An experimental examination of the effort-reward imbalance model of occupational stress: Increased financial reward is related to reduced stress physiology Academic Article uri icon


  • Effort-reward imbalance in the workplace is linked to a variety of negative health and organisational outcomes, but it has rarely been assessed experimentally. We manipulated reward (while keeping effort constant) in a within-subjects design with female participants (N=60) who were randomly assigned to high and standard reward conditions within a simulated office environment. Self-report, behavioural (task performance), and physiological (heart rate variability, salivary alpha amylase) measures assessed the impact of increased financial reward. Participants reported increased perceptions of reward, performed moderately better on the task, and were less physiologically reactive in the high reward versus the standard condition. These findings highlight the importance of assessing both subjective self-reports of stress together with objective physiological measures of stress, and suggest that increasing monetary rewards has the potential to decrease stress physiological reactivity, and in turn, reduce the risk of ill-health in employees, and may also positively influence task efficacy.

publication date

  • 2017