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The data used in this post has been taken from Gallup® reports. Link at the end.
World Health Organization defines stress in this way. “Stress can be defined as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. Stress is a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats in our lives. Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The way we respond to stress, however, makes a big difference in our overall well-being.”
44% employees worldwide say they are stressed, a level which was raised and set high in 2021. Employee stress levels have been rising over the past decade. The silver lining, however, is that engaged employees are less likely to report stress compared to less engaged ones.
Stress level reporting varies between regions. The highest level reported is from US, Canada, and East Asia at 52%, followed by Australia and New Zealand at 47%, followed by Europe at 39%.
Stress vis-à-vis employee engagement has an interesting relationship. The highest level of employee engagement is seen in South Asia at 33%, followed by US, Canada, Latin America, and Caribbean at 31%. European region has the lowest employee engagement at 13%. Generally, higher engagement level leads to less stress but in these cases, the stress is still quite high in highest engagement groups. Remote employees are more engaged at 30% than fully on-site workers at 21%, but they have higher levels of stress, probably due to less predictable or structured life.
People younger than 40 years are experiencing more stress at 43%, compared to older workers at 39%; more women are experiencing stress at 46% compared to men at 42%. Women display higher levels of engagement than men but also higher levels of stress, ostensibly due to multiple conflicting demands at work, at home, and in the social set up. Another interesting piece of information is that employees with better wellbeing report less stress.
The above data shows that all employees report stress though levels may vary. Certain amount of stress is natural and necessary for performance. However, when stress exceeds a certain point, it decreases performance. The threshold for taking stress shall vary between individuals but most people will fall in the middle range.
The organizations shall not be able to reduce stress in this age and time due to highly competitive business environment where market space is limited, but they can help employees to cope with stress. It is not philanthropy, it is rather a commercial goal, pursuing which is in direct benefit of the organization.
The organizations may consider following steps which will help employees cope with everyday stress.
Environment is a broad term which probably includes everything that runs in the organization. Having said that, we shall break it down into few parts to make it more understandable.
An overall environment of fear, harassment, disrespect, disgrace, discomfort, unclear expectations, ambiguous directions, and lack of hierarchy is a great recipe for an extremely stressful work environment.
When we talk about congenial and conducive environment, it may mean differently for different people. In practice, environment can be made less stressful (it will never be stress-free) by taking following measures.
- Physical aspects of seating, lighting, weather-conditioning, working tools, refreshment, should be improved. Constant physical discomfort saps energy, disturbs concentration, and affects performance.
- Basic level of respectfulness should be the minimum standard. Everyone should be addressed with normal courtesy in language and manners.
- Expectations and responsibilities should be clearly spelled out, along with clear directions. Most people cannot deal with ambiguity but can perform well in certainty. They should get that opportunity.
‘Divide and Rule’ is a bad idea in the context of corporates; teamwork brings better results.
- Managers should be encouraged to communicate with their peers and seniors to work synergistically.
- Managers should be asked to develop their subordinates as a team.
- Cross-functional teams should be made to promote collaboration.
- Corporate should hold activities and events which inculcate the spirit of teamwork.
Research says that 80% employees stay or leave due to their immediate managers.
- Managers’ behavior is a key element in management.
- Managers who treat their teams with respect earn their loyalty.
- Managers who work on personal development earn longevity of stay of their teammates.
In larger organizations, people counseling services may be arranged, under the banner of HR department.
- Qualified counselor/psychologist can talk to individuals to alleviate their stress.
- Counselors can run workshops to talk about handling work stress better.
- Counselor can also run climate surveys along with HR to gauge levels of stress in the organization.
Increased stress among employees is eroding their engagement and is expediting burnout. This is causing work loss and time loss which ultimately leads to business/revenue loss. It is in direct interest of the organizations to help employees cope with stress.
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