Today’s workplace is facing a classic good news-bad news scenario. It’s good news that hiring shows signs of picking up. But if recent surveys are any indication, that good news hasn’t made much of a dent in the bad news – that more workers than ever are experiencing rising stress levels.
The 2013 Work Stress Survey, conducted on behalf of Everest College and released in April, found that 83 percent of those surveyed are stressed by at least one thing at work. That’s up 10 percentage points from the same survey released in 2012.
The survey indicates that workers experiencing stress aren’t sweating the small stuff. Instead, they’re worried about crucial aspects of their work lives, including:
- Pay. For the third year in a row, low pay took the top spot on the list of stressors, with 14 percent of the 1,019 employed adults surveyed citing trifling wages as the most stressful aspect of their work.
- Workload. Tied with wages, unreasonable workload was cited by 14 percent of those surveyed. That’s a jump from nine percent in 2012.
- Coworkers. Eleven percent of survey respondents named annoying coworkers as the top stressor.
- Tough commutes. Eleven percent also named commuting.
- Dashed dreams. Eight percent said their worst stress was caused by the fact that they were working in a job that wasn’t their chosen career.
- Balance. Seven percent said poor work-life balance causes them stress.
- Few opportunities. Six percent said lack of opportunity for advancement causes stress.
- Fear of job loss. Four percent said they were most stressed by the fear of being fired or laid off.
“More companies are hiring, but workers are still wary and stressed out from years of a troubled economy that has brought about longer hours, layoffs, and budget cuts,” John Swartz, regional director of career services at Everest College, said. “Americans have plenty of reasons to be optimistic, but anxiety among employees is rooted into our working lives, and it is important to understand new and better ways of coping with the pressure.”
If stress truly is “rooted into our working lives,” what are employers doing to solve the problem? According to another recent survey, not enough.
The American Psychological Association’s (APA) Center for Organizational Excellence released a national survey in March that found that just 36 percent of the employees surveyed felt that their organizations provided sufficient resources to help them manage stress, and 44 percent felt their employers didn’t do enough to help them meet their mental health needs.
Just 59 percent reported having adequate employer-provided health insurance, and just 42 percent said their organizations promote and support a healthy lifestyle. Only 36 percent reported regularly participating in workplace health and wellness programs.
The APA survey, which was conducted online among 1,501 adults in January, found 65 percent of those surveyed cited work as a significant source of stress. Thirty-five percent reported that they typically feel stressed during the workday. Those statistics should be a wakeup call for employers, according to the APA’s CEO, Norman B. Anderson.
“This isn’t just an HR or management issue. The well-being of an organization’s workforce is a strategic business imperative that is linked to its performance and success,” Anderson said.
The survey found just 39 percent of the workers surveyed felt they had sufficient opportunities for internal career advancement. Just over half (51 percent) said they feel valued at work.
Pay was identified as a top problem in the APA survey just as it was in the Everest College study. Less than half of those in the APA survey said they receive adequate compensation or recognition. Just 43 percent said recognition is based on fair and useful performance evaluations.
Workers also reported that many employers aren’t listening. Less than half (47 percent) said their employers regularly seek their input, and just 37 percent said their employers make changes based on their feedback.
Just over half the workers surveyed (52 percent) think their employers value work-life balance. Only 39 percent said their employers provide flexible work options, and 30 percent said their employers provide benefits to help them with their non-work demands.
“When employers acknowledge that employees have responsibilities and lives outside of work, they can take steps to promote a good work-life fit and help individuals better manage these multiple demands,” said David W. Ballard, head of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence. “Forward-thinking organizations are re-evaluating work practices, providing employees with resources that support well-being and performance and applying new technologies that help shift work from somewhere we go from 9 to 5 to something we do that is meaningful and creates value.”
Tammy Binford writes and edits news alerts and newsletter articles on labor and employment law topics for BLR Web and print publications. In addition, she writes for HR Hero Line and Diversity Insight, two of the ezines and blogs found on HRHero.com.