Mental stress

Mental stress


Mental stress is undeniably on the increase in workplaces across all sectors. The effects of the strain it leads to on those affected can be positive (e.g. motivational variety for learning progress), neutral or negative (e.g. stressful experiences or a deterioration in health). We refer to the latter as instances of "impairing mental stress". Alongside musculoskeletal diseases, stress is the most significant health issue at European companies.

Reasons for the increasing incidence of impairing mental stress include rising demands where the quantity and quality of work are concerned. Growing job uncertainty and a lack of or insufficient ability amongst employees to fulfil performance targets also play a role. The latter issue can be attributable to a lack of qualification or personal skills. Stress factors are counteracted by relief factors (so-called "resources"), with increases in impairing mental stress often the result of a simultaneous decrease in resources. One example of this phenomenon is work intensification as a consequence of the implementation of lean management processes. Resources take the form of individual, organizational and miscellaneous other factors suited to the counteraction or prevention of the consequences of stress. The following list provides typical examples of stress factors and corresponding resource

Stress factors (examples) Resources (examples)
Time pressure Freedom to act and make decisions
Work intensification Relief and support from colleagues and superiors, clear prioritization
Contact with difficult clients, emotional work Support from colleagues, training, restriction of client contact time
Unclear or rapidly changing organizational structures Clearly delegated responsibilities, continuous, targeted information
Competition amongst employees Loyalty and social support in the workplace
Bullying Social integration in the workplace
Lack of work resources (e.g. material, staffing or social resources) Adequate, fit-for-purpose workplace equipment, opportunities for employee participation in decision-making
Working location and duration (e.g. shift work) Physiologically and socially tolerable working times (e.g. flexitime)
Lack of representation Transparent, coordinated representation structures
Pressure to gain further qualifications Opportunity to gain further qualifications
Violence in the workplace (e.g. attacks by colleagues) Protection from attack, company support further to attack
Unclear allocation of duties Clear allocation of duties, clearly delineated areas of responsibility


Hannah Huxholl
Safety and Health Department
Work-related health hazards
Tel.: +49 30 13001-4587