding a five minute break each hour to do some stretches and playing a few bars on the newly acquired piano every so often lightens the mood.” The office environment contributes to an employee’s wellbeing and can change the way one feels with the surroundings.

In conclusion, it is important to acknowledge that the design, structure and office environment can contribute to an employee’s job satisfaction levels and in turn reduce stress levels. This would increase motivation, improve loyalty and decrease absenteeism or reduced turnover. It is also important to note that with added control or freedom to choose their working environment, employees are able to reduce stress levels themselves and enjoy high job satisfaction levels. These findings can be generalised to the office environment within Australia.

Future research in the areas of colour design, structural design, heating and office equipment and their impacts on health or stress levels could assist in providing further clarification on the quantity of stress implications from each part of the workplace environment as this current study was done as a whole.

References

Beehr, T.A. and Newman, J.E. (1978), “Job stress, employee health, and organisational effectiveness: a facet analysis, model and literature review”, Personnel Psychology, Vol. 31, 665-99.

Cooper, C.L. and Marshall, J. (1976), “Occupational sources of stress: a review of the literature relating to coronary heart disease and mental health”, Journal of Occupational Psychology,Vol. 49, pp. 11-28.

De Jonge, J., Bosma, H., Peter, R. and Siegrist, J. (2000), “Job strain, effort-reward imbalance and employee well-being: a large-scale cross-sectional study”, Social Science and Medicine, Vol. 50, pp. 1317-27.

Karasek, R.A. (1979), “Job demands, job decision latitude, and mental strain: implications for job redesign”, Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 24, pp. 285-307.

Kerry Fairbrother, James Warn, (2003) “Workplace dimensions, stress and job satisfaction”, Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 18 Iss: 1, pp.8 – 21 MCB UP Ltd

http://www.emeraldinsight.com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/journals.htm?articleid=881532&show=abstract

Kirkcaldy, B., Cooper, C.L. and Furnham, A.F. (1999), “The relationship between type A, internality-externality, emotional distress and perceived health”, Personality and Individual Differences, Vol. 26, pp. 223-35.

Suedfeld, P. and Steel, G.D. (2000), “The environmental psychology of capsule habitats”, Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 51, pp. 227-53.

Teasdale, E. L. (2006). Workplace Stress. Journal of Psychiatry, Trauma and Stress-Related Disorders, 5(7), 251-254.

Appendix

Questions for interview.

  1. What is your job description
    2. What kinds of stress do you encounter from your type of work environment?
    3. Are these stressors prevalent in your type of industry or is it purely your position?
    4. Do you feel that theses stressors affect your level of job satisfaction?
    5. Do you think your employer has control and could change your environment to suit your job role?
    6. Does your job environment affect your health directly in anyway? Eg Smoking environment, chemicals etc.
  2. Research has shown there is a link between workplace environments and workplace stress and it can lead to lower job satisfaction and health issues or other physiological issues. Do you believe this is true? Explain.
  3. Do you feel there is a link between stress and the workplace environment? If so explain?
    9. Would you say that there was low job control associated with your work environment?
    10. Do you feel the workplace environment affecting your health overall?
    11. What changes in your environment do you think is most needed to enjoy job satisfaction?

 

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