News items Grant for research into work-related stress

26 February 2024

Radboud university medical center, together with a large number of partners under the leadership of Amsterdam UMC, is developing an innovative approach to tackle stress and enhance resilience within organizations. An organization can only be resilient if its employees are as well. This initiative, funded with 10.6 million euros by the NWO, falls within the framework of the National Science Agenda program.

Stress poses a significant threat to the health of individual workers and the functioning of organizations. An organization can only be resilient if its employees are as well. The central question is: can we effectively identify and address increasing stress and stress-related risks, both at the individual and organizational levels? The researchers will investigate this, while also paying attention to the privacy of employees and other values important in the workplace.

The necessity of an integrated approach to stress

Addressing stress and enhancing resilience is a challenge for many companies. Making stress discussable is not straightforward. Signs of stress are often recognized too late, and it's not always clear who should address them. Moreover, stress doesn't solely originate from work but often stems from one's personal situation as well. Especially in the early stages, it's crucial for both the organization and the individual to prevent stress from escalating and to maintain resilience. DESTRESS aims for a consistent scientific basis with an approach that connects the perspectives of individuals and organizations, ensuring that responses to stress signals are sustainable and effective. Professor of Stress and Resilience, Christiaan Vinkers from Amsterdam UMC, states, 'With the launch of DESTRESS, we take an important step forward in addressing stress and promoting organizational and individual resilience. Employees often unnecessarily drop out due to stress, leading to organizational problems. We need to do something about that.'

What will DESTRESS do?

DESTRESS focuses on reducing stress and increasing resilience among both individual workers and organizations. The goal is to recognize stress early by cleverly measuring stress signals from individuals and their environment and responsibly integrating them with Artificial Intelligence (AI) since there's a lot of stress data to be consolidated. For this reason, researchers from sociology, law, and ethics are also involved. With this approach, workers and employers can collaborate to address stress. DESTRESS aims to proactively detect stress, facilitating a constructive dialogue between employers and employees. Ultimately, this should result in fewer people dropping out due to stress, and organizations being able to ensure the well-being of their employees and, consequently, their business.

Vinkers adds, 'In a time when stress levels are reaching unprecedented highs both at individual and collective levels, DESTRESS is urgently needed. Currently, there are 2.9 million sick days annually due to psychological causes and over one billion euros in absenteeism costs due to stress.'

Nijmegen Research

Representing Radboudumc are Erno Hermans and Stefan Listl. Hermans, also affiliated with the Donders Institute, leads the work package 'Development of stress signals.' This part of the project focuses on developing methods for early detection of stress signals in work environments, including both biological predictors of vulnerability and resilience, as well as real-time measurements of stress reactions using wearables and smartphones. This research builds upon previous findings and applies them within a work environment. Listl focuses on the implementation and evaluation of the developed systems.

Erno Hermans was featured on NOS Radio 1 Journaal on February 26, where he explained the research. Listen to the interview (starting from minute 35).

Debby Beckers from Radboud University is involved in the work package focusing on stress factors in the work context. The aim of this part is to explore how researchers can accurately, efficiently, and non-invasively map exposure to work stressors and resources. In this context, they also want to explore the potential use of objective measurements in the workplace to measure exposure to stress factors and stress. Finally, they aim to assess the contribution of work-related factors to the development of stress signals.

More information

Pauline Dekhuijzen

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