Slovenia: EWCO comparative analytical report on Work-related Stress

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  • Published on: 22 November 2010



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Work-related stress is monitored in Slovenia to some extent but there is a lack of instruments which would monitor work-related stress at the national level continuously, thus providing an insight into the main trends. That is the reason why organisational outcomes as well as labour market and societal level outcomes can not be suitably estimated and therefore the issue itself cannot be properly addressed The groups of stressors in two sectoral studies do not overlap completely, which makes them less suitable for comparison.. Interventions aimed at stress management, as illustrated by the example of Terme Radenci Ltd. are producing good results.

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.).

In 2008, the Institute of Occupational, Traffic and Sports Medicine (Klinični inštitut za medicine dela, prometa in športa, KIMDPŠ) carried out a survey on the extent of mobbing in Slovenia. The sample was representative and included 1366 respondents, who were all of age. The questions referred mostly to the six months preceding the survey. The response rate was 60.19 % (823 respondents), who were employed during that period. The questionnaire used in this survey was a translated and adapted version of the Negative Acts Questionnaire, devised in the Norwegian centre for workplace mobbing. For each question the respondents could choose between five answers, ranging from “never” to “daily” (Likert scale). The interviews were carried out in the respondents’ homes.

In the 2007 Labour Force Survey, which is aimed to collect data on the situation and changes on the Slovenian labour market and is carried out by the Statistical Office of Slovenia (Statistični Urad Republike Slovenije, SURS) a few questions were added with the purpose of collecting data on work-related injuries and occupational diseases. Among them there were some questions related to work-related stress, too. These additional questions were answered by all selected respondents who during the week before the interview worked at least one hour for pay, profit or family gain as well as those who were inactive but stopped working in the last 12 months.

There is a national survey in the education sector on work-related stress in Slovenia. Based on an ETUCE (Europen Trade Union Committee for Education) survey on teachers’ work-related stress, Education, Science and Culture Trade Union of Slovenia (Sindikat vzgoje, izobraževanja, znanosti in culture Slovenije, SVIZ) carried out a research project on teachers’ work-related stress in 2008 and published the results of the project in 2009. The main aim of the project was to assess the actual level of stress among teachers as well as to find out the causes and consequences of teachers’ work-related stress. The data was collected by means of a questionnaire sent to school and pre-school teachers and the response was 45% and 41% respectively (900 school teachers and 776 pre-school teachers returned the questionnaire). The sample was chosen randomly from the Ministry of Education and Sport (Ministrstvo za šolstvo in šport, MŠŠ) data base and is representative regarding the statistical regions. Work related stress in this survey is defined as stress which is a consequence of specifics of work situation that are not optimal.

Another source of information on work-related stress is the above mentioned ETUCE survey itself, which included all the EU, EFTA and candidate countries. The data for this survey was collected by means of a questionnaire sent to all ETUCE member organisations and associated member organisations in March 2007. The purpose of the questionnaire was to gather useful information from the respondents on the identification of stressors and stress indicators in teachers’ work in primary, secondary and vocational education sectors. The data for Slovenia relate only to primary education sector. In addition, the questionnaire was intended to measure the level of implementation of the European Framework Directive 89/391/EEC on health and safety at work, in particular, to gather information on the risk assessment systems on work-related stress and on how this system is put to use in schools. Stress in this survey is defined as a state which is accompanied by physical, psychological or social complaints or dysfunctions and which results from individuals being unable to bridge a gap with the requirements or expectations placed on them. Stress is not a disease but prolonged exposure to it may reduce effectiveness at work and may cause ill health.

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).

The 2008 survey on mobbing, which was carried out by the Institute of Occupational, Traffic and Sports Medicine defines mobbing as a situation where one or several individuals persistently ovear a period of time perceive themselves to be on the receiving end of negative actions from one or several persons, in a situation where the target of bullying has difficulty in defending him or herself against these actions. This survey states that 10.4 % of all respondents were at least occasionally exposed to mobbing in their workplace, 1.5 % were subject to mobbing more often – on a daily basis or several times a week. Almost twice as many respondents reported they had witnessed mobbing in their workplace: 18.8 %, which according to the survey is an indication that mobbing is more widespread in Slovenia than might be inferred from the number of respondents who declared themselves to be victims of mobbing. In the five years prior to this survey 19.4 % of respondents experienced mobbing in their workplace. Women are more often exposed to mobbing in comparison to men: among the victims of mobbing in the six months prior to the survey there were 62.8 % of women and 37.2% of men.

