Workplace Stress

Are you experiencing workplace stress?

The Free AIS Workplace Stress Scale (WSS) was developed in 1978 and modified in 2022

to serve as a preliminary screening measure to determine the need for further investigation

with more comprehensive assessments such as the scientifically validated and AIS certified

Rosch Stress Profiler and the Stress Mastery Questionnaire. Available here for $19.95 each.

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Numerous studies show that job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated progressively over the past few decades. Increased levels of job stress as assessed by the perception of having little control but lots of demands have been demonstrated to be associated with increased rates of heart attack, hypertension, and other disorders. In New York, Los Angels and other municipalities, the relationship between job stress and heart attacks is so well acknowledged, that any police officer who suffers a coronary event on or off the job is assumed to have a work-related injury and is compensated accordingly (including heart attack sustained while fishing on vacation or gambling in Las Vegas).

ComPsych StressPulse survey

From Visually.

stress to joy

Although the Institute is often asked to construct lists of the “most” and “least” stressful occupations, such rankings have little importance for several reasons. It is not the job but the person-environment fit that matters. Some individuals thrive in the time urgent pressure cooker of life in the fast lane, having to perform several duties at the same time and a list of things to do that would overwhelm most of us — provided they perceive that they are in control. They would be severely stressed by dull, dead-end assembly line work enjoyed by others who shun responsibility and simply want to perform a task that is well within their capabilities. The stresses that a policeman or high school teacher working in an inner city environment are subjected to are quite different than those experienced by their counterparts in rural Iowa. It is necessary to keep this in mind when sweeping statements are made about the degree of stress in teachers, police personnel, physicians and other occupations. Stress levels can vary widely even in identical situations for different reasons.

Stress is a highly personalized phenomenon and can vary widely even in identical situations for different reasons. One survey showed that having to complete paperwork was more stressful for many police officers than the dangers associated with pursuing criminals. The severity of job stress depends on the magnitude of the demands that are being made and the individual’s sense of control or decision-making latitude he or she has in dealing with them. Scientific studies based on this model confirm that workers who perceive they are subjected to high demands but have little control are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Although the Institute is often asked to construct lists of the “most” and “least” stressful occupations, such rankings have little importance for several reasons. It is not the job but the person-environment fit that matters. Some individuals thrive in the time urgent pressure cooker of life in the fast lane, having to perform several duties at the same time and a list of things to do that would overwhelm most of us — provided they perceive that they are in control. They would be severely stressed by dull, dead-end assembly line work enjoyed by others who shun responsibility and simply want to perform a task that is well within their capabilities. The stresses that a policeman or high school teacher working in an inner-city environment are subjected to are quite different than those experienced by their counterparts in rural Iowa. It is necessary to keep this in mind when sweeping statements are made about the degree of stress in teachers, police personnel, physicians and other occupations. Stress levels can vary widely even in identical situations for different reasons.

Stress is a highly personalized phenomenon and can vary widely even in identical situations for different reasons. One survey showed that having to complete paperwork was more stressful for many police officers than the dangers associated with pursuing criminals. The severity of job stress depends on the magnitude of the demands that are being made and the individual’s sense of control or decision-making latitude he or she has in dealing with them. Scientific studies based on this model confirm that workers who perceive they are subjected to high demands but have little control are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Digesting the Statistics of Workplace Stress

Numerous surveys and studies confirm that occupational pressures and fears are far and away the leading source of stress for American adults and that these have steadily increased over the past few decades. While there are tons of statistics to support these allegations, how significant they are, depends on such things as how the information was obtained (self-report vs. answers to carefully worded questions), the size and demographics of the targeted group, how participants were selected and who sponsored the study. Some self-serving polls claiming that a particular occupation is “the most stressful” are conducted by unions or organizations in an attempt to get higher wages or better benefits for their members. Others may be conducted to promote a product, such as the “Stress In the Nineties” survey by the maker of a deodorant that found housewives were under more stress than the CEOs of major corporations. Such a conclusion might be anticipated from telephone calls to residential phones conducted in the afternoon. It is crucial to keep all these caveats in mind when evaluating job stress statistics.

