Poor pay, heavy workloads and lack of opportunity to advance are core factors feeding chronic work stress among Americans, according to a new survey by the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence. Those stressors are part of the reason more than one-third of American workers experience chronic stress and nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults cite work as a significant source of stress.
The reasons behind work stress are not so different than they have been in recent years, but the economic conditions following the recession have upped the ante on worker concern about career trajectory. Only 39% of workers in the survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the APA, said there were sufficient opportunities for internal career advancement.
Career Building in the New World of Work
But in the new world of work, where workload seems to exponentially increase and companies do more with less, career advancement is crucial to keeping employees in the game not only for themselves, but also as creative engaged workers who will enthusiastic about company interests.
The results from the APA’s Work and Well-Being Survey point to what appears to be a glaring disinterest on the part of some employers to address career advancement, stress, compensation and other pain points for workers. But these are clearly bottom-line factors for big business.
The definition of success for individual employees is not measurable, but their feelings about the road to get there are. When an employee does not feel valued, heard or attended to with regard to career path, their workplace worthiness quotient (my term) heads south. That’s a stress producer that flies under the radar, but the survey sheds some light on this theme.
• Just over half of employees (51%) said they feel valued at work
• Fewer than half (47%) said their employers regularly seek input from employees.
• Only 37% said the organization makes changes based on that feedback
Women’s Work Stress Perspective
When one is not valued or heard, stress can creep its way into the workplace and the APA survey indicates women are reporting a higher level of work stress than men. In fact, more women (37%) said they typically feel tense or stressed out at work compared to men (33%). The gender disparity in the survey is a significant talking point from the report.
• Women feel less valued than men, 48% of women versus 54% of men.
• 43% of women said they receive adequate monetary compensation for their work, compared to 48% of employed men.
• 35% of women said their employer provides opportunities for internal career advancement vs. 43% of men.
Employers Need to Boost Awareness of Work Stress
The conclusion of the report reflects the continued gender gap in the workplace, but more importantly it points to a gap in awareness on the part of some U.S. employers. The pace of work has been taken up a notch, but workers are not being given the tools to manage day-to-day stress. Only 36% of workers surveyed said their employers provide sufficient resources to help them manage stress.
There’s no magic bullet to do away with work stress and it’s ultimately up to individuals to choose to manage it. But if employers want a more creative workforce it behooves them to offer continuous assessment or monitoring tools to check worker stress levels, and programs which include tools and techniques to manage it over time.
One can’t simply reduce stress overnight. Knowing how to manage stress is a learned behavior, a skill if you will, that needs to be understood, learned and sustained over time. Inner calm and resilience have to be cultivated. Individuals have to take the time to learn new techniques to do that, and companies must start to cultivate the cultural cues that will support employees in their process.
To read about the companies that are on top of employee well-being head to the results of the APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award.