Work stress has always been a concern in our increasingly industrious world. After nearly a year of working from home with flexible schedules and without the additional stress of a commute, it is more important than ever to ensure that the mental health of employees is considered.
The impact of excessive work stress on mental, physical, and emotional health cannot be overstated. Nearly 80% of workers feel work stress on the job, and in many cases that work stress follows them home at the end of the day. This stress may be due to excessive working hours, inadequate wages, or direct frustration with coworkers or management.1
Stress is something that affects everyone at some point in their lives during times of turmoil, uncertainty, or significant change. For many people, though, stressors have now become a constant presence rather than an occasional occurrence in their lives.
Because of the importance that has been placed on time management, productivity, and “hustle culture,” work stress is now something that is felt by employees at all levels and positions.2
Employees are increasingly being expected to perform tasks outside of their normal duties to “pick up the slack”. Additionally, many are expected to work overtime or longer hours than they used to due to a reduction in staffing and a lack of new workers entering the job field.
This combination leads to a significant number of stressors affecting employees daily as they are being expected to perform tasks they may not be fully trained for, comfortable with, or at a speed that does not ensure satisfactory work.
When this expectation to go above and beyond occurs daily, an employee’s stress level can never be properly reset. Instead, the constant level of stress and pressure from their bosses and peers will lead to burnout which can manifest as a mental health condition, physical ailments, poor performance, and eventually leaving the job.
Employee turnover is at an all-time high and is expected to reach 35% by the year 2023 due to unreasonable expectations being set on employees. In turn, this high level of turnover is stressful for management, who may themselves lose their jobs due to a lack of employee retention.
Additionally, managers are being expected to work extended hours, particularly if they are salaried, which results in spending a significant amount of time at work for a lower per hour wage. Many managers receive criticism from both employees and higher management which can affect self-esteem, commitment, and loyalty to their employer, leading to burnout as well.
A unique effect of the pandemic is that many people are now receiving more money through unemployment assistance than they ever did while working. Because the minimum wage has not increased with inflation, many retail and unskilled workers do not make enough to equal a living wage.
Therefore, there is now an unwillingness to return to jobs that pay abysmally and expect an enormous amount of work. Employers are having a difficult time hiring new employees at their previous wages, and many employees are pushing for pay increases that would match what they were receiving on unemployment.
However, as the pandemic nears its end, we are seeing a significant decrease in the number of unemployed, and the current unemployment rate is 5.8%.
Another unexpected stressor was the abrupt transition to working from home.
Initially, working from home was difficult for many. They experienced frustration, a lack of discipline, and constant interruptions from family members. The concept of work-from-home was new, and many employers believed that their staff wouldn’t be as productive.
Now, many employees report that they are significantly happier working from home, find that they are more productive and that they feel less stressed.
Because employees have adapted to working from home, there is an unwillingness to return to the stress of the office. In addition to a daily commute, there are stressors in the form of co-workers, the feeling of being micro-managed, and for many the need to find child-care options once more. In many situations, returning to office workspaces is unnecessary, costly, and bad for mental health.
Chronic symptoms of stress can lead to:
What may start as a way to “get through the day” may quickly turn into an addiction or dependency. Avoid indulging in these substances if you are feeling stressed:
There are many different methods of self-care that a person can practice for stress relief.5 These include:
Meditation, yoga, or tai-chi are all excellent ways to relax.