Stress at Work: What Employees Know That Bosses Don't
Life + Money

Stress at Work: What Employees Know That Bosses Don't


Worker stress is the number-one lifestyle risk issue for employers – ranking above obesity, smoking and poor nutrition, according to a new report by Towers Watson.

A disconnect exists between what employees say causes stress and what employers believe causes it, according to the 2013/2014 Towers Watson Staying@Work Survey. Workers cite the top three reasons for stress as inadequate staffing, low pay and unclear job expectations.

While employers recognize the difficulties caused by inadequate staffing, their other top two priorities are not the same as the employees’ priorities. Instead, they’re focused on work/life balance issues and on technology that expands employee availability during non-work hours.

Employers ranked low pay ninth among 10 drivers of workplace stress.

“Employees seem to be saying, ‘Support me, pay me, direct me,’ but employers are focused on other stress factors,” Towers Watson senior health care consultant Shelly Wolff said in a statement.


Workplace stress can lead to increased employee illness, higher medical costs and lost productivity, but only about 40 percent of employers offer stress management services to employees. The survey found that workers looking for relief turn to leisure activities, social support and physical activities.

A separate study by the Integrated Benefits Institute found that stress at work contributes to poor job performance more than stress at home or financial worries. Just 41 percent of workers who experience workplace stress are able to perform at an above-average level, compared to 68 percent of workers who don’t experience workplace stress.

That study also found that healthier employees are less likely to experience work-related stress, with those in excellent health the least likely to be stressed out.

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