University of Twente Student Theses


Perceptions of Work Stress among Employees: A Qualitative Study

Thomas, Laura (2017) Perceptions of Work Stress among Employees: A Qualitative Study.

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Abstract:In times of a fast- paced society, especially employees are confronted with difficult conditions like overwork, job insecurity or low levels of job satisfaction. Because of that, employees experience more and more work stress. Stress in which there is an imbalance between perceived demands and the available resources to cope with them is called distress. There is many existing literature providing models and explanations for the potential sources of distress at work, but there is only little research focussing on the potential positive effects of work stress, the so- called eustress. Eustress can be described as a positive and constructive stress response leading to growth, development and mastery. In order to get a better grasp of what eustress and distress actually mean to employees, the research questions 1) Under which circumstances do employee perceive eustress? 2) How do employees perceive eustress? 3) Under which circumstances do employees perceive distress? 4) How do employees perceive distress? have been formulated. Semi- structured interviews were conducted on ten participants with a mean age of 36.3 years (SD=12.08) working in middle to higher education paid- jobs. Based on these interviews, a coding scheme was generated while making continuous adjustments in both an inductive and deductive approach containing the main topics experiences with eustress, experiences with distress, work experience and demographics. The coding scheme was applied to all semi- structured interviews. The results on distress showed that workload, work pressure and time were the most important perceptions contributing to distress. Further, some participants reported a chain reaction, where one colleague perceives distress and transfers this distress to others. Regarding eustress, the most important circumstances were accomplishment of tasks and appreciation from customers or patients. When it comes to the experience of eustress and distress, participants reported the same physical arousal, yet more negative reactions to distress such as a lack of concentration or inner restlessness. Reactions to eustress were described from a more positive perspective, like being more in focus or feeling more vital, vigorous and productive. In conclusion, a circumstance leading to eustress or distress cannot be seen as a single cause, but must rather be viewed in relation to other circumstances. Although the same physical arousal to both kinds of stress as well as a lack of self- care were reported, the behavioural and cognitive responses to eustress were described in more positive terms than those of distress. Further research could focus on intensive longitudinal methods combined with physical measurements to gain data over a longer period in order to get a deeper understanding of eustress and distress.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
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