PCs to blame for rise in stressed out workers

October 2, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers interested in stress at work have been concerned at the increased intensity of work in the EU over the past 20 years. A more detailed breakdown has shown that this increase between 1995 and 2005 occurred in all countries with only one exception, the UK. Our early adoption of computers may be the key.

Dr Brendan Burchell, a lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge, published research last year which showed that since the mid 1990s there has been a decline in British employees’ perception of how intensely they work. After careful analysis he now believes that the spike in work in the UK was due to our early of pcs. Our growing understanding of technology has transformed it from a hindrance to a help in the workplace.

He will be speaking about his findings in October at this year’s Cambridge Festival of Ideas, a celebration of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

“Britons were five to ten years ahead of other countries in Europe in using computers,” says Dr Burchell. “At that point computers were less reliable and less user-friendly. People were given them in their workplace, but were not prepared for using them.”

He says managers often provided inappropriate systems for the jobs that needed to be done which led to an increase in people’s workloads and much frustration.

“Clerical workers were given word processors to do things they could more easily do on a typewriter. There was no infrastructure and no-one to turn to if things went wrong. European countries avoided this stage as they adopted computers later once IT had stabilised and there were common operating systems,” he says. He cites the advent of Windows 95 as a turning point.

Dr Burchell based his findings on an analysis of the European Working Conditions Survey. A large survey across all member states, it has asked people two questions in the same form every five years since 1990: what proportion of the time do you work at high speed? And what proportion of the time do you work to tight deadlines?

When he started looking at the data in the late 1990s it showed an increase in work intensity across Europe, which was seen by academics as being inevitable. The UK experienced a bigger rise than any other EU country. However, as he continued to look at the data over the next decade he noticed a shift in patterns. While work intensity was rising in other European countries, it was falling in the UK.

Dr Burchell believes that intensity has in part fallen because the general population, including managers, has developed a good understanding of technology through better ICT education in schools.

His interest in is part of his ongoing research on the effects of labour market experiences on psychological well-being.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Older drivers adapt their thinking to improve road hazard detection

September 26, 2017
A recent study finds that older drivers showed adaptive responses according to the amount of traffic in a driving scene when identifying road hazards. Although younger drivers are faster and more accurate at identifying driving ...

80 percent of activity tracker users stick with the devices for at least six months

September 26, 2017
Use of activity trackers, such as wearable devices and smartphone apps, is on the rise, and a new study shows that 80 percent of users stuck with the device for at least six months. Though the gadgets may help motivate users ...

Study finds being in a good mood for your flu jab boosts its effectiveness

September 25, 2017
New research by a team of health experts at the University of Nottingham has found evidence that being in a positive mood on the day of your flu jab can increase its protective effect.

New tool demonstrates high cost of lack of sleep in the workplace

September 25, 2017
Sleep disorders and sleep deficiency are hidden costs that affect employers across America. Seventy percent of Americans admit that they routinely get insufficient sleep, and 30 percent of U.S. workers and 44 percent of night ...

Maternal diet could affect kids' brain reward circuitry

September 25, 2017
Researchers in France found that rats who ate a junk food diet during pregnancy had heavier pups that strongly preferred the taste of fat straight after weaning. While a balanced diet in childhood seemed to reduce the pups' ...

Exercise can make cells healthier, promoting longer life, study finds

September 22, 2017
Whether it's running, walking, cycling, swimming or rowing, it's been well-known since ancient times that doing some form of aerobic exercise is essential to good health and well-being. You can lose weight, sleep better, ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rsklyar
not rated yet Oct 03, 2011
Plagiarism in a "family" style
How young ambitious capoes and soldiers from Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) under supervision of a decrepit american don-godfather from Northwestern University are successfully completed their sequential plagiaristic enterprise: http://issuu.com/...saivaldi

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.