GREECE: EWCO comparative analytical report on Work-related Stress

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Health and well-being at work,
  • Published on: 22 November 2010



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Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

There are no instruments in place to monitor work-related stress throughout the years. There is only one ad-hoc nationwide survey conducted by the National Statistical Service of Greece, in 2007. Nor is work-related stress directly included in the list of occupational illnesses recognised by Greek legislation. However, after the adoption of the European Framework Agreement on work-related stress in Article 7 of the EGSSE for the years 2008 and 2009, more interest on the subject is expected.

Q1 Monitoring work-related stress at the national level

Are there any instruments in place to monitor work-related stress at the national level, for example, national surveys, sectoral studies, epidemiological studies, action research, or other research programmes? Please describe the main sources of information available on work-related stress in your country (coverage, methodology, definitions used, etc.).

The following was found:

  • National Statistical Service of Greece (Εθνική Στατιστική Υπηρεσία Ελλάδας, ESYE), “Special Survey on Workplace Accidents and Work-related Health Problems” (in Greek), conducted in the second quarter of 2007 using the questionnaire method on a sample of 49,299 people aged 15 years and older according to the methodology foreseen by the Regulation (EC) No. 341/2006 of the European Commission (GR0901019I).

  • “Working Conditions in Greece” by the company V-Project Research Consulting (VPRC). It is a quantitative survey commissioned by the Greek General Confederation of Labour (Γενική Συνομοσπονδία Εργατών Ελλάδας, GSEE) and was conducted in the period from 14 June to 10 July 2008. A method of individual face-to-face interviews was implemented, using a structured questionnaire, based on a sample of 1,300 employed and unemployed people aged over 18 years.

  • Regarding the banking sector, two studies were found:

“Banking Sector Staff in Greece: Pay and Working Conditions, Role and Prospects”, B. N. Georgakopoulou (scientific responsible), Labour Institute of the Hellenic Federation of Bank Employee Unions (INE/OTOE), 2001 (in Greek).

“Individual Goal Setting and Work-related Stress – Effects on Labour Relations”, Labour Relations and Agreements Secretariat of OTOE (Γραμματεία Εργασιακών Σχέσεων και Συμβάσεων ΟΤΟΕ, GESS), November 2008 (in Greek).

Also, a report: “National Report of the COMMUNICATE programme”, OTOE, April 2007 .

Of interest are also the press releases of GESS: “Overview of the System of Pay in the Banks” and “Evaluation and Performance Systems” (in Greek).

In addition, through the library of the Hellenic Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (Ελληνικό Ινστιτούτο Υγιεινής και Ασφάλειας της Εργασίας, ELINYAE) following research papers were found:

  • E. G. Velonakis & E. Lambropoulou, “Sources and Manifestations of Stress in Greek Workers,” journal New Health, Vol. 24, April-May-June 1999. The questionnaire method was used on a sample of 270 workers in a food enterprise, with a parallel analysis of medical data entered in the enterprise’s occupational medical record.

  • D. Boussinakis & G. Halkos, “Effect of Stress and Satisfaction in the Operation of Enterprises,” journal Industrial Relations Review, Vol. 42, April-May-June 2006. Survey using stratified sampling on a sample of 425 people working either in the private or in the public sector. All information was collected by means of personal interviews.

Also, a doctoral thesis:

  • E. Makri, “Socio-psychological Processes and their Impacts in a Merger Context,” doctoral thesis, Panteion University of Social and Political Science, School of Psychology, Athens 2007.

A very interesting article (in Greek) was also found, written by Ms. N. Christidi in the journal Diagnosis, Vol. 144, May-June 2009 and referring to work-related stress in the health sector. The publication gives the findings of research announced at the 17th International Conference on Health Promoting Hospitals and Health Services. However, the proceedings and presentations made at the conference and referred to in the article have not been published, and thus the only available data come from the article.

2. Provide, if available, data on the overall level of work-related stress based on the identified sources. If possible, identify the main trends in this matter presenting data (e.g. for the last five years).

