I've curated some of the latest stats & facts on work stress that organizations and their employees should consider as we head into 2018. Most of these stats are provided by the American Psychological Association from their 2017 Stress in America survey. It's a great survey that encompasses many domains of stress, in and outside of work.
Work stress is down, but still a leading cause of stress.
Since the financial crisis of 2007-2008, work stress has almost seen a 10 point reduction on the APA Stress in America study. The economy is more stable plus fewer layoffs since '08. However, we spend most of our waking day at work, so not a shock that it's still a leading source of stress.
Heavy workloads cause the most amount of stress at work.
ComPsych has been publishing a study over the years to measure the sources of stress at work. However, they only measure 4 things: workload, people issues, work-life balance, and job security (and they also rank in terms of most stressful in that order).
I wish this study was a little more broad in terms of the attributes it measures. It also appears they've made some changes to the categories measured recently by introducing an "other" category, which makes it difficult to determine some of the changes in what has been measured to date.
I do think many companies have made reorganization a frequent practice, and as a result, there's a lot of compression happening with job functions, especially as some of the older generations start to transition into retirement. It's not uncommon to hear employees say they feel like they're doing the work of several people.
Mental health among millennials is a growing problem.
Many senior leaders think their woes with managing millennials is attributed to generational gaps and new generational norms. This may be part of the issue, but mental health also seems to be a contributor as well.
Millennials experience more depression and anxiety at work than any other generation. Bensinger, DuPont & Associates (BDA) published these findings in their 2013 report on EAP in-take. But, if that doesn't scare you, then check out the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). This study has been measuring depression/anxiety among young adults since the 1930s--and it's been a steady rise every since.
Companies need to get their hands around the issue, otherwise face rising health plan costs (and if those costs are passed back to the employee, then it's just a growing cycle of stress).
The other challenge for leaders is that mental health is somewhat amorphous when it plays out in the workplace, unlike other physical ailments. For example, if you break a leg, you get a cast, and it eventually heals. If you're dealing with depression and anxiety, the path to healing may not be so linear.
Technology, a blessing and a curse.
Technology has changed the way we live and work--but it may be coming at a price--our sanity. 20% of adults says tech is a significant source of stress and 43% identify as a "constant checker" (APA, 2017).
Tech has habituated us toward instant gratification, so when we have problems, we look for immediate answers. In the case of stress, we download the latest app--but it's not that easy.
There are tons of stress management tools being developed in the tech space. However, the intersection of tech and stress management, even with good intentions, may ultimately not serve us as well as we think.
Managing stress is about finding balance, and that can be hard to do within a platform that delivers a constant barrage of text messages, push notifications, phone calls, app updates, alerts, alarms, etc.
Thinking about another org change? Think again.
Workers who experienced a recent org change are 4x more likely to report physical health symptoms at work (APA, 2017).
Sometimes employees need is a little bit of stability in their work. Yes, businesses need to be able to adapt to market conditions, but when they change too frequently, you promote a culture of distraction. Employees should be focused on performing their best to serve the business, rather than being distracted by the uncertainty of the unknown.
Stress impacts the bottom line, tremendously
Occupational stress costs U.S. employers about $300 billion a year (APA, 2017). Let me say that again. $300 billion a year! If you're organization is only combing through profit margins and competitive responses, look a little closer to home. There may be significant costs savings by rethinking how you work as a company.
Companies who invest in their employees, financially outperform other companies
The Workwell study done back in 2014 on the Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) 100 index found that companies who prioritized employee engagement and well-being outperformed the rest of the index by a whopping 10%. Gallup has done similar studies on performance that had similar outcomes.
As a closing thought, I think the industry needs a standardized, long-term stress study done just on work stress. There have been many studies over the years, but most focus on a variety of stress types, and some are inconsistent in their application and findings. Such a study would help organizations with their planning of employee engagement and health and wellness initiatives. In addition, a study might provide transparency to potential job candidates on the stress impact across industries, companies, and job functions.