Work-related stress has a direct bearing on productivity, according to a new study, recently published in Perspectives on Labour and Income. Workers feeling stressed don't tend to work as hard, take m...
February 1, 2008
Lou Smyrlis Editorial Director
Work-related stress has a direct bearing on productivity, according to a new study, recently published in Perspectives on Labour and Income. Workers feeling stressed don’t tend to work as hard, take more disability days or are otherwise absent from work more often.
Work stress can be measured by several indicators, one of which is job strain. The study found that men with high-strain jobs were 1.7 times more likely than those with lowstrain jobs to report lower work activities due to a long-term health problem. Men with high-strain jobs were also 1.5 times more likely to report having taken at least one disability day during the two weeks prior to the survey.
Almost one in five men and women who perceived their regular work days to be stressful took at least one disability day during the two weeks prior to the survey.
The study, interesting on its own, is of particular importance in the trucking industry because the long or irregular work hours many drivers are subjected to may increase stress. (Added to this of course is the stress stemming from time away from home and from shipper demands for adherence to schedules despite constraints arising from poor road conditions, traffic congestion, customs delays, etc.) A couple of other studies had already shown the need for concern in trucking.
According to a Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics, just over seven in 10 truckers reported their professional and personal life as being very or somewhat stressful in 2002.
“Overall, long hours of work appear to have a harmful effect on health, since they lead to unhealthy changes in lifestyle, such as lack of physical exercise, lack of sleep, and poor eating habits. It is therefore not surprising that male truckers had one of the highest rates of nonparticipation in the labour market for health reasons or because of an illness-related disability (3.7% compared with 2.6% for all workers), according to Labour Force Survey figures for 2004,” pointed out Vincent Dube and Denis Pilon in their own study of the driving profession, On the Road Again. They noted that each trucker lost an average of nine days for these same reasons during the year, compared with six for male workers in general.
The latest study found that different sources of work stress do not occur in isolation, but interact with one another. Physical exertion and job insecurity can also cause stress. Shift workers were more likely to have high-strain jobs than other workers. They were also more likely to perceive their jobs as physically demanding.
Men in physical jobs were 2.2 times more likely to have a work absence than men in non-physical jobs, while women were 1.9 times more likely. On a long-term basis, men and women who worked in physically demanding jobs were about 1.6 times more likely than those in other jobs to have reduced their work activities in the following two years.
The study did find that a supportive work environment tended to mitigate job interruptions due to stress, an observation worth remembering as we head into an economic downturn which will leave cashstrapped fleets looking to do more with less.