  • According to Velonakis and Lambropoulou (1999), 90% of workers reported that their work causes them stress. However, following an analysis of the questionnaire, it has emerged that around 67% of the respondents are suffering from stress that can be attributed to their work.

  • According to ESYE (2007):

Table 1: Main health problem caused or exacerbated by work, by occupation

Occupation

Problem of stress, depression or anxiety

Members of representative bodies, top administrative executives and directors in the public and private sector

9.5

Persons performing scientific, artistic and related occupations

19.6

Technologists, technical assistants and related occupations

10.2

Office employees and related occupations

8.4

People employed in provision of services and sales staff in shops and outdoor markets

4.9

Skilled farmers, stock breeders, foresters and fishers

1.3

Skilled technicians and persons performing related technical occupations

1.8

Operators in fixed industrial installations, machinery and equipment operators and fitters

2.8

Unskilled workers, manual labourers and small business owners

2.6

Did not report any occupation

20.5

Total

4.1

Notes 1. The data in the table are taken from a special sampling survey on accidents at work and work-related health problems, which was conducted during the second quarter of 2007 in parallel with the Labour Force Survey

2. The question about whether there had been health problems during the last 12 months was asked of people who were working at the time of the survey or who had worked in the past

3. The percentages in the table were calculated based on all the individuals who reported that they suffered during the last 12 months from a health problem caused or exacerbated by their work

4. In the event that during the last few months respondents had more than one health problem (caused or exacerbated by their work), they themselves stated which they considered to be the most important

Source: ESYE 2007 2nd quarter

Table 2: Main health problem caused or exacerbated by work, by sex and age
 

Problem of stress, depression or anxiety

Men

4.1

Women

4.0

Up to age 54

8.0

Age 55+

1.8

Total

4.1

Notes 1. The data in the table are taken from a special sampling survey on accidents at work and work-related health problems, which was conducted during the second quarter of 2007 in parallel with the Labour Force Survey

2. The question about whether there had been health problems during the last 12 months was asked of people who were working at the time of the survey or who had worked in the past

3. The percentages in the table were calculated based on all the individuals who reported that they suffered during the last 12 months from a health problem caused or exacerbated by their work

4. In the event that during the last few months respondents had more than one health problem (caused or exacerbated by their work), they themselves stated which they considered to be the most important

Source: ESYE 2007 2nd quarter

Table 3: Workers, by factor having an adverse effect on their health and by gender

Gender

Harassment or Intimidation

Violence or threat of violence

Heavy workload or time constraints

Experience no problems

Refused to answer

Total

0.7

0.6

13.0

82.7

2.9

Men

0.6

0.8

13.7

82.0

2.9

Women

0.9

0.4

11.9

83.9

2.9

Notes: 1. The data in the table are taken from a special sampling survey on accidents at work and work-related health problems, which was conducted during the second quarter of 2007 in parallel with the Labour Force Survey

2. The questions on whether there were factors in the workplace having a negative effect on health were asked to people who were working at the time of the survey

3. Respondents were invited to answer whether each factor was present in the workplace to such a degree as to affect their physical or mental health.

Source: ESYE 2007

  • According to the VPRC survey (2008), to the question “How often do you believe your work causes you stress?” 36% of the sample answered "often,” 26% “always,” 23% “sometimes,” 7% “almost never,” 6% “never” and 2% “don’t know/refuse to answer.”

Q2 Risk factors for work-related stress

Based on the main or most used monitoring instruments available (identified in Q1), please provide information on the following risk factors for stress.

Note: If available, please provide information on the main changes or trends in text. Any tables with figures illustrating those trends should be included in annex (if possible, breakdown the data by gender and/or other relevant variables).

Quantitative demands: workload, working hours, quantity and intensity of work.

According to ESYE (2007), more than one in ten workers (13.0%) has to deal with especially heavy workloads or time constraints to such a degree as to affect their physical or mental health. The respective percentage of men is higher by almost 2 percentage points in comparison to the respective percentage of women (13.7% and 11.9% respectively) - (see table 3).