In the 2007 Labour Force Survey the respondents were asked whether or not they had been subject to mental pressure such as exposure to time pressure or overload of work and harassment or bullying.at the workplace. 40% of persons in employment stated that they were subject to mental pressures: 80% of them were exposed to time pressure or overload of work and almost 20 % were exposed to harassment or bullying. Only few respondents said that they were exposed to violence or threat of violence.

The 2008 Education, Science and Culture Trade Union of Slovenia survey stated that a large majority of Slovene teachers (84 %) perceived their profession as very or exceedingly stressful. More that half of them perceive the teaching profession as very stressful and 29.5 % perceive it as exceedingly stressful. Only 15.5 % of respondents believe their profession is moderately stressful and only 0.6% claim the teaching profession is not stressful at all.

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.

In the ETUCE survey the unions were asked to give sixteen stress factors a score between one (smallest impact) and five (biggest impact). The Slovene primary education sector teachers ranked workload/working intensity as one of the most important stressors (score four).

Table 1: Ranking of stressors in ETUCE survey
Ranking of stressors as assessed by teacher unions (Slovene primary education sector teachers)

Ranking of stressors

Average score

1. Workload / working intensity

4

2. Role overload

4

3. Increased class size per teacher

4

4. Unacceptable pupils behaviour

4

5. Bad school management /lack of support from management

3

6. Insufficient funding for the school /lack of resources

2

7. Bad social climate / atmosphere in the school

4

8. Low social status of teachers

4

9. Self-defeating beliefs

2

10. Fear of conflict.

4

11. Lack of parental support

3

12. Poor pay

3

13. Evaluation apprehension

4

14. Lack of social support from colleagues

4

15. Lack of job stability and security

3

16. Lack of career development

2

Source: Report on the ETUCE Survey on Teachers’ Work-Related Stress

In the 2008 Education, Science and Culture Trade Union of Slovenia (SVIZ) survey, which included both primary and secondary education sector teachers, workload ranked fourth out of seven groups of stressors.

Table 2: Ranking of stressors in SVIZ survey
Ranking of stressors by Slovene primary and secondary education sector teachers in SVIZ survey

Stress factor

Average score

1. Relationships among employees

3.0

2. Lack of parental support

3.4

3. Additional workload

3.2

4. Teaching

2.7

5. Unacceptable pupils’ behaviour

3.4

6. Bad school management

3

7. Harassment

3.2

Source: 2008 SVIZ Survey on Teachers’ Work-Related Stress

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.

For primary education sector role overload and unacceptable pupils behaviour were ranked as high as quantitative demands (score four). Lack of parental support followed closely (score three).

In the SVIZ survey dealing with unacceptable behaviour of pupils ranked second out seven.

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.

Several stressors in the ETUCE survey related to relations at work, e.g.: bad school management/lack of support, bad social climate/atmosphere in the school and lack of social support from colleagues. On average these stressors were ranked very high (score 3.66).

In the SVIZ survey the teachers the above group of stressors was ranked lower (sixth out of seven) than in the ETUCE survey.

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.

Evaluation apprehension was identified as one of the most important stressors (score four) in the ETUCE survey, while lack of career development was ranked rather low (score two).

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

In the SVIZ survey this group of stress factors was ranked fifth out seven.

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.

NA

Conflicts of value and organisational justice.

Fear of conflict was ranked very high by Slovenian primary education sector (score 4) and was thus identified as one of the stressors with a highest impact.

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

Lack of job stability and security was ranked rather high (score 3) and did not feature among the most important stress factors.

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.

