Survey: Workplace More Stressful Than 5 Years Ago

Heavy workload, interactions with boss the biggest stressors
woman giving up for the day

If you find yourself feeling nostalgic about a former job, there may be a good reason for it: A new survey suggests that today’s workplace has become increasingly stressful compared to years past.

Because work-related stress can have a negative impact on employees’ well-being, Korn Ferry, a global firm that works with companies to structure their workforce, sought to determine just how stressful employees find their workplaces and how that stress affects them. To determine this, the firm surveyed 1,405 workers around the world. They found that work-related stress is not only common, but it appears to be more pervasive than in the past.

An overwhelming majority of respondents — 88% — said their stress levels in the workplace were higher today than they were five years ago; in particular, 51% said their current work-related stress levels were much higher than they were five years ago. Meanwhile, in comparison, only 12% of respondents felt their workplace was less stressful today in comparison to five years ago.

When asked how that work-related stress has affected them, 90% said they have lost sleep because of it. Other respondents admitted to taking self-protective measures to counter the stress. For example, 34% said they’ve called in sick because the stress at work was so bad, and another 34% said they’ve even quit a job because it was too stressful.

Ranking the top work stressors

Workers pointed to a number of different factors that created a stressful professional environment. The top stressor was having a workload that was too heavy, cited by 41% of respondents. That was followed by:

  • A stressful boss (28%)
  • Not knowing how to do the job as expected (13%)
  • Coworkers (12%)
  • A long commute (3%)
  • A low salary (2%)

Many respondents also said that changes in company leadership were stressful. In fact, 93% said a shift in their organization’s structure, such as a change in management or a new chief executive officer, added to their stress load.

Some respondents found it challenging to separate work stress from home stress. One reason for that could be that work-related stress can affect workers even after they’ve gone home for the day. A vast majority of respondents — 93% — said that, to at least some extent, stress at work has had a negative impact on their personal relationships.

The study also suggested that stressors outside of the workplace can impact work performance, as 74% of respondents said stress at home has hurt their productivity at work.

To manage stress, you have to understand what situations are most stressful to you. For example, one recent study found that working from home adds stress to some workers’ lives. Long hours may also contribute to the stress levels of some workers.

If you are experiencing an enormous amount of stress and it’s affecting your productivity or health, consider talking to your manager to see if you might be able to adjust your workload. If that doesn’t work, it may be worth getting your resume out to see if another opportunity might be better for your well-being.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.