The Demand-Control
Model of Job Stress

Increasing Autonomy to Combat Stress

The Demand-Control Model of Job Stress - Increasing Autonomy to Combat Stress

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In a high-strain job, you have little control over your workload.

Imagine a business executive and an assembly line worker who work at the same organization.

Both find their jobs stressful, but while the executive leaves work each day feeling content, the assembly line worker feels exhausted and anxious. Why do these two workers feel so different?

One way to answer this question is to look at the Demand-Control Model of Job Stress, which argues that when people are in demanding jobs, they experience less stress if they have control over their own work.

It’s one of the most widely studied models of occupational stress, and, although it isn’t a new model, it’s still highly relevant. In this article, we’ll look at it, and we’ll then discuss how you can apply its principles to your own job, and to your team.

About the Model

Robert Karasek developed the Demand-Control Model of Job Stress in 1979, and published his findings in Administrative Science Quarterly.

In his article, he defined two key parameters that affect the amount of stress that people experience: job demands and decision latitude.

  • Job demands are stressors in the work environment, such as tight deadlines, high targets, regular interruptions, and conflicting pressures.
  • Decision latitude (also known as "autonomy") refers to the extent to which people can control their work.

During his research, Karasek saw that people whose jobs rated high in demand but low in decision latitude/autonomy felt more tired at the end of the day, had trouble waking in the morning, and experienced more depression and anxiety. He also noted that when workers in high-demand roles had more decision latitude, they experienced less stress....

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