Work stress can be as detrimental as any other form of pressure or anxiety we face in life. Whether you’re an employer or an employee, workplace stress is at a global all-time high, and it’s something we all need to be more aware of. It can have a severe impact on employee mental health and if it’s not addressed by employers, it can impact employee retention.
Talkspace commissioned a study, in April of 2022, with The Harris Poll to better understand how we can mitigate stress in the workplace. The survey compiled responses from 1,400 full-time employees across the country, and the findings were staggering.
Read on as we dive into the important information that Talkspace’s Employee Stress Check 2022 Report uncovered about the causes and effects of work stress. Whether you are dealing with stress from work or looking to better understand it as an employer, we outline solutions for addressing this growing issue in the workplace.
Bluntly put, mental health support in the United States is woefully lacking. Across the board, resources, funding, and accessibility are all in dire need of attention.
It’s clear that employees need adequate, affordable, convenient access to mental health resources. This must be a front-line effort that reaches the corners of every industry, for every employee, at all times.
While those numbers are low, a whopping 66% of workers who’ve considered quitting say access to mental health services might convince them to stay at a job. It’s not just the actual resources that are needed, either — think: access to therapists and basic or intense mental health services. 70% of employees report they’d be comfortable talking to a therapist about their mental health as it relates to work.
Equally as important is allowing employees ample time to make their mental health a priority. Mental health days and personal time off without fear of retribution or of losing a competitive advantage are essential.
Over the last year, we’ve witnessed unprecedented numbers of workers leaving their jobs. While the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted record numbers, it sparked what has been an ongoing economic trend, known as the “Great Resignation.” This widespread quit from the workplace has shown that employees are voluntarily leaving their jobs due to a number of reasons.
So, why are people quitting? Survey results offer some perhaps surprising insights into why workers are leaving their jobs.
As you may suspect, pay is the leading factor in why many people decide to quit. In fact, low pay is cited as the main reason for 57% of all workers who leave their jobs. Still, job dissatisfaction often has to do with more than just inadequate pay. Some of the closely following reasons?
Knowing that workplace stress is an issue is one thing — knowing what to do about it is an entirely different ballgame. So, where do we go from here? We must understand what is stressing out employees and learn how to address and minimize the impact of stress in the workplace, so workers have support and options available to them before quitting.
While there are many causes for stress and anxiety these days, it turns out that a vast majority of people feel pressure stemming directly from their work environment.
According to survey responders, there are several factors at play when it comes to how much work stress is too much.
Feeling under-valued is detrimental in any sector of life. At our job, it can be a double whammy, as salary is often a direct reflection of how important we feel in our role at work. More than half (57%) of workers feel like they’re paid too little for the job they do.
When you don’t feel adequately compensated for your efforts, it can be extremely difficult to get the internal motivation you need to keep going. Further, doing a good job can be difficult when you don’t feel like you’re paid enough.
Burnout can quickly become a serious issue for anyone, anywhere, even in the best-case scenarios. Feeling doomed to repeat the same tasks, day after day, can result in feeling detached, unmotivated, and in a dark place.
51% of the people surveyed reported feeling burned out at work. Beyond that, 59% of those people say their on-the-job burnout has actually worsened over the last year. With staggering numbers like that, it’s clear that many people are reaching their breaking points.
Some may argue that feeling stressed at work just comes with the territory, especially for jobs that naturally come with high stress. That may be partly true, but when our job demands become too stressful, as they seemingly have for 46% of survey respondents, it can be overwhelming.
Further, 53% of people who say their jobs are too stressful said they feel more stressed today than they did just a year ago. Job stress can have a breaking point, and when you hit it, the days of pretending it doesn’t exist quickly end.
Lack of flexibility in the workplace can add to stress, lost motivation, and feeling woefully overburdened or stuck in a job. 45% of people pointed to an inflexible job as a contributing factor to not being able to perform well at work.
Constantly feeling like you don’t have enough hours in your day and struggling to manage your duties at work plus your responsibilities outside your job can leave you feeling frustrated. It’s important to have the time you need to get everything done in life, whether that’s running errands or picking up your kids from school.