According to a Gallup poll, with global borders closing, workplaces shuttering and jobs being cut, workers’ daily stress reached a record high, increasing from 38% in 2019 to 43% in 2020. Leaders and managers at every level should address this as it could lead to increased burnout, upset and disengagement.

COVID-19 Impact

45% of people say their own life has been affected “a lot” by the coronavirus situation. Although not surprising, leaders need to focus on employee engagement and wellbeing to build organizational resilience for tomorrow’s workplace.


Employee Engagement

Following a steady rise over the last decade, employee engagement decreased globally by two percentage points, from 22% in 2019 to 20% in 2020. Leaders will need to address this decrease and the business impact on workplace culture, employee retention and performance.

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Highlighted statistics from the report:

  • 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful

  • 25% view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives

  • 75% of employees believe that workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago

  • 29% of workers felt quite a bit or extremely stressed at work

  • 26% of workers said they were “often or very often burned out or stressed by their work

  • Job stress is more strongly associated with health complaints than financial or family problems

Download the Report

Highlighted statistics from the report:

  • 80% of workers feel stress on the job, nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress and 42% say their coworkers need such help

  • 25% have felt like screaming or shouting because of job stress, 10% are concerned about an individual at work they fear could become violent

  • 14% of respondents had felt like striking a coworker in the past year, but didn’t

  • 9% are aware of an assault or violent act in their workplace and 18% had experienced some sort of threat or verbal intimidation in the past year

U.S. workers are among the most stressed in the world, a new Gallup report finds

U.S. workers are some of the most stressed employees in the world, according to Gallup’s latest State of the Global Workplace report, which captures how people are feeling about work and life in the past year.

U.S. and Canadian workers, whose survey data are combined in Gallup’s research, ranked highest for daily stress levels of all groups surveyed. Some 57% of U.S. and Canadian workers reported feeling stress on a daily basis, up by eight percentage points from the year prior and compared with 43% of people who feel that way globally, according to Gallup’s 2021 report.

This spike isn’t surprising to Jim Harter, Gallup’s chief workplace scientist, who tells CNBC Make It that rates of daily stress, worry, sadness and anger have been trending upward for American workers since 2009. Concerns over the virus, sickness, financial insecurity and racial trauma all contributed to added stress during the pandemic.

But stress spikes were especially acute for women in the last year: 62% of working women in the U.S. and Canada reported daily feelings of stress compared with 52% of men, showing the lasting impact of gendered expectations for caregiving in the household, ongoing child-care challenges and women’s overrepresentation in low-wage service jobs most disrupted by the pandemic. By contrast, the daily stress levels for women in Western Europe went down in the last year, which researchers attribute to social safety nets for parents and workers to prevent unemployment.

65%

of workers said that workplace stress had caused difficulties and more than 10 percent described these as having major effects

10%

said they work in an atmosphere where physical violence has occurred because of job stress and in this group

42%

report that yelling and other verbal abuse is common

29%

had yelled at co-workers because of workplace stress

14%

said they work where machinery or equipment has been damaged because of workplace rage

62% end the day with work-related neck pain
Over half said they often spend 12-hour days on work related duties and an equal number frequently skip lunch because of the stress of job demands
19% or almost one in five respondents had quit a previous position because of job stress and nearly one in four have been driven to tears because of workplace stress
0%
had actually struck someone
0%
reported difficulty in sleeping
0%
 reported stressed-out eyes
0%
complained of hurting hands
0%
had called in sick because of job stress

These findings are supported by other studies that put their significance in perspective

Burnout in the Digital Age: How Professionals Can Avoid Workplace Stress

Workplace stress is likely to be an issue for all professionals at some stage in their careers. No matter your industry or level of experience, managing stress levels is something all professionals need to practice to achieve success and happiness in and out of work.

If poorly managed, the impacts of workplace stress can cause workers to experience burnout, a phenomenon we’ve all become more familiar with over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

The last year or so has really tested us all, especially in achieving a work-life balance. According to research from Indeed earlier this year, 52% of employees feel burned out. What’s more, as searches online for ‘signs of burnout’ have increased by 24% throughout 2020 compared to the previous year, it’s never been more important to understand burnout and how it can impact our lives. The good news is that there are a lot of ways that employers and employees can reduce the probability of experiencing burnout. From self-care to evolving company cultures, the future of work doesn’t have to be one where digital burnout is commonplace.

