Bleak picture of work stress acc to new research

According to new research based on the figures from the Department for Work and Pensions in the UK, less than a fifth of employers provide support for stressed employees at work.

  • Short-term stress-related absences topped 42,000 in the three months to December last year.
  • Of the 593,930 people claiming the Employment and Support Allowance, 234,670 (39%) are doing so for mental and behavioural disorders.

Another survey showed that:

  • stress is the second biggest cause of short term absences
  • stress is one of the leading cause of all long-term absences for non-manual workers

While it is important to develop adequate interventions to support employees who are absent due to stress, and help them to come back to the workplace, it is also important to look into ways of counteracting and preventing stress from building up in the first place.

Music listening is by no means a ‘magic pill’, or a perfect solution to all stress-problems in organisation. Yet, it is worth noting the health and well-being related behaviours at work that many employees engage in, through listening to music. 

Music can contribute to relaxation: through channeling stress and negative emotions, and through reminding listeners of time and space outside of work. Many participants in my studies felt that music in the office provided them with a break from work and created space for reflection. Interestingly, participants described how increased relaxation could improve their focus and aid creative thinking. Being able to manage distractions was associated with a sense of relaxation.

However, having to listen to imposed music and getting distracted was perceived as annoying and stressful. So not only can music enhance relaxation, but it can actually also generate stress – if it is imposed on employees. Therefore, perceived control over the music is particularly important – perhaps the most important aspect – if music is to enhance relaxation at work. It would be a shame if music ended up causing stress, given the high levels of stress that already exist in many workplaces. Especially when music can do the opposite.

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