Recession Hangover? Most Employees Are Stressed Out

Last Updated Apr 1, 2011 12:30 PM EDT

During this recession, much has been written about the psychological toll of unemployment, but it turns out those with jobs are feeling stressed, too. The 2011 Work Stress Survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Everest College finds that a whopping 77% of Americans are stressed at work, with low pay the most common reason cited (14%).

The other reasons?
  • Commuting (11% of workers)
  • An unreasonable workload (9%)
  • Annoying coworkers (8%)
  • A bad boss (5%)
  • Poor work-life balance (5%)
This follows on the heels of news from the American Psychological Association that 36 percent of workers report experiencing chronic work stress and almost half say low salary has a significant impact on their workplace stress.

The APA survey also found that employees cited lack of opportunities for growth and advancement, heavy workload, unrealistic job expectations, and long hours as significant sources of workplace stress.

Why Employers Should Care
Feeling overworked and underpaid apparently may be causing low morale and diminished employee loyalty. According to MetLife's 9th Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends released earlier this week, 47% of employees reported feeling very strong loyalty to their employer, down from 59% just three years ago. The Met Life survey found that employees who were unsatisfied with their benefits were much less likely to feel loyal to their employers.
As BNET blogger Donna Fenn notes, when the economy starts to bounce back, employers may discover that they lose a lot of these workers if they don't start to improve conditions.
What Employees Can Do
You may not be able to change jobs or alter the source of your stress immediately, but you can change how you react to it to reduce its impact on you. Here are some coping strategies from the American Psychological Association:
Make the most of workday breaks. Even 10 minutes of "personal time" will refresh your mental outlook. Take a brief walk, chat with a co-worker about a non-job topic, or simply sit quietly with your eyes closed and breathe. If you feel angry, walk away. Mentally regroup by counting to 10, then look at the situation again. Walking and other physical activities will also help you work off steam. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others. Don't expect perfection. Talk to your employer about your job description. Your responsibilities and performance criteria may not accurately reflect what you are doing. Working together to make needed changes will not only benefit your emotional and physical health, but also improve the organization's overall productivity.
    What have you done to address your stress--or your employees'?

    Related:
    Laurie Tarkan is an award-winning health journalist who writes for the New York Times, national magazines and websites including Health, Prevention, iVillage and the Huffington Post. Follow her on twitter.
    Photo courtesy flickr user BLW Photography
    • Laurie Tarkan

      Laurie Tarkan is an award-winning health journalist who writes for The New York Times and many national magazines. She is a contributing editor at Fit Pregnancy magazine and the author of three books, Perfect Hormone Balance for Fertility, Perfect Hormone Balance for Pregnancy and My Mother's Breast: Daughters Ace Their Mothers' Cancer.. You can follow her on Twitter at @LaurieTarkan.

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