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);

The Institute of occupational, traffic and sports medicine published a manual for health and safety officers in December 2009 in which a variety individual outcomes of work-related stress was pointed to. As regards emotional stability of individuals, work-related stress may result in post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, fear, aggression, smoking, eating disorders, insomnia, burnout, compulsive behaviour, even psychosis. As regards physical illnesses, the most common outcomes of work-related stress include cardiovascular diseases (raised blood pressure, angina pectoris, heart attack and stroke), musculoskeletal disorders and hormone disorders.

The 2008 SVIZ survey pointed to some mental health issues with teachers who experienced work-related stress reported. These issues involved problems with concentration, relative loss of interest in everyday activities and burnout. According to the results, 60% of teachers experienced a low level of burnout, 30% experienced a medium level and 10 % of teachers were reported to have experienced a high level of burnout. There was no gender difference in the level of burnout. There was, though, a difference in the perception of mental health between male and female teachers. Women reported more psychological problems than men, while there were no differences between primary and secondary education sectors.

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

The ETUCE survey identified the following sixteen stressors (stress factors), which cover different aspects of a teacher’s professional life: workload, role overload, increased class size per teacher, unacceptable pupils behaviour, bad school management, lack of resources, bad social climate in the school, low social status of teachers, self-defeating beliefs, fear of conflict, lack of parental support, poor pay, evaluation apprehension, lack of social support from colleagues, lack of job stability and security and last, lack of career development.

The 2008 SVIZ survey in the education sector identified seven groups of stressors acknowledged by teachers, comprising lack of parental support, unacceptable pupils behaviour, mobbing, workload, bad school management, bad social climate in the school and situations related to teaching a syllabus (assessment, lack of resources).

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);

The Manual for health and safety officers published by the Institute of occupational, traffic and sports medicine emphasized the following organisational outcomes or work-related stress: lower income due to lower level of work-efficiency of those involved on the one hand and to a bad social climate on the other; rise in the level of absenteeism ; larger turnover; loss of capable and talented employees (the so-called “cream-off effect); training of new employees; negative public image. There are no concrete data measuring these outcomes.

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.

Societal or Labour Market level outcomes, according to the Institute of occupational, traffic and sports medicine, certainly includes a negative impact on work efficiency which is also reflected in lower BDP.

Q4 Interventions 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.

In 2002, Ministry of labour, family and social affairs (Ministrstvo za delo, družino in socialne zadeve, MDDSZ) published a booklet on work-related stress . The booklet provides information on how to recognize the symptoms of stress, reactions to stress, risk assessment, advice what to do when affected by work related stress and it also included a short questionnaire which is meant to help the users recognize and avoid the negative consequences of stress.

The Institute of Occupational, Traffic and Sports Medicine has launched a programme “Čili za delo” (details about it are available at www.cilizadelo.si). The main aim of the programme is to promote health at workplace and raise awareness of employees and employers with regard to this issue. The programme includes a whole module dedicated to work-related stress management skills. Taking into account the low level of health promotion practices in Slovenia and modest financial and human resources, the programme was initially divided into three phases. The first phase started in April 2005 and was focused on research and analysis. The Institute carried out a survey on a sample of 5,500 managers, probing their opinions on health and safety at work. Two thirds of the participating managers (1637) were prepared to implement health promotion programmes and the contacts with companies were established. The second phase involved devising of programme contents within the framework of a Phare project of permanent education. Seven educational modules were devised for the use of Health and safety at workplace promoters: analysis of employees’ health, prevention of injuries at work, ergonomic measures, prevention of impact exposure to chemical risk factors, organizational changes, workload management, prevention of the use of psychoactive substances in workplace and prevention and management of mobbing at workplace. Part of the project is also a concept of a network of health promotion, a manual for health promotion advisors and various didactic materials, which are not precisely described. The third phase of the project started in 2006. Until 2008 67 advisors from 53 companies participating in the health promotion programme implementation were trained.

The trained advisors transfer the acquired knowledge and skills to employees in companies. The project offers an opportunity to raise awareness of individual, employer’s and societal responsibility for health as well as to promote a healthier life style and changes beneficial for the health of employees. The expected long-term effects of the project, like lowering of costs related to work-related illnesses and injuries at work, will only be achieved in case of continuous and systematic implementation of health promotion activities. This is why the mission of this health promotion programme includes spreading the programme to other Slovenian companies, continuous improvement of the existing contents and improving of modules with regard to the latest developments in this field.

