Aston wins award for research into age and stress in the workplace


10 October 2011

The negative effects of workplace stress are considered one of the biggest current threats to business. Ms Jude Preston and Dr Helen Shipton have written an award winning paper investigating the effect of age in organisational change-related stress.

Ms Jude Preston, an Aston MSc Human Resource Management and Business graduate, and Dr Helen Shipton, Director of the Aston centre for Human Resources have been awarded the “New Thinking Prize” by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) for their paper concerned with “The Relationship between Age, Stress and Learning in Organisational Change.”

Their study measured employee stress levels and perceived stressors before and after a major IT deployment in a UK warehousing operation.  The measurements were used to determine whether older workers experience greater stress than their younger colleagues across periods of organisational change, and whether the pressure to learn and bring about the necessary change causes more stress for the older group.

The results suggest that people over the age of 45 report a higher incidence of typical stress-related psychosomatic symptoms during change than those below the age of 29 years, although self-perceptions of stress remained static for this older group. It also highlighted that older people more readily identify the learning demand associated with organisational change as stressful. Some stereotypical views about age and efficacy of learning were also discovered, and their impact explored within the specific organisational context.

The paper discussed the implications of these findings for contemporary organisations which have to operate within a framework of employee Health, Safety and Equality legislation. It also explored the necessity to balance these concerns with the survival-critical need to optimise the performance of an aging workforce in a climate of constant change.

Watch John McGurk give his perspective on Aston research (left), or watch Ms Preston and Dr Shipton discuss their work (right).

Ms Jude Preston is a Learning and Development professional with a particular interest in the older learner. She has worked in a range of industries from engineering to elderly care and the experience has inspired her to look at older learners more closely.

“The study gave me the opportunity to look at the mechanisms that affect learning and how older learners are being supported. The paper can help employers to support their older workforce, which is particularly relevant with the recent abolishment of the retirement age”, said Ms Preston.

Ms Preston and Dr Shipton have been asked to work with the CIPD’s Learning and Development specialist team, with a view to widening the scope of their research and further informing practice in this area.

If you would like to be involved in this research or would like further information please contact Dr Helen Shipton - h.shipton@aston.ac.uk

Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research