HR News/North America

Workplace Stress Has Increased This Year

Next to job stability, respondents say compensation, conflicts, and heavy workloads have contributed to strain.   

By Zee Johnson  

A new poll by Robert Walters revealed that this year, 60% of professionals have started suffering from workplace stress, and 45% point to job stability as the biggest trigger.  

When respondents were asked how often they feel stressed, 34% stated “very often,” 26% stated “somewhat often,” and 30% said it happens “sometimes.” Just 10% stated that they had not experienced any form of “reoccurring stress,” or stress experienced more than three times for seven or more days at a time.  

Despite 22% of businesses increasing their investment into well-being initiatives since the pandemic, 62% of respondents think that their employers still aren’t doing enough to tackle workplace stress, compared to 14% who feel their employers are doing enough. Another 24% feel some efforts have been made, but say they’ve been lacklustre.  

Managing Director of Robert Walters North America Peter Milne says that throwing money at the problem merely masks it, and organizations must be nimble in how they develop a solution. “U.S. employers spend an estimated between $200 and $500 per employee on wellness initiatives and benefits every year, but our survey indicates they may only be applying a band-aid,” he says. “Employers must strike the balance between not breaking the bank or piling pressure onto managers to solve workplace stress, but still being proactive and listening to the needs of their employees.”  

Respondents said some other causes of workplace stress included:  

  • long work hours;  
  • heavy workloads;  
  • tight deadlines;   
  • lack of pay increases;  
  • unclear job expectations;  
  • job insecurity; and   
  • conflicts with colleagues or supervisors.  

Janet Alden-Rahi, HR director at Robert Walters UKI, MEA, and NA, says organizations must take a tailored approach and find the remedies that will address their particular concerns. “Stress and the things that cause it are subjective, and so for employers, there is no one-size-fits-all approach,” she says. “Instead, companies should focus on a holistic approach, something which infiltrates culture, management style, and ultimately allows employees to feel comfortable enough to open up about how they are feeling.” 

Alden-Rahi suggests several ways to do this. 

  • Foster a positive work culture. Starting from the top, encourage open communication, collaboration, and respect. Leaders who are honest about their mental health in the workplace helps to normalize this discussion.  
  • Provide clear expectations. Often stress can stem from ambiguity. Ensure that employees have a clear understanding of their roles, responsibilities, and performance expectations.  
  • Offer work-life balance. Flexible work arrangements, reasonable work hours, and breaks and vacations all contribute to a good work-life balance. 
  • Recognize and reward success. A tactic that’s often overlooked, feeling valued and appreciated can reduce stress and boost morale. Leaders can acknowledge employees’ achievements and efforts through verbal recognition, rewards, or incentives.  

Companies put their best foot forward when they prioritize the initiatives that combat high turnover rates, employee burnout, absenteeism, and low productivity. And Milne says the ball is in leaders’ court. “Workplace stress is something everyone in a business has a hand in creating, however it is down to senior leaders, HR and line management, depending on organization size and reporting lines, to set the tone for how it is handled,” he says. “Simple interventions such as making sure workloads are manageable, setting realistic deadlines, and making sure employees have access to support, safe spaces, and relevant resources can all help to alleviate pressure in the workplace as well as professionals’ day-to-day work life.”   

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