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It kinda works quite good 'cause I can generally take a longer lunch break and go to the gym at lunch and then, you know, work later or whatever it is. For example, participants mentioned relaxation during lunch breaks and going on holidays as an effective personal intervention. A mixture of personal, organisational and individual interventions were reported in our study, but these are not often captured together, with emphasis often being given to workplace changes or separate public health approaches to lifestyle and physical activity.

High-demand and low-control situations and effort—reward imbalance related to working conditions, management style and the type of job were causing distress at work. Management practice as a stressor was also more prominent in private and NGO sectors than in the public sector and in middle and low management positions than in higher management ones. Participants identified poor communication with management, unfair treatment and, above all, the feeling of not being appreciated as the biggest sources of stress for them.

Furthermore, many participants highlighted working conditions, such as physical environment, unsociable working hours and under-staffing, as causes of their work stress, the harmful effects of which have been identified in previous research. According to Stranks, 11 when workers experience insufficient rewards in the form of salary or amount of praise received, or are missing recognition, the feeling of devaluation might appear and can contribute to an experience of work stress.

Participants in the present study tended to report mainly the presence of primary and secondary organisational interventions as opposed to individual interventions at their workplace. With regard to individual approaches, these were mainly psychological interventions. Although there is much research that has documented the effectiveness of psychological interventions, these are usually provided at the secondary or tertiary level rather than for primary prevention.

Organisational interventions were discussed by the participants more frequently and were also more often perceived as effective in managing stress at work than individual interventions. One of the main reasons that organisational interventions were identified as an effective way of managing stress was because they were primary interventions with the aim to modify or eliminate environmental stressors. Participants in the present study identified the organisational interventions to manage stress at work as: job redesign, change of organisational culture, encouragement of participative management, introduction of work—life balance policies, flexible working and reconstruction of the organisation as well as improvement of organisational communications.

The main reason may stem from the fact that management is seen as part of organisational structures rather than as potentially subject to modification to manage stress. Our findings highlighted management practices as an important workplace intervention, especially management characteristics such as open communication, supportiveness, approachability and being appreciative; these ranked the highest in terms of perceived effectiveness. Improving management practices as an intervention and introducing flexibility in working structures were much more apparent in the public sector as opposed to the private sector and the NGOs.

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Content analysis suggested that there may be a relationship between reported causes of stress and individual and organisational interventions. For example, stress was less often reported in the public sector because there were more management interventions than in other sectors, and these were perceived to be effective by the participants. Most personal interventions identified by participants were related to health behaviours such as exercise, meditation and healthy eating, as well as leisure activities and social support from family and colleagues.

Although personal interventions outside the workplace were not considered by the organisations, it is important to emphasise the power of such interventions and that they should be included in future intervention packages. For example, physical activity programmes have been among the few organisational interventions that show convincing effects on absenteeism in accord with our previous reviews, but physical activity could be encouraged more generally.


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The results suggest that employees in private organisations and NGOs report more perceived causes of stress and have fewer interventions in place to help employees manage stress compared with public sector organisations, notably National Health Service NHS employers. We have listed potential organisational, individual and personal interventions that were used and found to be helpful. These might be tested as correlates of better workforce health and well-being and less work stress. A limitation of the study was related to the sample characteristics.

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Although there were variations, especially with regard to type, size and location of the organisations involved, the sample consisted of only 12 organisations in total. A larger number of organisations would have provided us with more variety of occupations and organisation size and location, which would have given a more complete picture concerning the causes of stress and interventions between sectors.

Our study is exploratory, and although these are perceived causes, the findings should not be understood in terms of epidemiological causal relationships, but rather as important ways in which workers think about and manage work stress, providing clues as to how interventions might be developed, tested and located in these work settings. Qualitative studies offer new insights and provide the in-depth and experience-near perspectives of participants, rather than an overtheorised and superficial analysis.

The findings will contribute to future in-depth work including more varied samples, as well as survey research to test for interventions that correlate with organisational measures of health and well-being.

Future work should also consider how to improve management practices, as these seemed to have the most important influence on reducing work stress. More research is needed to further explore the differences between private, public and NGO sectors and different job types such as education and healthcare to examine whether they respond to the same or different intervention techniques.

Finally, research needs to take into account compositional effects including the demographic characteristics of samples, and the cost effectiveness of interventions. What would you say are the best individual and organisational stress management interventions or practices for yourself and for other employees?

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Have you had any experience of managing someone who has been off sick because of stress? What would you say are the best individual and organisational interventions or practices for managing employee return to work after sickness leave? Is there a policy at your place of work for managing stress at work e. Is there a policy at your place of work for managing return to work after sickness absence? What would you say are the best individual and organisational policies for managing employee stress? What would you say are the best individual and organisational policies for managing employee return to work after sickness absence?

Declaration of interest None. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. BJPsych Bull. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Correspondence to Kamaldeep Bhui ku. Received Feb 4; Accepted Feb This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Aims and method To identify causes of stress at work as well as individual, organisational and personal interventions used by employees to manage stress in public, private and non-governmental organizations NGOs.

Results Participants reported adverse working conditions and management practices as common causes of work stress.

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Clinical implications Interventions should improve management practices as well as promoting personal interventions outside of the work setting. Method Participants The sample used in this study was purposive e. Procedure and topic guide The topic guide was piloted on six employees who had experienced work stress. Analysis The interviews were transcribed verbatim, excluding any potentially identifying information.

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Results Data were organised by three higher themes that captured the aims of the study: perceived causes of stress at work individual and organisational stress management interventions and their perceived effectiveness personal interventions to manage stress at work. Causes of stress at work The narrative data on participants' understanding of factors that may cause stress at work suggested working conditions, management practices, nature of job, life events and financial factors Table 1. Table 1 Causes of stress at work. Open in a separate window. NGO, non-governmental organisation.

Individual and organisational stress management interventions Participants were asked about any interventions at their workplace for managing stress. Table 2 Individual and organisational stress management interventions. Personal interventions to manage work stress Participants were asked general questions about their personal strategies to manage work stress.


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  7. Table 3 Effective personal interventions to manage stress at work total number of respondents: Discussion A mixture of personal, organisational and individual interventions were reported in our study, but these are not often captured together, with emphasis often being given to workplace changes or separate public health approaches to lifestyle and physical activity. Interventions used by employees to manage stress at work: perceived effectiveness Participants in the present study tended to report mainly the presence of primary and secondary organisational interventions as opposed to individual interventions at their workplace.

    Strengths and limitations The results suggest that employees in private organisations and NGOs report more perceived causes of stress and have fewer interventions in place to help employees manage stress compared with public sector organisations, notably National Health Service NHS employers.

    Appendix Topic guide General questions to start the interview 1. Footnotes Declaration of interest None. References 1. HSE, CBI, Chandola T. Stress at Work. British Academy Policy Centre, Symptoms of mental and physical stress in different categories of municipal work. Scand J Work Envir Health ; 17 suppl 1 : 82—6. Psychosocial work environment and stress-related disorders, a systematic review. Occup Med ; 60 : — Cooper B.


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