Job stress takes heavy toll on workers

Is work-related stress taking a toll on you? Is it making you depressed, unable to sleep or even physically ill? You are far from alone. According to a new study, 42 percent of American workers have changed jobs to escape the pressure-cooker, while another 35 percent have thought about it.

The study, by job-search site Monster, surveyed 6,700 people in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, India, the Netherlands and Canada. It turns out the U.S. is only the third-most stressful country when it comes employment. The top spot went to France, where stress has caused 89 percent of workers to either change jobs or consider it. Second place is the U.K. with 76 percent.

Of course, the feeling of stress is subjective, with national, cultural and other factors affecting how workers will register and deal with professional pressures. But there are commonalities. Here in the U.S., according to Monster, the top workplace stressors are supervisor relationships (40 percent); amount of work (39 percent); work-life balance (34 percent); coworker relationships (31 percent); and deadlines (25 percent).

Although it is hard to quantify the exact cost to American businesses of workplace stress due to missed work and decreased efficiency, it is almost certainly large. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they thought it had caused them to become ill at some point. More than 45 percent said work-related stress had caused them to lose time on the job, and 7 percent said the illness was so severe it required hospitalization.

It's not only workers who are affected. Nearly 85 percent said it had an impact on their personal lives, with 21 percent saying it had caused problems in their family or in other relationships.

Unfortunately, some of the common ways of coping with stress can boomerang and cause even bigger problems. More than a third said they dealt with it by eating, according to the study, while a quarter resorted to drinking after work. By contrast, many workers also sought to defuse tension through exercise or by stepping away from work and taking a day off.

Few workers seem to get much help from their employers. When asked, "What does your office do to help alleviate stress in the workplace?" two-thirds of respondents answered "nothing."


  • Constantine von Hoffman On Twitter»

    Constantine von Hoffman is a freelance writer and writing coach. His work has appeared in outlets such as Harvard Business Review, NPR, Sierra magazine, Brandweek, CIO, The Boston Herald, TheStreet.com, CSO, and Boston Magazine.

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