Workplace Stress and Work-Life Imbalance

Subject: Management
Pages: 10
Words: 7345
Reading time:
30 min
Study level: PhD

Introduction

Workplace stress is a primary concern for many organizations because it affects an employee’s ability to reach high levels of performance (Beehr, 2014). For example, Beehr (2014) analyzed the relationship between employee performance and stress presented in the earlier theories and concluded that stress negatively influences the level of performance. Occupational stress is a common attribute of many workspace processes including occupational functions executed by members of the workforce as well as interactions that take place within the work environment (Griffiths, Baxter, & Townley-Jones, 2011). For that reason, the problem of workplace stress is a primary causal agent of numerous organizational challenges, such as high employee turnover rates, absenteeism, and a wide range of mental and physical health issues among the staff (O’Keefe et al., 2014). According to O’Keefe et al. (2014), occupational stress can produce substantial dissatisfaction within a company among its workforce, which can reduce its productivity levels by up to 20%. In addition, an underlying cause of additional healthcare expenditures is work-related stress. White (2015) stated that prolonged exposure to occupational stressors accounts for $150 billion in other healthcare expenses annually.

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Employment in the ship-repair industry and regular exposure to occupational stressors are concomitant. For example, Kim et al. (2017) revealed that stressors such as physical environment, job demand, job insecurity, organizational system, unfair compensation, and workplace culture contributed to occupational stress in the shipbuilding and ship repair industry. The data concerning occupational stress served as a primary motivator for selecting the sector for investigation in the present study. To better understand the nature of the problem, it is necessary to identify some of the stress-related concerns endemic to the industry. The primary stress-induced issue regularly faced by individuals employed by ship repair companies is a lack of work-life balance (Cardoso et al., 2014). Managerial pressure on employees is another factor of concern in the industry (Kim et al., 2017). The reduction of the general well-being of the workers employed in the industry, as well as the deterioration of their health, are other significant effects of occupational stress (Cardoso et al., 2014). The present study addressed the impact of occupational stress, work-life imbalance, hazardous working conditions, and work overload on employees’ turnover, absenteeism, and performance.

The purpose of the investigation was to identify the techniques that project managers and production managers in the maritime industry use to minimize occupational stress, turnover rates, absenteeism, and reduced employee performance. I chose to focus on the ship-repair industry because it is a manufacturing sector of the economy that could provide a broader perspective on the issue under discussion. I used a qualitative exploratory case study as the research method to investigate phenomena of interest.

The study involved semi-structured interviews with eight respondents who were in managerial positions within the ship repair industry. The study method was chosen after formulating the research question and determining which method would best answer that question. O’Sullivan et al. (2008) noted that a qualitative research method is most appropriate when the researcher’s goal is to analyze personal experiences, behaviors, and social contexts. Since the purpose of the present study was to analyze participants’ personal experiences, behaviors, and social context, the qualitative research method was most appropriate for the present study. A qualitative approach required the use of interviews that utilized open-ended questions, which facilitated in-depth analytics and explorations of the issue of occupational stress.

To address the research questions, I recruited a small number of participants. Yin (2013) noted that the sample size is largely irrelevant for qualitative case studies because the focus is on emerging themes rather than their generalizability. A case study with a small sample empowers the analysis of the effects that the environment has on situations and behaviors (Yin, 2013). I interviewed eight individuals as the primary source of the information that was subsequently analyzed and interpreted to arrive at certain conclusions. The target population for the present research consisted of project managers and other individuals occupying managerial positions across several departments of the company.

I transcribed data collected through semi-structured interviews using Dragon Naturally Speaking 13.0 software to facilitate analysis and transcript review. After completing the interviews, NVivo 10TM software was applied to analyze the responses of the research participants. The principal tool to ensure the validity and reliability of the present study was methodological triangulation. The method of triangulation implies the use of different techniques to collect and analyze data (Balzacq, 2015). The data collection process included interviewing people, keeping a reflection diary, and the review of the organization’s documentation with a focus on turnover rates and culture. The use of a reflective diary is becoming more common among qualitative researchers because it enables them to elicit more meaning and insights (Bryman, 2015). The review of organizational documents is also beneficial because it helps in understanding the existing culture. Such materials as guidelines and policies are instrumental in analyzing people’s attitudes toward their working environment as the researcher can learn more about a company’s normally accepted practices. Qualitative research makes use of document review because of the ability to triangulate information from multiple sources (Bretschneider, Cirilli, Jones, Lynch, & Wilson, 2017).

