Work Psychology by the Numbers

Volvo Car’s production facilities at Torslanda outside Gothenburg in the south of Sweden. Sofia Sabel/

Aleksandra Bujacz is the Director of Studies at The Swedish Program and teaches the course The Psychology of Work. She is also a researcher at Karolinska Institute. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology in August 2017 from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

On average, an American worker spends about 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime [1]. Yet work is not only the single most time consuming activity in our lives. It is also a crucial part of our identity and it plays a significant role in shaping our opinions, relationships and lifestyle as a whole. Therefore, work is certainly an essential factor in determining the quality of life and well-being of a person.
In economics, management and organizational sciences, this simple fact that work is important for worker well-being, is often overshadowed by the focus on performance and productivity. While there’s nothing wrong with studying how to make workers more productive, overseeing the impact of work on physical and mental health will lead individuals, organizations and societies into trouble.

Work-related stress brings a sizable financial burden on the society [2]. In Sweden, the cost of work-related stress builds greatly on the cost of sickness absence due to mental health problems. In recent years such problems have increased and now stand out as the most prevalent cause for longer episodes of sickness absence, with reactions to acute stress and adjustment disorders (including burnout) being the most common diagnoses [3].

On the positive note, the popularity of the Psychology of Work course at Stockholm School of Economics shows clearly that future economists, consultants and managers understand the need to study “the human factor” at work. Their lively debates and strong opinions make the course a great place to discuss what characterizes sustainable workplaces, and what you can do to stay healthy and happy in your future job.

[2] Hassard, J., Teoh, K. R. H., Visockaite, G., Dewe, P., & C ox, T. (2018). The cost of work-related stress to society: A systematic review. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 23(1), 1–17
[3] Försäkringskassan (2017). Sjukskrivnings- mönster Skillnader mellan län, kommuner och vårdenheter.