In the age of multiple screens and constant communication, learning how to spot the warning signs of burnout and prioritizing your mental health is an essential practice in order to have a sustainable relationship with our work and careers. In this guide, we explore what burnout looks and feels like, how to avoid it, and how to progress in your career without compromising your own stress levels.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a term we see thrown around quite a lot nowadays, but it’s a concept that has been explored since the 1970s, with the publication of Herbert Freudenberger’s book, Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement. He defined burnout as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

We can understand burnout in the context of workplace stress, which many of us experience at some point or another. We can all become stressed at work, particularly if we are putting in longer hours than usual, there are important deadlines coming up, or we have issues in our personal lives. Research by Mental Health America and FlexJobs shows that 76% of respondents agreed that workplace stress affects their mental health and have experienced burnout.

Burnout is an extreme form of workplace stress whereby the stress you are experiencing makes way for mental and emotional exhaustion. The World Health Organization (WHO) characterizes burnout by three main dimensions:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • Reduced professional efficacy

When we are experiencing stress at work, it may be difficult to concentrate on tasks, and we may have feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious. But workplace stress becomes burnout when we no longer have the capacity to care or engage with our work.

Why do people get burnt out?

Burnout is a result of excessive workplace stress, so it is essential to look at the factors that can create stress in the workplace, and therefore the environment for burnout to take place.

Work culture

Historically, the work culture in most companies is centered around productivity. And this is because businesses, by nature, are driven by profit, which is achieved by operating at maximum output. This often translates to an approach whereby productivity comes first, and inevitably, the needs of people come second.

This way of working creates the exact environment in which burnout can occur. This is because prioritizing profits and results become a cultural norm that everyone is expected to practice. And voicing concerns about mental health often negatively reflects on performance and an employee’s efficacy.

A culture that normalizes long working hours and neglects mental health is much more likely to see cases of burnout amongst its people. This is because it causes stress, and employees are not taught to recognize the signs to avoid burnout.

Lack of support from management

Management figures have the potential to represent a solution for stressed employees, and research does show that 96% of employers provide mental health resources to staff. But the effectiveness of this support doesn’t always translate, with only 1 in 6 employees feel supported by these resources.

Another factor to consider is the way in which senior members of staff manage their teams and employees. The WHO lists “poor communication and management practices” as a risk factor for poor mental health, which directly contributes to burnout.

This is because employees often feel like they cannot tell their managers that they’re struggling. According to research by Deloitte, “the top driver of burnout…was lack of support or recognition from leadership, indicating the important role that leaders play in setting the tone.”

Empathetic management practices encourage communication and compassion amongst teams and create a safe environment for employees to be transparent about their mental health and stress levels. This positive environment can combat stress and prevent burnout, but the reality is that many workplaces don’t provide this kind of opportunity for employees to have their needs met. A recent study, Hindsight 2020: COVID Concerns into 2021 showed that a third of employees wished their managers acted with more empathy.

To here view Burnout in the Digital Age: How Professionals Can Avoid Workplace Stress guide

40+ WORRISOME WORKPLACE STRESS STATISTICS [2022]: FACTS, CAUSES, AND TRENDS

Research Summary. Workplace stress is one of the largest hurdles you can experience on the job. Stress at work comes in all shapes and sizes, across all types of industries and careers. After extensive research, our data analysis team concluded:

  • 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress, with 25% saying their job is the number one stressor in their lives.
  • About one million Americans miss work each day because of stress.
  • 76% of US workers report that workplace stress affects their personal relationships.
  • Depression-induced absenteeism costs US businesses $51 billion a year, as well as an additional $26 billion in treatment costs.
  • Middle-aged participants had a 27% increase in the belief that their financial status would be affected by stress in the 2010s compared to the 1990s.
  • More than 50% of workers are not engaged at work as a result of stress, leading to a loss of productivity.
  • Companies spend around 75% of a worker’s annual salary to cover lost productivity or to replace workers.
  • The main causes of workplace stress are workload (39% of workers), interpersonal issues (31%), juggling work and personal life (19%), and job security (6%).