Working long days has been an issue for American workers for decades. Apparently, this problem is not one that’s going away. 44% of survey respondents report that they regularly work too many hours as a result of a heavy workload.
Working too much isn’t just a problem in terms of energy and productivity, either. Multiple studies have shown a direct link between long hours and major depressive episodes. People who work 11 hours a day are more at risk of depression than those who stay within the “normal” 7-8 hour workday range. At this point, it’s difficult to have any sort of work life balance.
Stress about job insecurity or your future at a job can impact how well you’re able to manage the demands placed on you at work. 43% of people said they worry about the future of their job.
Worrying about your future can result in being distracted and unable to concentrate on the job at hand. It can effectively reduce how productive you are in your role. When you’re constantly feeling under pressure to perform well and meet a certain standard, to the point that you’re unable to do your job to the best of your ability, the ripple effect can be dire and impact employers as well.
Toxicity can reach all facets of life. From interpersonal relationships to social circles, and to work environments, dealing with a toxic person or setting can influence your ability to function and how productive you can be. Worse, it can have an incredible impact on your mental well-being.
Research shows us that toxic work environments can increase the risk of major depressive symptoms by more than 300%. Nearly a third (32%) of people say that a toxic work environment contributes to their stress.
It’s important that we acknowledge, individual work stress can impact more than just work life. Problems often don’t directly just have to do with a job in question. Employee relations, manager-employee communication, and more are directly affected by stress in the workplace.
Workplace stress filters far beyond just the actual office, though. The impact reaches the personal lives of many stressed workers. When surveyed, workers reported the following negative effects of work stress.
It’s become increasingly obvious that both employers and employees need to acknowledge the truth that stress in the workplace is a universal problem. So, how can we reduce and manage stress in the workplace on both sides?
Setting boundaries is a lifelong skill that can improve both interpersonal and professional relationships. Knowing how and when to draw lines about what you’re comfortable with and what’s invasive can give you a healthy mindset and approach to your job. The power of saying no can give you strength, peace, and even compassion. When you set boundaries, you’ll find that you’re happier, less stressed, and likely able to perform your job at levels you might not have known were possible.
Taking breaks is an important way to reset and refocus your mind and energy. You can’t be on the go all the time. Several times a day, give yourself a set, established time to take a deep breath and regroup. It might mean you’ll hit the desk with a fresh sense of purpose and renewed energy to get through the next part of your day. Whether it's closing your laptop for a moment or partaking in a brief physical activity, anything you can do to break up the monotony of your day can be a game-changer.
Many people have a boss who expects too much, but it’s just as important to check in with the expectations you set for yourself, too. Unrealistic expectations aren’t just unreasonable and hard to live up to, they’re also unhealthy. Not being able to successfully complete what’s expected from you, or never reaching your goals can weigh heavily on your spirit and mindset. The first way you can begin to manage expectations is to use the comparison test. Ask: Is this a reasonable task/amount of time/goal for someone else to reach? If you wouldn’t expect someone else to handle it, you shouldn’t take it on either.
Time management can be tricky, but learning to use your time effectively will result in huge improvements in both productivity and mood. It also can make a positive contribution toward stress management. If you know that you spend too long completing one specific task, set a time limit. Then, stick to it. Sticking to a routine can help you manage your expectations for the day and determine what tasks make your days more difficult.
If your company offers mental health days, you absolutely should take advantage of them occasionally. Do something fun, indulgent, or relaxing. Too often, we don’t spend the me-time we need on self care. Make mental health days a priority so that your work stress doesn’t build up and result in a necessary stress leave from work. Research tells us that simple strategies like mindfulness meditation can effectively reduce job burnout and have an incredibly positive impact on alleviating stress and depression. Not sure if you need a recharge? Discover these common signs you need a mental health day.
There’s no shame in getting support when it comes to mental health. In fact, admitting you need help, and asking for it, is a sign of strength. It’s true that the work might not always be easy, but finding a support system — whether it’s through a friend, spouse, support group, or working with the right therapist — can be life-changing. In fact, of the 48% of workers we surveyed who’ve seen a therapist — around 2 in 3 say therapy helped them with issues around focusing, unrealistic expectations, and work life balance. You’ll learn how to identify triggers and find coping strategies that help you manage your stress so you can be more productive and happier at your job.