To ensure ethical research practices during data collection, I abided by several ethical principles when conducting the interviews. Confidentiality was my top ethical priority; therefore, data were de-identified at transcription, and the transcripts will be locked in my home office, for 7 years, at which time, all data, both paper-based and technical-based will be destroyed. I adhered to the principle of confidentiality to ensure that the managers do not face any form of hardship as a consequence of their participation in the study. I also followed the ethical principle of informed consent as a guide. It is critical to inform respondents that their personal information will be kept anonymous during the processes of gathering, analyzing, and sharing the research data (Miller et al., 2012). Additionally, informed consent is used to guarantee the right of every participant to self-determination, which means that every person can choose whether he or she wants to become part of the project upon the revelation of all study details or whether he or she would rather not participate (Hennick et al., 2011). To ensure that the participants were capable of issuing informed consent, I briefed them on the details of the study. In addition, all managers who volunteered to take part in the research received a notification about their right to abstain from participation and withdraw their agreement at any stage. I achieved voluntary participation without exercising undue influence on the members of the sample.

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Beneficence was another ethical consideration that involved the formulation of unbiased and dignified questions in the interviews to ensure they did not violate any cultural or gender boundaries. I followed the principles of transparency when conducting the study. Explicitly, I assured the participants that the conduct of the interviews would be impartial, with the subsequent full disclosure of the results of the study relevant to their interest. Furthermore, I assured the managers that complete records of the study would be securely retained in a locked file cabinet in my home office for 7 years in case they were needed for audit purposes by the administrative authority for conflicts of interest.

The investigation had the research question: What techniques do production managers and project managers at a ship-repair company use to reduce work-related stress? The results were relevant to the formulated research question, and the following three themes emerged: (a) work environment and employees stress, (b) effects of employee stress, and (c) employee stress reduction strategies. The implications section of the chapter contains a further detailed interpretation of the derived themes. Despite the study results being consistent with previous findings, contributing to the issue of work-related stress on the whole and its peculiarities in the ship-repair industry, in particular, it has some limitations that are important to recognize. Flick (2014) opined that limitations are structural features of a research study that impose risks of drawing faulty conclusions or failing to reach research objectives. It is critical to identify constraints to reduce the risk of inappropriate conclusions.

One of the primary limitations was that the research participants were from the same ship repair company. The results could be different for other companies because work-related stress depends on managerial styles and work environments; conditions that differ from company to company. According to Yin (2013), one of the limitations of case studies is associated with contextual conditions. A focus on one case (for example, one organization) can be beneficial because researchers can implement an in-depth analysis of the existing phenomena and people’s perspectives. Alternatively, the themes that emerge in some companies may have no relevance in other organizations. Another limitation involves the necessity of manual data input, which could convey a researcher bias. Yin (2013) argued that the limitation associated with manual input is common to all types of designs and methods. To minimize the possibility of bias, an individual approach was followed, providing every respondent an opportunity to review the interview transcript, which was time-consuming.

This chapter begins with a brief review of the research problem, restates the purpose of the research, provides a short note on the research methodology, and recalls the study design. In addition, the chapter includes a brief description of the study results and significant limitations applicable to the present research. Further, it provides the research implications that include the themes identified in the process of data analysis as related to the research question. Also, the chapter addresses the factors that could have influenced the research findings and their interpretation and reveals the extent to which the findings address the problem of the study and their correlation with previous results. Moreover, the chapter contains presents recommendations for practice as well as recommendations for further research in the area. Finally, the chapter includes conclusions that briefly summarize the core points of the whole investigation.

Implications

The study focused on establishing the methods that managers used to solve the problems relating to occupational stress in their workplace. The primary interest was in answering the overarching question: What techniques do production managers and project managers at a ship-repair company use to reduce work-related stress? The results of the present study indicated the presence of three themes from the data collected that would assist in answering the research question. The current section is used to discuss each of those topics and reflect on how they contributed to the objectives of the investigation. I will also connect the findings of the study to previous literature and explain how the research promotes the capacity of organizations to handle the challenge of occupational stress.

Three themes emerged from the analysis of data in the present study. They reflect the various effects of workplace stress and the solutions that the respondents themselves offered as possible. The first theme comprises the effects of the work environment on the levels of occupational stress experienced by the employees of the company. The research findings showed that the presence of workplace stress is a result of an adverse work environment. The production and project managers of the organization were almost unanimous in their responses that the existence of mental strain or lack thereof in the members of their workforce depended on the emotional and social experiences of working at the company.