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?

Organisations involved in prevention or management of work-related stress include the following: Ministry of labour, family and social affairs (Ministrstvo za delo, družino in socialne zadeve, MDDSZ), the Institute of Occupational Traffic and Sports Medicine and the Institute of Public Health of the Republic of Slovenia (Inštitut za varovanje zdravja RS, IVZ).

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?

The 2002 Ministry of labour, family and social affairs (Ministrstvo za delo, družino in socialne zadeve, MDDSZ) booklet on work-related stress encompasses interventions which are mostly devised to be implemented at the primary and secondary level, since they focus primarily on the recognition of stress factors and signs of stress.

The Institute of Occupational, Traffic and Sports Medicine’s programme “Čili za delo” address the issue more comprehensively and deals with the action on causes as well as with the action on individuals and the consequences of stress.

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.

There are no common instruments to measure stress at organisational level in use.

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.

An example of good practice is Terme Radenci Ltd., a spa resort company which received the Ministry of labour, family and social affairs award for good practice in heath and safety at work in 2008. Their project was named “Healthy, satisfied and motivated co-worker – the most important company asset”. It was not focused solely on the issue of work-related stress but nevertheless, the management’s approach to health and safety issues included a number of workshops addressing this issue, like e.g. stress prevention measures, prevention of addiction to psychoactive substances and gambling. Another project in the company was aimed at improving the health and well-being of employees. Its aim was to reduce absenteeism and it was carried out in the form of workshops and discussions with employees who were absent from work for a longer period of time. The participants were acquainted with approaches to overcoming anxieties caused by changes in the quality of life. Some employees were directed to seek help outside the company and some were given help in organising their workplace, better understanding with the members of their working team or were transferred to other workplaces. The results showed a 64% reduction in the level of absenteeism for the participants of these workshops.

Terme Radenci Ltd. Also joined the “Family friendly company” programme, which is aimed at more efficient reconciliation of work and family life.

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.

On 23 and 24 April 2009, the Institute of Occupational, Traffic and Sports Medicine organized an international roundtable and seminar titled Company Restructuring and Employee Health. Both events took place as part of the international HIRES Plus project, which the Institute had been participating with since the end of 2008 and which includes eleven other European countries. Its participants sought to provide answers to issues connected with employee health in restructuring processes. Some of the conclusions of the seminar pointed to the too often ignored dimension of health in restructuring processes and stated that scholarly and empirical evidence showed higher rates of illness and mortality and reduced employability of people exposed to restructuring. It was also emphasized that the negative influences affect not only those that lose their jobs after the company situation changes, but also those that stay with the company. One also should not ignore the employees’ families and communities that are indirectly affected by these processes. Thus, it was concluded, from the very beginning, restructuring must include the dimension of health, which demands appropriate operating guidelines, innovative approaches, tools, methods, and exchange of expertise and experience between the relevant stakeholders, which is also one of the main goals of those participating in HIRES Plus.

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 issue of work-related stress is given some importance on the national level but the effects of stress are mostly just identified and the reasons for work-related stress seem to be given less attention than might, perhaps, be necessary in order to reduce stress in the work-place. Although stress is often mentioned as an important cause of absenteeism, the data available do not specify to what extent particular illnesses might be caused by work-related stress. The encouraging news is that the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs has recognized the importance of this issue and has allocated 4 million EUR for researching stress and in two years or so there will be much more data on research on work-related stress in Slovenia.

Referencec:

  • Tržan, Metka. 2002. Stres na delovnem mestu: dobro se počutim, delo mi je v veselje!. Ljubljana: Ministry of labour, family and social affairs.

  • Udrih Lazar, Tanja (ed.). 2009. Preprečevanje in obvladovanje trpinčenja na delovnem mestu. Ljuljbana. The Institute of Occupational, Traffic and Sports Medicine.

Mirko Mrcela, OHRC

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