Offering support and resources can be as beneficial for you as it is for the people who work for you. They get the help they need, and you get employees who are more able and willing to do their job to the best of their ability. Fortunately, extending that workplace helping hand isn’t as hard as you may think.
Pay attention to your employees’ moods and general sense of well-being. Do they seem stressed out? Has their personality, work habits, productivity, or anything else changed suddenly? If so, it might be a sign that they’re burned out. Noting the outward signs can be instrumental in combating burnout in employees before it’s too late. As an added benefit, when employees know that you care and they are confident in your support, they might be more inclined to get the help they need.
Showing that management cares will go even further in reassuring employees that they can, and should, be open and honest if they need help. Establishing a respected employee wellness program means people can trust what you’re offering them in terms of work life balance. It’s a little bit of effort that can pay off in a big way — 43% of workers state that when a manager “protects their mental health,” they’re far more likely to find work fulfilling and far less likely to feel burned out or stressed.
Eliminating, or even just reducing, work stress can do wonders for employee work performance. You can help your employees manage their stress by ensuring they have access to mental health help when and how they need it. Nearly 3 in 4 people say they’d be comfortable talking to a therapist about work stress — more than would be comfortable talking to peers or colleagues. Offering coverage for mental health services is the first step. In fact, 40% of people believe receiving mental health benefits would go a long way towards reducing workplace stress they experience.
Many people struggle with showing up to work some days due to anxiety, depression, or stress. However, employees often still show up to work even though they may need a personal day.
Whether it’s time not paid when they miss work for appointments or fear they’ll be retaliated against if they need to take personal time off, you can relieve anxiety by offering mental health days employees can take when they need them. For example, 49% of workers said having wellness days would help their stress levels.
The flexibility a hybrid or remote work option offers employees is proven in studies to increase productivity and balance, not to mention it’s preferred by workers. In fact, an estimated 83% of employees want a hybrid work environment that allows them to be remote at least 25% of the time. The model is found to be significantly financially beneficial for employers, too.
Consider offering the people who work for you flexible options to get their work done — 80% of employees say having the benefits of flex work or mental health days would make them consider staying in a job they’re thinking about quitting.
Working parents seem to have an even heavier burden in comparison to their non-parent counterparts. According to the survey, parents are more stressed, more burned out, and more impacted by work stress. 60% of working parents said it’s difficult to balance parenting and work responsibilities.
In general, working parents are hit harder by the factors that contribute to workplace stress leading to burnout. They also are more prone to miss work — 44% of parents have missed more than 1 full day of work since the start of the year due to parenting responsibilities. How can we help relieve the burden on working parents?
Establishing a healthy work environment that's wellness-focused is easier than you’re probably thinking. Placing importance on self-care for the mind, body, and spirit can be the first step you take in creating a mentally healthy workplace. From there, coping strategies and a wellness-first culture with adequate mental health resources will ensure that work stress is kept at bay.
Online therapy platforms like Talkspace are changing the face of workplace mental health environments across the country. Therapy that’s convenient, flexible, and affordable means even busy people can take advantage of the opportunity to get help managing work stress.
Need support with improving your personal wellness? Talkspace provides online therapy so you can learn to cope with work related stress and better your overall mental health. Get connected with a licensed Talkspace therapist today.
Ready to make mental health a priority in the workplace? Learn more about employee stress and how you can provide your employees with mental health resources in the Talkspace Employee Stress Check 2022 Report. Download the survey today.
The Harris Poll conducted an online poll among 1,400 American workers from March 31st – April 8th, 2022. All respondents were full-time employees in the U.S., and the study included an oversample of 817 working parents with children under the age of 18.
Results were weighted by gender, region, race, age, income, and education to U.S. Census data to align with proportions in the population. The sampling margin of error of this poll is +/- 3.1 percentage points.
This is the second of two polls (first in July 2021) conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Talkspace on mental health among the U.S. workforce.
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