In Search of Safety

From our season


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A journey to define safety; we intersect story telling, interviews and in-depth research, taking us on a journey through abusive environments to improvisational theatre. Learning about safety, engagement and what happens when they don’t exist.

We love to hear your feedback and suggestions, continue the conversation on Twitter and Facebook or you can email us on, and you can reach out to me, John Le Drew directly on Twitter @antz29.

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Further Reading

This episode is the result of some pretty significant research, not all of which we are able to reference directly in the audio of the podcast. So, here is a little background into some of the things we discuss, with links to the full reports for when you might be interested in digging a bit deeper!

Many more papers and links fed into this work than we are able to practically cover here, but I hope that this give you some insight into the underlying research and might just spark your own interest. The more of us paying attention to this critical issue, the better our world will gradually become, let's go change the world!

Workplace Stress

In the podcast we reference a number of statistics about workplace stress from around the world, we wanted to present links to all the data here so listeners wanting to do so can have a proper root around in the numbers!


The first report is the annual Stress in America™ from the American Psychological Association (APA). We used their 2015 report.

We reported the overall statistic that "66% of the US Workforce consider work to be a somewhat or significant source of stress" this was taken from page 23 of the report.

We also referred to the same APA study to find out how people behave when they are stressed, where we discovered on page 17 that almost 1 in 2 people while stressed, had either lost patience with a spouse or loved one, or yelled at their kids.


We also referred to data from the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) where we discovered in summary on page 2 of their Work related Stress, Anxiety and Depression Statistics in Great Britain 2016 that stress accounted for 45% of all working days lost due to ill health, which amounted to 11.7 million days.


While looking further afield, we found research performed by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. In their " European Opinion Poll on Occupational Safety and Health" from May 2016, we can see referenced on page 6 that "Half of workers in Europe (51%) believe that cases of work-related stress are common in their workplace."


We discussed a number of disturbing problems at the extreme end of the spectrum in Asia. Firstly, karōshi (過労死) and karōjisatsu (過労自殺) in Japan. This was reported from the perspective of a International Labour Organisation (ILO) case study from 2013, reporting on data since 1997 up until 2011, we also referred to a 2017 Financial Times article to get an estimate of figures for 2011 - present.

We also mention the shocking statistics from a 2012 article from China Youth Today (this is Google translated copy of the article, see the untranslated article here) where it's reported that an astonishing number of 600,000 white-collar workers per year die due to "huge job pressure".


In the episode we present both a definition for engagement, and also statistics about current engagement levels in the US workforce.

The statistics we quoted were taken from the Gallup Daily: U.S. Employee Engagement data, from the end of January 2017, when is was at 35%.

There are a number of different definitions of engagement, the one we settled on was from the 2001 paper from Prof. Wilmar B. Schaufeli, et al. "... a positive, fulfilling, and work-related state of mind that is characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption".

Job Demands Resources Model (JD-R model)

In the final part of the first episode, we discuss the JD-R model to posit our theory of how safety, engagement and workplace stress are linked. Let's dive into this in a little more depth, along with links to some of the research papers in that space for those of you that want to dig a little deeper.

Our interpretation of the JD-R Model, including Personal Resources and Personal Outcomes

The JD-R model relates workplace stress (sometimes referred to as strain) to engagement (sometimes called motivation) to what it defines as resources and demands. 

Demands being the natural challenges of the job like the mental demands of being a software engineer, or the physical demands of being an professional athlete. 

Resources are the positive elements; having autonomy, regular constructive feedback, support from peers, etc. and can also include personal resources, that is what you "have already" so to speak. Some people are optimists, or naturally more resilient than others.

Demands increase workplace stress, which cause exhaustion, cynicism and eventually burnout.

Workplace stress leads to a reduction in positive personal and organisational outcomes.

We have also added a theoretical link here, that workplace stress also, over time, reduces your personal resources; think of how optimistic you feel on day one of a new job, vs. how you feel the day before you hand in your notice, and what's more how past negative experiences can bleed over into how you evaluate future opportunities.

Resources increase engagement (as defined above), which lead to more positive personal and organisational outcomes. We have, as above also posited a link between personal resources and engagement, where over time a positive environment will improve personal resources. Think back to how a supportive manager has improved your feelings of self-esteem?

Another key relationship here are the links between Resources and Demands. This highlights that not only do demands directly increase stress, they also decrease the effects of resources to increase engagement. This process also works in reverse, so high resources will also reduce the effects of demands on stress.

Stress and Engagement work in the same way, stress reduces the effect of engagement to produce positive organisational and personal outcomes. And engagement reduces the effect of stress to produce negative organisational and personal outcomes.

We studied a number of papers to fully understand this theory, the JD-R model was originally devised in the 2001 article "The Job Demands-Resources Model of Burnout", Demerouti et al., there have been multiple later studies. The article we made most use of was "The Job Demands-Resources model: state of the art", 2006, Bakker et al., which usefully summarises a lot of follow up research.

Contributors to this episode

Troy Magennis
Tim Ottinger
Ryan Ripley
Phelim McDermott
Mark Dalgarno
Mark C. Crowley
Linda Rising
Joshua Kerievsky
Johanna Rothman
Esther Derby
Doc Norton
Carina C. Zona
Arlo Belshee
Amitai Schleier