Stress in the Workplace

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For all the difficulties in describing it, there could still be something going wrong in the workplace. But the of increased stress bear little scrutiny. The first of these is that working longer hours causes stress. But hours worked have been in long-term decline-in the mid-19th century the average was 60 hours a week; they have also dropped . Long hours mostly affect British men: four out of five of those working 48 hours or more per week are male. Yet between 1997 and 2002, the of men doing this dropped from 35% to 30.7%, according to the labour-force survey. A second theory holds that innovations in and increased surveillance of workers have made life more . Derek Sach, president of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says that “stress and have undoubtedly increased as the internet and mobile phones have quickened the pace of life in the workplace”. That might be plausible if it had not been heard before. In the 1870s a doctor called George Beard identified a new group of neurotic disorders caused by the pressures of advanced . “Neurasthenia” was, he said, caused by a speeding up of life due to the railway, the telegraph and the press that combined to sap reserves of “nerve force”. Mr Wessely thinks that the causes of now neurasthenia resemble those blamed for stress.
What has changed is the of workers to say they are stressed. That's self-reinforcing: information on the prevalence of stress is collected through surveys. But the more people are asked whether they are stressed, the more willing they are (see chart) to say yes. Philip Hodson, of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, reckons this is part of a process: as people get richer, their sense of to happiness increases and their threshold for worry often becomes lower. Stress, unlike, say, , also has few connotations, making it to acknowledge. “Stress can almost become a badge of honour,” says Mr Teasdale.
(Never a dull moment (Aug 26, 2004), The Economist )