The GESS study entitled “Individual Goal-setting and Work-related Stress” (2008) examines individual goal-setting schemes implemented in banks as stress factor. The study showed that individual goal-setting involves 2/3 of all bank staff. Individual goals, however, are judged by the staff to be arbitrary (42%), exhausting (28%) and unrealistic (27%).

Qualitative demands: these refer to emotional and cognitive demands at work and may include work-life balance issues, complexity of work, dealing with angry clients and suffering patients, feeling afraid, having to hide emotions, etc.

No large-scale research on the subject was found.

Relations at work which may include social support from colleagues or supervisor, management style and relationships with colleagues/managers/the organisation; violence and harassment at work.

According to ESYE (2007), 0.7% of workers have to deal with harassment or intimidation at workplace to such a degree as to affect their physical or mental health. The respective percentage of women is higher in comparison to the respective percentage of men (0.9% and 0.6% respectively) - (see table 3).

According to ESYE (2007), 0.6% of workers have to deal with violence or threat of violence at workplace to such a degree as to affect their physical or mental health. The respective percentage of men is twice as the respective percentage of women (0.8% and 0.4% respectively) - (see table 3).

Autonomy, decision latitude and room for manoeuvre: control over work, including control over pace of work and over job content and decision-making power; predictability of work, use and possibility to develop skills.

The GESS study entitled “Individual Goal-setting and Work-related Stress” (2008) showed that in 100% of the cases the union had no involvement in designing and implementing individual goal-setting schemes.

Individual and collective mechanisms for employees’ involvement, particularly in relation to organisational change and change management, including communication of change.

The GESS study entitled “Individual Goal-setting and Work-related Stress” (2008) showed that in 100% of the cases the union had no involvement in designing and implementing individual goal-setting schemes.

The perception of the role that the employee holds in the organisation and whether the employee is clear about what is expected of them in terms of their job; clarity of the management changes, i.e., how organisations manage and communicate change; motivation; over commitment and reward.

Relatable to this question is the doctoral thesis of E. Makri, “Socio-psychological Processes and their Impacts in a Merger Context”. According to the findings, workers in Merged Organisation A felt the same levels of work-related stress before and after the merger, possibly due to the more “formal” merger procedure implemented by the management. However, the workers in Merged Organisation B felt greater work-related stress after the merger, due to the “extreme” merger procedure, equivalent to an acquisition, which characterised the unification procedure, and in view of the uncertainty accompanying the upcoming changes in their work environment. Their colleagues in the Unmerged Organisation displayed respectively the highest index of work-related stress. The uncertainty prevailing inside the Unmerged Organisation in view of rumours of an upcoming merger or acquisition by another organisation may have contributed to the existence of the highest index of work-related stress for the workers in that organisation. The workers in all three Organisations, irrespective of the status of the pre-merger organisation to which they belonged, associated work-related stress with the job satisfaction they felt. The workers in Merged Organisation B associated their willingness to leave the merged organisation with the work-related stress they felt after the merger. Their colleagues in Merged Organisation A and the Unmerged Organisation associated their willingness to leave the organisation with other factors such as the commitment they felt to the organisation. In all three Organisations, positive aspects of the organisation’s culture. That is, the aspects of humanitarian culture, interpersonal relationships, achievement and self-realisation, since they are characterised by the active participation of workers in meeting the organisation’s goals in a creative manner, help workers to acquire new knowledge and strengthen their personal development by meeting their personal needs. In this way they constitute a factor with a catalytic negative effect on competitive attitudes and animosity among workers, by developing a climate of confidence among them, which in turn helps reduce any work-related stress they may feel. More specifically, for Merged Organisation A and the Unmerged Organisation, negative aspects of the organisation’s culture such as the aspects of reactionary culture, the power and competition characterised by total compliance and subjugation of the workers to the commands of the hierarchy and in particular the organisation’s top management, do not strengthen their participation in meeting the organisation’s goals and their own individual needs, but rather appear to increase the appearance of work-related stress among workers. Finally, for the Unmerged Organisation, a common factor in the aspects of the culture of reception, dependence, power, reactionary and conventional culture, appears to be the adoption of behaviours leading to compliance with the existing norms, through the reinforcement of a competitive attitude and a “winner/loser” mentality among the workers. On the basis of this thinking, they may blame each other for the conditions prevailing in the organisation, without being able to take initiatives easily. This factor may increase the work-related stress that they experience. Workers in both Merged Organisations associate work-related stress with the attitude they display to the experience of the merger, since in cases of reshuffling and mergers in particular, they are afraid of showing any type of “inability” to adapt to the new reality, in case they are branded as the ones who are “resistant to change,” thus placing their careers at risk.