The findings show that managers tend to focus on such areas as work conditions and workload, work-life balance, knowledge sharing, and motivation. The study identified the association of workload with travel and communication with customers. Communication proved to be an important aspect as the participants were rather emotional when reflecting on the matter. The use of open-ended questions enabled me to elicit the ideas that came first to the participants’ minds or those they chose to share. The interviewees expressed similar views on the negative aspects of the working environment that existed in their company, which may mean that an unfavorable environment is a common concern in similar organizations.

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However, the stressors mentioned above are not confined to the ship-repair industry as Dias et al. (2016) also found that the need to master new skills within tight time limits, long working hours, and different shifts, as well as considerable distances from home, created an unfavorable working environment for employees who felt stressed. In addition, Adriaenssens, De Gucht, and Maes (2015) drew conclusions supporting the relevance of the issues associated with increasing job demands. Employees tend to feel stressed and unmotivated when they receive tasks they cannot fulfill or need considerably more time or effort to complete. Mosadeghrad (2014) emphasized the relevance of effective communication at different organizational levels, which was also supported by the findings of the present study. According to Mosadeghrad (2014), communication skills are central to the successful implementation of tasks as well as employee satisfaction.

Work conditions that contribute to the development of undesirable emotional states have deleterious effects on workers’ health. A finding was that job-related stressors often compromise the well-being of their employees. The damaging effects of stress manifest in longer recovery time after demanding shifts received certain managerial attention. The findings of the study also showed that unreasonably high levels of occupational stress lead to an increase in turnover rates. The correlation between work-related stress and turnover is especially important since turnover has been shown to be detrimental to the long-term success of business enterprises (Anthony-McMann et al., 2017). Consequently, high turnover rates would negatively influence the performance of companies. Moreover, a cause of an increase in absenteeism is prolonged exposure to stressors. Stressed-out employees are more likely to engage in voluntary absenteeism, which suggests that occupational stress diminishes self-motivation. Under challenging circumstances, the workers are more likely to limit their presence at the company, thereby seeking an emotional respite.

Work-family imbalances are primary antecedents of occupational stress that can and should be addressed by managers as seen from the research. The finding is consistent with the JD-R model, which predicts the potential effect of increased stress levels on employees (Schaufeli & Taris, 2014). Under the JD-R model, physical, social, and emotional elements of the organizational environment affect the overall well-being of the workforce. From the present vantage point, the two elements of the theoretical framework used for the study-the JD-R model and transformational theory coalesce.

Work-life imbalance emerged from the analysis of the data as the causal agent of unresolved anxieties, which underscores the functional obsolescence of traditional approaches to managing occupational stress. The study revealed the role of proper work-life balance among the employees as an essential component for reducing occupational stress. The primary focus was on how the responsibilities and frustration from activities outside the workplace affect the ability of the employees to focus. Although the work-life balance was not regarded as the most adverse aspect of their work, the participants still mentioned the need to spend more time with the family, which calls for certain research. The findings of the present research are consistent with a study conducted by Deery and Jago (2015) whose emphasis was on developing work-life balance as a measure to prevent frustrations and stress in employees. Mosadeghrad (2014) also mentioned the need for proper work-life balance because employees were more vulnerable to stress if the balance was impaired. Lyness and Judiesch (2014) indicated work-life imbalances could have a detrimental effect on the overall performance of the staff. Nevertheless, the studies mentioned above showed that the area of work-life balance is not managers’ priority.

The results of the research indicate that frequent travel and more extended working shifts, which are typical of the ship repair industry, keeping employees away from their families contribute to the increase of occupational stress for the workers and causes burnout. The solutions articulated in the present study include allowing employees to take more time off their jobs and providing regular breaks during the working shifts. Vacations are also another necessary incentive recommended as a means of lowering stress for employees. The provided suggestion aligns with the findings of the study by Lyness and Judiesch (2014) that found that a failure to balance excessive work and personal life results in adverse outcomes at an organizational and individual level. By allowing employees to interact outside of the workplace, managers encourage the creation of a stress-free work environment. The suggested strategy aimed to enhance the ability of workers to perform other functions outside their areas of work with their co-workers.

The second theme of the present research was that occupational stress is a primary factor contributing to lower performance and productivity of the employees. According to the research findings, decreased productivity and poor performance were regarded as some of the major results of stress. The participants used such words as productivity and quality to talk about the effects of work-related stress on employees and the entire organization. The participants were concerned about two levels of performance because productivity is mainly associated with the ways employees complete their tasks while quality is associated with measurable items that are often assessed by customers.

The notes in the reflection diary and the vocabulary used by the participants show that the managers place a significant value on the matter. The participants used such words as detrimental, degrades, and decreases dramatically that have quite a strong emotional load. The managers revealed their commitment to organizational goals through their concerns about the quality of services and products they provided as well as the risk of the development of a “bad reputation” or their overall organization’s reputation. The persistence of the present theme shows its relevance to the participants and their organization. Since all of the interviewed managers paid certain attention to performance and/or productivity, it is clear that they acknowledge the link between employees’ possible stress, their performance, and organizational outcomes.

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The findings are consistent with the previous research on productivity and performance as the relationship between a heightened level of occupational stress and productivity has been well-researched. For example, Hanaysha (2016) stressed that productivity could be significantly decreased if employees felt stressed. Employees’ engagement and performance, as well as their productivity, correlate with their job satisfaction and the persistence of work-related stress (Campbell, 2015; Chen et al., 2014). Researchers have examined various aspects of productivity and its association with employees’ stress. The managerial focus on quality has also been well-explored. Hakanen and Schaufeli (2012) examined the correlation between employees’ work-related stress and productivity. The researchers found that stressed employees were characterized by decreased performance and productivity, which translated into poor quality of the produced goods and customer dissatisfaction.

The research results also indicate that employees’ performance and productivity dependent on the relationships between various organizational stakeholders and the way that leaders manage them. The theme of employees’ interactions aligns closely with the theoretical basis of the selected conceptual framework. Specifically, under the transformational leadership theory, it is a managerial responsibility to ensure that the working environment is free from debilitating stressors by fostering positive organizational change. For example, the participants of the research expressed the views similar to those of Bakker and Demerouti (2014) who agreed that the lack of efficient managerial strategies and organizational culture could instigate occupational stress in the workforce.

Such sentiments are consistent with the previous literature that has shown the need for creating the appropriate workspace environment that makes it possible to reduce stress as a means of enhancing performance (Siegrist, 2016). The research findings support another previous investigation about the work environment that revealed the necessity of encouraging interpersonal interactions to detect and handle external influences on the work environment (Babatunde, 2013). The findings of the study are consistent with the underlying principles of the JD-R model as well as with the employee engagement and transformational leadership theories. The theories have to do with the relaxing of professional demands at a time of heightened personal stress can assist employees in achieving a positive work-life balance (Schaufeli & Taris, 2014). The balance is achievable with the help of the transformational leadership approach.

Occupational stress has been shown to affect the ability to plan and manage time along with other organizational resources, according to the findings of the present study. Previous research has indicated that the stressful environment breaks down multiple strategies that were intended to enhance planning and management. The results of the study demonstrated that the presence of work stress lowers the ability of the workers to plan their activities and meet their deadlines, which affects the performance of the organization. Apart from the obvious impairment of the quality of products or services, it was stressed that employees’ morale and their psychological state could have an adverse effect on managers’ functions. It is difficult to plan and set goals in an environment of uncertainty and a high level of turnover. The emergence of the topic of uncertainty suggests that the participants experienced quite substantial difficulties related to planning and management, which could be associated with a high level of turnover, certain work conditions, and working environment issues.

The area of planning has also received certain attention in the academia. Truss, Shantz, Soane, Alfes, and Delbridge (2013) also studied the effects of work-related stress on organizational performance and stated that planning could be rather difficult to implement if the level of uncertainty was high. White (2015) mentioned the negative effects of high turnover and employee stress on organizational costs associated with staff development. The researcher reported that managers found it difficult to develop programs aimed at employee development if turnover levels were excessive. Absenteeism and high turnover reduce the ability of the firm to anticipate how it will conduct its operations as the skills in its workforce are volatile and unstable in the long-term (Lee, Strohl, Fortenberry, & Cho, 2017). The findings of the study also showed that organizational culture and occupational stress have a mutually influential relationship. The presence of undue occupational stressors can lead to the development of an undesirable culture. The present finding harmonizes with the results of the study by Belias and Koustelios (2014), who noted a bidirectional link between a company’s culture and the level of stress experienced by its employees.

Some of the effects of occupational stress include confrontational manners among the staff, frustrations, and weak interactions and communication strategies. The participants paid considerable attention to the present domain and mentioned the risks of deteriorated communication and, as a result, impaired organizational culture and poor performance. Communication was the aspect that received the most attention during the discussion of employee stress. The managers placed a substantial value on the communication among employees and acknowledged various factors deteriorating interactions between employees. The attention could be explained by the existing issues that the organization was trying to overcome. The ship-repair industry is associated with quite a significant workload and the need to communicate with many stakeholders, which is associated with work-related stress. The participants were likely to focus on the improvement of internal and external communication because they saw it as a key factor contributing to the improvement of employees’ performance and the development of the proper organizational culture.

The findings imply that stress degrades organizational culture, which in turn, increases stress. Uncontrolled levels of stress prevent effective teamwork activities or any collaborative engagements in the workplace because the workers start to spite one another. According to Cooper and Quick (2017), without remedy for the negative interactions, the adverse outcomes of employee frustration can result in a behavioral breakdown in an organization. Al-Raqadi et al. (2015) emphasized that effective communication is of paramount importance in the working environments associated with health risks. Meško et al. (2013), as well as Sharma and Magotra (2013), found that the lack of positive social ties in the workplace and ineffective communication patterns contributed to an increase in absenteeism. According to Adriaenssens et al. (2015), ineffective communication and the lack of managerial support contributes to the development of the sense of helplessness and burnout in employees. Such working conditions degrade employees’ performance and lead to negative consequences for the organization.

Various solutions offered by the respondents can assist managers in other organizations in alleviating the existing workplace challenges. An open-door policy should be a central focus of individuals occupying managerial positions since it allows workers to interact and share ideas and solutions regardless of their hierarchical placing. The suggestions proposed during the interviews are consistent with the previous research and allow people in the organization to talk about their grievances and resolve them (Cooper & Quick, 2017). Additionally, by using the mentioned managerial approaches, it is possible to reduce turnover and absenteeism rates that negatively affect the overall performance of the company.

The third theme is concerned with the development of employee stress reduction strategies. A dimension of undesirable working conditions derived from the participant managers that contribute to increased levels of stress in the workforce was negative interpersonal communications. It was found that employees who faced excessive demands for close interaction with customers were more likely to have a reduced ability to manage their emotional states, and thus, were more exposed to stress. The same applies to members of the workforce who encounter negative interactions with their colleagues who are more experienced or excessively demanding. The findings of the present study indicate that managers tended to believe that a high level of professional communication can serve as a buffer of occupational stress. Based on the researc data, it can be assumed that by the creation of opportunities to discuss stressful experiences, the managers can strengthen workers’ emotional coping mechanisms. The recommendation by managers to use open conversations in the present study led to other recommendations from the participants that involved encouraging free interactions between employees and other stakeholders even in contexts outside the workplace.

The answers to improved communication varied significantly because some participants claimed that even the most basic strategies could and should be extensively used in the workplace while other interviewed managers considered a set of incentives as the most effective solution. Communication was central to the discussion of the strategies the managers used or regarded as effective. The findings show the participants’ focus on employees’ interactions and collaboration that are seen as key elements of successful work. The obtained data also indicated the relevance of communication as seen by managers in the ship-repair industry. The development of proper relationships with subordinates was regarded as essential in the sphere associated with a significant workload, stressful external communication and unfavorable working environments (owing to time limits and long working hours). The persistence of the theme in question shows that the strategies that are deemed to be effective have proved to be helpful in many cases as the participants shared their positive experiences related to communication and associated training.

According to previous research, communication that encompasses listening to employee concerns and providing appropriate information is a vital approach to reducing the frequency and duration of stressors in an organization (Swanson et al., 2016). The study revealed managers’ regard views concerning the essence of communication as a factor that promotes positivity in interactions and reduces stress in the work environment. Open conversations along with an open-door policy turned out to be essential methodologies for reducing stress as seen by the participants. Open-door policy requires the leaders and other employees to focus on the interpersonal stressors in the organization and endorse appropriate solutions to each of them. By offering positive feedback to the workers after they complete specific tasks successfully can also motivate them to dedicate more energy to their work. Mosadeghrad (2014) also emphasized the importance of effective communication for maintaining proper morale and employee performance. Emotional and psychological support often compensates the areas that contribute to job dissatisfaction, absenteeism, and poor performance. The findings of the present study were consistent with data provided by Campbell (2015) who explored various ways communication affects employees’ productivity. Employee empowerment and open knowledge sharing are instrumental in motivating people to focus on organizational goals.

Proper communication that ensured role clarity proved to be an important element of the strategies utilized to motivate employees. The role ambiguity could also have adverse effects that lead to an increase in the occupational stress experienced by workers. The managerial staff has concerns over the lack of clarity in tasks performed by employees and the scope of relevant functions as a causative agent for occupational stress. The mentioned sentiments are consistent with previous literature highlighting how poor job descriptions and little understanding of work roles leads to uncertainties that are stressful to the workers (Anthony-McMann et al., 2017). The low level of specificity concerning professional roles is a condition that increases anxiety and emotional tension among members of the organization. The findings associated with clarity were consistent with earlier studies. For example, Swanson et al. (2016) identified the link between proper communication and instruction and reduced work-related stress. The use of effective bidirectional communication patterns also reduces conflicts at the workplace according to Swanson et al.

Additionally, there is a lack of feedback and data concerning various aspects of work that damages employees’ morale. The participants noted that they tried to provide detailed information whenever needed because informed employees were more active and performed better. The theme of clarity and ambiguity was rather important for the participants, which can be attributed to the complexity of the industry. However, the focus on clarity can also be a result of the use of ineffective communication patterns and strategies in the organization under analysis. The participants noted that the provision of detailed information was mainly the preferred strategy rather than an intrinsic component of the organizational culture. The participants expressed their willingness to integrate such methods more actively into their practice.

Some of the external factors that may lead to occupational stress arise from the operations of customer relations management. The results of the present research show that important factors that increase stress for the employees include negative feedback from the consumers. The theme emerged because the ship-repair industry is associated with communication patterns that can often be rather negative in nature. Customers often have a negative attitude as they are initially dissatisfied with certain issues (e.g., the need to pay for the repair, the need to prioritize areas of major concern). Apart from the external aspect, the emergence of the theme indicates certain gaps related to internal functions. The organization under consideration is likely to have rather poor staff development culture because employees tend to lack communication skills.

The findings of the present investigation correlate with previous literature indicating that negative attitudes from customers can lead to lower job satisfaction among employees, especially when it involves dimensions of their performance that cannot be controlled by the workers (Lam & Mayer, 2014). The mentioned instances are frequent even with the best customer relations management strategies in a firm. Swanson et al. (2016) also addressed the correlation between external communication and employee stress. The researchers found that stressed-out employees were likely to exhibit confrontational behaviors.

Another common view on effective strategies diminishing stress is the need to create a safe working environment and an effective information system, as well as launch monetary incentives. During the interviews, monetary rewards were also mentioned among the strategies that motivate employees and reduce their work-related stress. Although the theme of motivation was not as frequent as that of communication or training, the participants placed considerable value on a proper physical environment and the provision of financial motivation initiatives. The interviewed managers try to employ a set of strategies to address employee stress. The fact that the participants did not make the mentioned areas central to their discussion signified that the managers believed that the incentives available at their companies were sufficient.

Multiple researchers have engaged in determining the effects of employee development, motivation, and engagement toward the performance of an organization. Most of the investigations sought to establish how managers can safeguard their workforce against the detrimental effects of occupational stress to promote the success of their firms (Cerasoli et al., 2014). Previous research has indicated that the financial aspect of motivation is a strong determinant of employee productivity and engagement (Løkke, 2014; Sumanen et al., 2015). Sharma and Magotra (2013) also found that employees with higher salaries were characterized by a lower rate of absenteeism, higher productivity, and improved motivation.

The findings related to the development of a favorable environment were also consistent with previous research. Smith (2014) identified a direct link between employee work-related stress and a safe working environment. Employee satisfaction is also constructed through the provision of all the necessary tools and resources necessary to complete tasks. The aim is to provide methodologies that show the employees that the organization values them and their desire to succeed. The enterprise also needs to realize that every employee has unique needs that can be unpredictable. It is essential for leaders to perform an assessment that reveals the requirements of every individual before implementing any of the recommended strategies.

Recommendations for Practice

The research findings apply to both theory and practice and support earlier investigations while contributing to the insight that occupational stress is a detrimental phenomenon that damages the performance of an organization. The analysis of the data showed the relevance of such aspects as work-life balance, role clarity, effective communication, workload, working conditions, and compensation. The findings indicate that training and effective knowledge sharing, as well as motivational programs and incentives, can be instrumental in the development of the proper organizational culture and contribute to the improvement of employee performance.

The first recommendation for future practice is to identify the most stressful working factors based on the findings of the present study, analyze them, and develop strategies that can help manage workplace stress. Based on the findings of the research, managers should take into account such aspects as workload, work-life-balance, working conditions, knowledge sharing when crafting the strategies. Previous studies found the effects of the stressors that were mentioned in the present research. Kim et al. (2017) found that workload, ambiguity, unfair compensation, and physical environment were the central factors contributing to employee stress. Lee et al. (2017) found that managers’ initiatives aimed at enhancing role clarity positively affected employees’ performance and motivation. The findings of the present study can become a basis for the development of coping strategies for the employees. Since it is not always possible to eliminate all stressors within a workplace, coping strategies can be used to reduce the impact of the workplace hazards on the employees.

The second recommendation is concerned with the way in which employees’ needs are met. According to the findings, the continuous training and development of the staff will have numerous positive outcomes, including better performance, less work-related stress, and an improved working environment. Hanaysha (2016) found that employee training positively affects employee motivation and performance. The implementation of the recommendation would encompass activities such as training programs that enhance the skills of workers. Other activities would involve the provision of materials that enhance the work processes that the employees undertake. For example, mechanizing some of the operations in a workplace reduces the physical demands of the employees and increases their motivation and engagement.

The research results indicated that employee performance and productivity deteriorate under conditions of heightened stress because of employees’ inability to handle demanding tasks such as customer relations management properly. From the point of view of the managers, stressed employees show substantial reductions in co-operative behaviors, which are essential for resource deployment and overall performance. Managers should review the existing training programs aimed at improving employees’ communication and customer management skills to develop an intervention that can be effective in the given working environment (Siu et al., 2013). The program can involve the use of knowledge sharing, which is instrumental in improving employee performance (Miller et al., 2012) and was an implication of theme three. Similar training programs can be designed for both managers and other employees.

The third recommendation contributes to the development of a sense of appreciation in employees; a corollary finding of theme two in the present study. It is beneficial to develop practices and patterns aimed at employee appreciation and the provisioning of even and adequate workloads and monetary rewards to reduce and prevent work stress as derived from themes two and three. Managers need to consider the role of positive monetary incentives when developing organizational budgets because they have shown to create positive effects on employee motivation and engagement to work (Boxall & Macky, 2014). The review of the literature revealed the negative role of poor appreciation and uneven workloads on work stress (Kula & Sahin, 2015; Obiora & Iwuoha, 2013) as well as the findings of themes two and three in the current study. Other methods of reducing stress include sufficient compensation as well as incentives and bonuses that are sensitive matters to most workforces (Ford, 2014). The information concerning compensation, together with the research findings, can serve as a theoretical basis for the development of incentivization strategies.

The fourth recommendation to managers is to ensure the characterization of the organizational culture by certain specific features (described below). As seen from the findings, the changes of the culture should incorporate improvements in communication patterns, decision making, and motivation. Research indicates that employees desire the workplace that realizes their potential and abilities and places them in the context that allows them to achieve the set objectives. That gives rise to the essence of communicating employee roles and offering functions that are within the scope of the skills and competencies of those individuals (Boxall & Macky, 2014), and was an implication of theme three. Implementing the suggested approach eliminates uncertainties among the employees as they now understand and anticipate the expectations that the organization has for them. Furthermore, explicit role delineation makes the workforce less resistant to change. The leaders should also involve their workers in decision-making and communicate relevant activities in advance (Boxall & Macky, 2014) as was another implication of theme three. The recommended move ensures that the firm develops solutions to pertinent challenges for their employees and the latter take part in that action. Such arrangements are essential for creating a work environment in which workers influence the operations in a manner that enables them to achieve better professional results.

Based on the present study, I recommend that organizations should develop conflict resolution methodologies to handle the differences that arise among employees. The suggested move is essential in creating a desirable workplace that allows all workers to express their feelings and deal with their differences efficiently and freely as indicated by theme three of the present study. It is equally important to establish communication methodologies that encourage interactions between the employees, managers, and customers. The open-door policy enables leaders and their workers to interact and resolve any matters that can be stressful to any of the parties (Hejduk & Karwowski, 2016). The findings show that the lack of attention from the company’s managers to the issue of culture as a source of work-related stress can have an adverse effect on the employees. The idea of cultural significance as found in theme one is consistent with the finding of a study by Cooper and Quick (2017), who showed that cultural settings and occupational stress are mutually influential. It is an essential consideration for any organization that seeks to enhance the ability of their managers to detect and deal with any stressors among employees.

The final recommendation concerns work-life balance, which has a strong influence on occupational stress as shown in theme one. The findings show that the strategies are to incorporate sufficient terms for leaves and vacations that enable the staff to spend more time with their families. Open communication can foster the development of practical solutions to apply to particular settings. The lack of the equilibrium is a fundamental issue for workers who worry about their families and other responsibilities outside the workplace (Syrek et al., 2013). The workspace also needs to allow employees to discuss non-work issues in a context that enables them to resolve those problems, as derived from theme three. The approach is vital in ensuring that external life factors do not enter into the workplace and affect staff members. Deery and Jago (2015) included work-life balance as an integral component of retention strategies. The research findings showed the importance of promoting the work-life balance of employees for the reduction of work stress, which can be used as the grounds for the development of retention strategies in the ship-repair industry.

Recommendations for Future Research

Based on the research framework, themes, and study implications, together with the limitations, it is possible to suggest two recommendations for future research. The first recommendation is to explore in detail the perspectives of different stakeholders regarding workplace stress. The present investigation addressed the views of the managerial staff while further research can involve other employees. After articulating the needs of employees, the focus of the study may change. It is possible to compare the expectations of managers with employees’ needs and expectations. The previous research is mainly concerned with the associations between certain stressors (role ambiguity, work-life imbalance, and hazardous working conditions) and employees’ performance or even the overall development of organizations (Anthony-McMann et al., 2017). However, there is the lack of attention to employees’ attitudes and feelings. The examination of employees’ perspectives can be instrumental in the development of effective strategies aimed at minimizing workplace stress, high turnover rates, employees’ absenteeism and poor performance in the context of ship-repair companies.

Conclusions

Summarizing the conducted research, the following conclusions are noted. In conducting the study, I intended to answer the research question: What techniques do production managers and project managers at a ship-repair company use to reduce work-related stress? Analyzing the data enabled me to conclude that occupational stress is a detrimental factor in organizational operations that can cause failures to both the firm and the employees. Various themes emerged from the analysis, such as work environment and employee stress, effects of employee stress, and employee stress reduction strategies. The themes under analysis led to the development of solutions to handle the challenges faced by the ship-repair industry at present. The primary problem was to determine how the managers addressed occupational stress in their workplaces and the methods that they still desired to use for the factors that they were anticipating. The study presents essential recommendations that encompass multiple industrial applications in solving the overarching challenge of stressful workspaces.

The recommendations of the present investigation surround the development of an employee-friendly workplace that encourages the development and empowerment of employees. Managers should also provide clear job descriptions to workers as a way of minimizing uncertainties and promote engagement. Compensation and incentives for the functions performed by the staff is another approach to reducing stress in the workplace. That goes along with leaves and vacations as well as more time for workers to spend with their families and handle other activities outside the organization. Work-life balance is another factor that encourages positivity in the firm and reduces undue stress among the staff.

The study indicated detrimental outcomes from the presence of occupational stressors in an organization. That led to the essence of focusing on incorporating the solutions to workspace stress into various components of actions as a means to ensure that workers had both active and passive methods of dealing with the challenge. The development of the stress-coping strategies can become one of the topics for further research. The results of the present investigation were consistent with the previous findings of other studies. However, the researcher presents further discoveries by highlighting industry-specific factors that influence occupational stress in the ship-repair sector. The present study offers a basis for further investigations that will need to expand both the sample size and the scope of sampling to provide results that reflect the perspectives of various employees in different industrial settings. The most significant part of the present investigation is that it contributes to the field of management by offering insights into strategies for addressing the issue of occupational stress in a workplace. Finally, the insight that emerged through the process of empirical investigation will contribute to the expansion of existing knowledge about managing occupational stress in different industries.

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Appendix A: Interview Guide

Date & Time of Interview: __________________________

Are you currently a project or production manager? _____________

How many years’ of experience do you have as a manager? _______

Do you have a minimum of five years’ experience as a project or production manager? _______

Do you have a company training record?__________, if yes, do you have any courses relating to Absenteeism, Turnover, Employee Performance, or Workplace Stress? __________, if yes, please list course title(s) and date(s) taken:

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Research Question: What techniques do production managers and project managers at a ship-repair company use to reduce work-related stress?

  1. What aspects of the work or tasks, if any, are stressful for an employee?
  2. How does employee work-related stress affect employees?
  3. What are the effects of employee work-related stress to the organization?
  4. What strategies have you implemented to help reduce or eliminate stress on the job?
  5. What strategies have been most effective in reducing employee absenteeism and turnover?
  6. What strategies, if any, have been effective to increase employee performance?
  7. What additional information can you provide to help me understand successful approaches to minimizing work-place stress?