Sources ZIPPIA RESEARCH

Absenteeism due to job stress has escalated
According to a survey of 800,000 workers in over 300 companies, the number of employees calling in sick because of stress tripled from 1996 to 2000. An estimated 1 million workers are absent every day due to stress. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work reported that over half of the 550 million working days lost annually in the U.S. from absenteeism are stress-related and that one in five of all last-minute no-shows is due to job stress. If this occurs in key employees it can have a domino effect that spreads down the line to disrupt scheduled operations. Unanticipated absenteeism is estimated to cost American companies $602.00/worker/year and the price tag for large employers could approach $3.5 million annually. A 1997 three year study conducted by one large corporation found that 60% of employee absences could be traced to psychological problems that were due to job stress.

The Cost of Stress

Besides the toll on health, stress also cost businesses and the economy trillions in absenteeism, low productivity, and healthcare costs. Though stress in the workplace is inevitable, providing stress management tools will mitigate the effects of stress and will lower healthcare and other stress-related costs to the business in the long run.

  • Depression and anxiety cost the global economy approximately $1 trillion in lost productivity.
  • An estimated 1 million workers are absent every day because of stress.
  • Job stress is estimated to cost the US industry more than $300 billion in losses due to absenteeism, diminished productivity, and accidents.
  • Over five hours of office work hours are lost weekly to employees thinking about their stressors.
  • Work-related stress costs $190 billion in annual healthcare costs in the US.
  • The UK is not doing any better with €20 billion in annual healthcare costs.

Lack of growth and development opportunities impacts stress at work

However, most are satisfied with the growth and development opportunities offered by their employer–especially those who feel their workplace is psychologically healthy.

Stress

With global borders closing, workplaces shuttering and jobs being cut, workers’ daily stress reached a record high, increasing from 38% in 2019 to 43% in 2020. Leaders and managers at every level should address this as it could lead to increased burnout, upset and disengagement.

Source: Gallup
  • More than half of the 147 million workers in the European Union complained of having to work at a very high speed and under tight deadlines

  • Approximately half reported having monotonous or short, repetitive tasks and no opportunity to rotate tasks

Occupational pressures are believed responsible for:

  • 30% of workers suffering from back pain

  • 28% complaining of “stress”

  • 20% feeling fatigued

  • 13% with headaches

Job stress is costly. Job Stress carries a price tag for U.S. industry estimated at over $300 billion annually as a result of:

  • Accidents

  • Absenteeism

  • Employee turnover

  • Diminished productivity

  • Direct medical, legal, and insurance costs

  • Workers’ compensation awards as well as tort and FELA judgments

STRESS MANAGEMENT IN WORK SETTINGS is a DHHS (NIOSH) publication. This publication summarizes the scientific evidence and reviews conceptual and practical issues relating to worksite stress management. It is a collection of original contributions that address issues and problems in the field. The document is divided into three parts: (I) organizational stress and its assessment., (II) aspects of stress management as applied in work settings, and (III) listing of resources for training materials, products, and equipment. The two major themes of the publication are:

“stress management, as currently defined, has a limited role in reducing organization stress because no effort is made to remove or reduce sources of stress at work. Focusing on the individual as the prime target for organization intervention creates a dilemma of ‘blaming the victim.’ A more appropriate application of stress management would be as a complement to job redesign or organizational change interventions.”

“conceptual issues are as important as logistical ones in determining program success. Considerable effort should be expended at the outset to define the purpose of the program, delineate organization and individual goals, acquire organization support, and integrate the program with existing occupation safety and health efforts. In this way, the foundation is laid for a more stable and holistic program for controlling organizational stress.”

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“My work stress is driving me nuts,” my friend Connie said one day. “Do you ever feel that way?”

By AIS FELLOW-  Rozina Lakhani, MD, MPH

According to one survey, 80% of employees reported feeling stressed at work sometimes and 60% of absenteeism was associated with stress in some ways in that survey. Although stress can come from many sources, work stress particularly leads to burnout. In a study among physicians, burnout was independently associated with a 25% increased odds of alcohol use. It also increased odds of suicidal ideation among physicians by 200 percent. Stress is a natural part of life. In the right amount, it can push you to perform at your best. But too little or too much is not good. Also, not enough leads to low motivation, and too much can have adverse effects on your health and happiness.
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