Conflicts of value and organisational justice.

The study “Banking Sector Staff in Greece: Pay and Working Conditions, Role and Prospects” (2001) showed that an important factor having a negative effect on the job satisfaction of bank employees is that integrated staff management and development schemes are not implemented, nor are schemes to match skills to shortages and needs and design training. More specifically, 42% of the respondents stated that they were not at all satisfied by the evaluation and advancement criteria, and 33% stated that they were unhappy with them.

Precariousness of work (i.e. nature of the employment contract).

No research on the subject was found

If there are no surveys or large scale research programmes available, please provide information on how stress is measured/assessed in other sources: qualitative research data on stress risk assessment at company level or sectoral level, studies with a focus on specific occupations, etc.

Furthermore:

  • According to Velonakis and Lambropoulou (1999), workers believe the following to be the most important among the various causes of stress:

Table 4: Stress factors by gender (%)

Stress factors

Female

Male

Bad relations with other workers

24

19

Bad relations with supervisors

21

25

Simultaneously occupied with many tasks

15

20

Pace too fast

14

15

Work too difficult

10

8

Poor physical work environment

10

8

Lack of free time

1

0

Repetitive, monotonous work

4

4

Fear of dismissal

1

1

  • According to the publication by Ms. N. Christidi (2009), from a study of a sample of 345 workers in 6 public hospitals it emerged that work-related factors exerting a negative effect are poor ventilation, a cluttered workplace, dangerous working conditions, limited work space, noise and inappropriate temperature. Also, Christidi (2009) reports that, according to a field study at an Athens hospital, 73% of the nursing staff stated that they are exposed to some form of violent behaviour, usually verbal. As a result of this fact, levels of work-related stress are high, as reported by 70.1% of the nursing staff, and job satisfaction is low, as reported by 34.2% of the nursing staff. However, the main factors triggering the above-mentioned violent incidents are reported by 99% of nursing staff to be staff shortages and heavy workloads.

Q3 Work-related stress outcomes

Please provide information (including references to the sources or studies) on stress-related outcomes:

Individual outcomes (e.g. mental health illnesses, including depression and anxiety, and physical illnesses, such as cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), disabilities, fatigue and sleeping problems);

According to the study entitled “Individual goal-setting and Work-related Stress” (2008), the impacts of individual goal-setting – which is examined as a stress-producing factor – on executives’ quality of work and life are: authoritarianism/pressure on subordinates (33%), extended working hours with unpaid overtime (18%), psychosomatic illnesses (12%), job insecurity (9%), family problems (9%), advancement and career opportunities in the enterprise (9%), and discouragement (5%). The impacts of individual goal-setting on employees are: extended working hours with unpaid overtime (28%), authoritarianism/pressure on subordinates (17%), psychosomatic illnesses (14%), discouragement (13%), family problems (11%), job insecurity (5%), competition/poor relationships with colleagues (4%).

According to Velonakis and Lambropoulou (1999), stress indices for all employees reporting that they suffer from stress, were identified in the following order:

Table 5: Work-related stress outcomes (%)

Work-related stress outcomes

%

Difficulty sleeping

77

Anxiety, pervasive stress

75

Bad mood, worry

68

Chest tightness or pressure on back of neck or head

65

Less libido

48

Excessive consumption of food

46

Unwarranted fatigue

41

Increased smoking

37

Use of alcoholic beverages

27

Frequent urination

27

Poor appetite

21

Indigestion, elimination disorders

10

The social construction of stress by group of workers: can you provide references and main findings of research discussing this issue; factors acknowledged as stressful by some group of workers; groups which refer to stress or not to describe unsatisfactory situations

No research providing such information was found.

