Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace

Prevention

Preventing Job Stress

There are many prevention methods that can help reduce job stress. Organizational change can reduce stress levels of employees and increase productivity at the same time. Personal changes can also be made by workers to reduce individual stress levels. The combination of organizational change and individual stress management is often the most useful approach for preventing and addressing stress at work.

Primary Prevention

Primary prevention methods are proactive actions taken by an organization that aim to prevent illness among individuals by reducing stress exposure. This is the best way to reduce job stress and the illnesses that accompany stress and should be top priority.

Primary prevention strategies can be employed on a number of levels. Legislation and regulation are effective strategies for changing policies that affect whole populations.  Examples in work site settings include workplace ergonomic policies, minimum staffing levels for nurses, bans on mandatory overtime, and paid family leave laws. In unionized workplaces, collective bargaining can also be very effective for implementing stress reduction strategies. In non-unionized settings, employee groups and management working together can address workplace stressors through quality improvement teams and other similar participatory interventions.

Examples of Primary Prevention:

  • Organizational Strategies:
    • Clearly defining workers' roles and responsibilities
    • Workload matches workers' capabilities and resources
    • Job redesign
    • Opportunities for workers to participate in decisions and actions affecting their jobs
    • Work schedules are compatible with demands/ responsibilities outside the job
    • Improving ergonomics and work/environmental design
    • Improving communications between workers and managers
    • Establish career ladders
    • Commitment to ongoing team building and diversity initiatives
    • Equitable pay structures and compensation
  • Individual Strategies:
    • Lifestyle management
    • Participation in workplace quality improvement

Secondary Prevention

Secondary interventions aim to modify an individual's response to stressors. They often include providing training and education to employees on stress management to assist employees in coping with residual stress in the environment and reducing its harmful effects.

Examples of Secondary Prevention:

  • Organizational Strategies:
    • Team building
    • Diversity programs
    • Worker education and training
    • Access to fitness facilities/walking paths
  • Individual Strategies:
    • Good nutrition
    • Physical activity
    • Meditation
    • Social/emotional outlets
    • Assertiveness training

Tertiary Prevention

Tertiary interventions are reactive, and aim to minimize the effects of stress-related problems once they have already occurred. Tertiary Interventions do not prevent job stress problems from occurring. These tactics help employees recover from serious ill health resulting from stress.
Examples of Tertiary Intervention: