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For many people in today’s fast-paced environment, stress is an all-too-familiar workmate.
However, research projects being undertaken by Deakin University’s Professor Andrew Noblet are set to impact on an area where everyone’s a winner: a reduction in the level of workplace stress and anxiety.
Professor Noblet came to Deakin in 1996 but prior work in health related jobs ignited his interest in mental health.
“Social conditions in organisations can affect everything from psychological stress and motivation levels to workplace performance and absenteeism,” he says.
Along with Deakin’s Dr Amanda Allisey and three University of Melbourne researchers, Professor Noblet’s current work focuses on job stress and employee wellbeing.
In a VicHealth funded project, he and his colleagues will work with Victoria Police and EACH (Eastern Access Community Health) to examine how organisations can prevent and reduce workplace stress.
“We are looking at how Victorian organisations – both public and private – can identify and address the symptoms of stress and anxiety,” he says.
“There has been a tendency to address the problem with initiatives like stress management programs or relaxation classes, but not by identifying what it is about an organisation that might be contributing to stress,” he says.
“Factors like the pace and complexity of workloads, support from supervisors or colleagues, and the level of certainty about goals can all contribute.”
The beyondblue funded project focuses on a manufacturing company with a predominantly male, blue-collar workplace that includes a large percentage of people from a non-English speaking background: “typically hard-to-reach groups with mental health”, Professor Noblet says.
This is more about the knowledge and awareness of mental health, about how stress and anxiety can be identified and the appropriate referrals for those who need them.”
Emphasising mental health literacy means helping people to understand what mental illnesses involve and giving them the ability to help others when needed, he adds.
“It’s for employers and managers, to ensure they know what their obligations are, what they can and can’t do in the workplace and to help them recognise that mental health is influenced in part by what happens in the workplace. It also helps them understand that what they do can contribute in both a positive and negative way to motivation, job satisfaction and other outcomes that are important for organisational effectiveness.”
Professor Noblet is based in the Deakin Graduate School of Business (Faculty of Business and Law) and teaches in the areas of organisational behaviour and research design.
His research and consulting experiences impact heavily on his teaching and he uses his research activities to help students gain a more practical understanding of the content.
“Organisational behaviour covers relatively complex and theory-rich topics such as job stress, employee motivation, communication and leadership,” he says.
“I often use my experiences in working with industry to discuss why these topics are important for employers and employees and to provide detailed, real-life examples of how these topics can be addressed.”
By providing post-graduate management students with the most up-to-date research on topics like job stress and employee motivation, he also is in a better position to help improve their people management skills.