Organisational outcomes (effects that individual stress outcomes have on organisations, e.g. absence from work, job satisfaction, morale, level of commitment, productivity, and the impact of these outcomes on organisations’ costs, performance, or innovation capacity);

No research providing such information was found.

Labour Market or Societal level outcomes (the ‘costs’ to society of stress). This could include issues such as higher levels of unemployment and of recipients of incapacity benefits, costs to health and welfare systems, loss of productivity.

No research providing such information was found.

Q4 Interventiοns on work-related stress management

What relevant information is available about interventions on work-related stress management and their effectiveness?

Are any interventions in place to prevent or manage work-related stress? If so, what kind of interventions are they? Please describe them making reference to coverage, effectiveness, since when they are in place, etc.

Which organisations are promoting these interventions? E.g. at national level (health and safety authority, labour inspectorate, social partners, government), at sectoral or at company level?

Are the interventions devised to be implemented at the primary (action on causes) / secondary (action on individuals) or tertiary (action on the consequences of stress) stage?

Note: The following answer refers to questions 1, 2 and 3 altogether.

Work-related stress is not directly included in the list of occupational illnesses recognised by Greek legislation.

However:

  • Article 18 of the 2004-2005 National General Collective Agreement (Εθνική Γενική Συλλογική Σύμβαση Εργασίας, EGSSE) "Addressing sexual and moral harassment in workplaces” states that to prevent and combat moral harassment and sexual harassment in workplaces, the parties agree:

  • To study the alignment of domestic law with Community law with regard to the prohibition of sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • To specify the term “moral harassment” and possible cases in workplaces (GR0409102F).

  • In Article 7 of the EGSSE for the years 2008 and 2009, the two sides adopted the European Framework Agreement on work-related stress, which was concluded on 27 May 2004 by the ETUC, BusinessEurope, UEARME and CEEP (GR0805039I).

  • In 2006 an article was included in the cement industry’s sectoral agreement which stipulated that in order to prevent and combat moral harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace, the two sides agreed to study and specify the terms “moral and sexual harassment” and possible cases in workplaces, in accordance with Community law, the EGSSE and current Greek ethics and standards.

  • In 2007 the Hellenic Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (Ελληνικό Ινστιτούτο Υγιεινής και Ασφάλειας της Εργασίας, ELINYAE), under the aegis of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security/General Directorate for Working Conditions, issued an informative book entitled “Sources of Work-related Stress – the Mobbing Syndrome, the Burn-out Syndrome”, which is distributed free of charge.

  • There are cases of companies that implement CSR in order to adress work-related stress. For example, the Piraeus Bank Group (Τράπεζα Πειραιώς) in collaboration with Hellas Employee Assistance Programmes (Hellas EAP) provides a programme for support and active management of workers’ health and well-being, which involves the following:

  • Information/awareness and consultative support on issues of preventive medicine and good management of health and well-being, management of stress and symptoms associated with it, better management of time in personal and working life,

  • Traumatic event management, with the emphasis on prevention as well as support of workers in unforeseen crises, such as bank robberies, critical family and work-related events and critical health issues of the workers themselves and their families

  • Guidance and consultative support for workers on issues of career advancement, aimed at making maximum use of their skills and competences.

Are any common instruments to measure stress at organisational level being used, developed, tested or assessed? Please describe them, indicating since when they are in place.

No.

Please identify and describe up to three examples of good practice and their effectiveness in terms of stress management, with a special focus on the lessons learned. These can be at national, sectoral or organisational level.

No report on the effectiveness of practices addressing work-related stress were identified.

Are there any public discussions and/or interventions that address specifically the identification, prevention and management of stress due to organisational change and restructuring? If yes, please summarise them.

No.

Q5 Commentary

Please provide your own/your institution/centre view on work-related stress, referring to, for example, national debates about the topic or any other issue considered important from your national perspective which was not covered by this questionnaire.

The subject of work-related stress has recently gained the interest of the wider public, which was until now focused on the "traditional" occupational illnesses.

Sofia Lampousaki, Labour Institute of Greek General Confederation of Labour (INE/GSEE)

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