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Support: Dealing with Stress in the Workplace

Stress at Work [2.10.2.a]

The 2007/2008 Global Strategic Rewards report from Watson Wyatt Worldwide[1] states that employers do not understand the reasons why staff members typically leave their jobs:
  • Employees stated that stress was the top reason they would resign.
  • Employersdid not even list stress among the top five reasons for a resignation.
The study also found that when employees are satisfied with stress levels and work/life balance, they are more inclined to stay (86 percent versus 64 percent) and more likely to recommend their employer to others (88 percent versus 55 percent).
Survey: Top 5 Reasons Employees Leave
Employees stated:
Employers stated:
Stress levels
(37 percent)
Base pay
(52 percent)
Base pay
(33 percent)
Career development
(47 percent)
Promotion opportunity
(26 percent)
Promotion opportunity
(45 percent)
Career development
(23 percent)
Relationship with
(35 percent)
Work/life balance
(22 percent)
Work/life balance
(24 percent)

If employers don’t recognize stress as a critical problem, they may be doing all the wrong things to try to retain staff. Seventy percent of the more than 500 people polled by MRINetwork[2] said their company did not do a good job of allowing them to balance work life and personal life. High work stress was strongly associated with low levels of job satisfaction.
In a recently completed Staying@Work report[3] from Watson Wyatt Worldwide, Shelly Wolff, national practice director of health and productivity, states that “many companies don't appear to appreciate how stress is affecting their business. Too much stress from heavy demands, poorly defined priorities and little on-the-job flexibility can add to health issues. By leaving stress unaddressed, employers invite an increase in unscheduled time off, absence rates, and health care costs—all of which hurt a company’s bottom line. Pay alone is not enough to retain and engage today’s workers. To remain competitive, companies need to understand fully what causes employees to join or leave and what causes them to be productive if they stay.”
The Staying@Work respondentsreported that the primary causes of employee stress were extended work hours, doing more with less (48 percent), poor work/life balance (32 percent), technologies that expand availability (29 percent), managers’ inability to recognize stress (20 percent), and managers’ inability to find solutions for stress (20 percent).
In several studies of the substance abuse workforce, Dr. Hannah Knudsen and her colleagues at the University of Georgia have found that behavioral health employee stress is related to three aspects of organizational culture. Employees of organizations with centralized decision-making procedures were more likely to feel emotionally exhausted and consider leaving their jobs. On the other hand, emotional exhaustion and the desire to leave were lessened in organizations with greater “distributive justice”—allocating benefits fairly—and “procedural justice”—having fair methods of making decisions. Study abstracts referred to are:

[1] Wyatt Watson Worldwide, (2007). 2007/2008 Global strategic rewards® report and United States findings. Retrieved November 27, 2007, from WorldatWork Web site:
[2] Management Recruiters International, MRINetwork (2007, October 04). MRINetwork Polls. Retrieved January 24, 2008, from Poll Archive Web site:
[3] Watson Wyatt/National Business Group on Health 2007/2008 Staying@Work report, (2008, February 14). Few employers addressing workplace stress, Watson Wyatt surveys find. Retrieved February 19, 2008, from Watson Wyatt News Press Release Web site:

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