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 a 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 CEO’s 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.
The NIOSH report is considered by many as an excellent resource that cites the following:
- 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful;
- 25% view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives;
- Three fourths 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 percent 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.
This information was obtained in the late 1990′s in large surveys by Northwestern National Life Insurance Co, Princeton Survey Research Associates, St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Co., Yale University and The Families and Work Institute.
More recently, a 2008 report has shown:
- 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;
- 14% of respondents had felt like striking a coworker in the past year, but didn’t;
- 25% have felt like screaming or shouting because of job stress, 10% are concerned about an individual at work they fear could become violent;
- 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.
A subsequent survey similarly reported that:
- 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 and 2% admitted that they had actually personally struck someone;
- 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;
- 62% routinely find that they end the day with work-related neck pain, 44% reported stressed-out eyes, 38% complained of hurting hands and 34% reported difficulty in sleeping because they were too stressed-out;
- 12% had called in sick because of job stress;
- 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.
These findings are supported by other studies that put their significance in perspective. And it has only gotten worse with the severe recession the US is experiencing with no resolution in sight. So what do we do?
Workers need to learn how to deal effectively with the stress they experience on the job. For too long, they have been conditioned to ignore, suppress, repress, and accept stress and anxiety and focus only on completing their jobs. This hasn’t worked as the above statistics prove as well as recent studies that suggest that stress is now directly or indirectly responsible for 86% of all diseases in the US.
If employers are not going to take responsibility to help their employees deal more effectively with workplace stress (and they should since it is now estimated that it costs employers nearly $3 Billion annually in lost productivity, sick leave and insurance) then the employees must accept that responsibility. Here are some recommended strategies for dealing with workplace stress.
- Proper breathing techniques
- Relaxation Therapy
- Stress Management classes
If you are a regular reader of The Peak you will learn how to use these and be provided with many other hints, tools, and strategies to help you deal with workplace stress. You may not be able to change jobs or change the conditions where you presently work, but you can do something to alter your present responses to your stress at work so you remain productive, successful, and not allow your health, happiness, and quality of life to be affected.