A Workplace Trend That Everyone Knows, But Nobody Talks About As Much Work is inherently stressful, but if it keeps mounting every day there's a big price to pay

By Pooja Singh

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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We are all stressed. How will we meet the targets of the month to what we can do to stay relevant are just two of the many things that we worry about every single day. Mobile phones have made things a bit more difficult, as we have to stay connected every single second. In other words, we never really step out of the office.

In the last three decades, stress levels among employees have risen nearly 20 per cent, and among the top reasons for this are the threats of losing a job to technology and the pressure to learn new skills to stay employed.

The root cause

In a recent survey of nearly 2,000 professionals by management consulting group Korn Ferry, nearly two-thirds confessed that their stress levels at work are higher than they were five years ago.

"There are many factors that cause increased stress levels at work, including keeping up with changes in technology, increased workloads, and interpersonal conflict," says Dennis Baltzley, a Korn Ferry senior partner and global head of Leadership Development Solutions.

The largest source of current stress is the boss. Over 30 per cent of the respondents said their superior is the biggest source of stress at work, and 80 per cent said a change in leadership, such as a new direct manager or someone higher up the organizational chart, impacts their stress levels.

Beyond the office

More than three-quarters of the respondents, 76 per cent, said stress at work has had a negative impact on their personal relationships, and 66 per cent said they have lost sleep due to work stress. Over 15 per cent admitted they had to quit a job because of stress. A study by the University of Houston, published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, found a link between parents' workplace stress and the health of their children. "If you can decide how you are going to do your job, rather than having that imposed on you, it is better for children," said study researcher Christiane Spitzmueller, who is a professor at the university.

The more surprising thing, though, is that we never really talk about stress. How many times have you told your colleagues that you are stressed? Many employees fear that admitting would translate to underperformance, laziness, or even lack of interest. This perhaps discourages them from speaking up.

This is where companies have to come to the rescue of their employees.

As Baltzley suggests in the study, organizations can offer training on new technologies and development for managers on how best to lead. "Leaders can restructure firms to dismantle anxiety-causing top-down corporate structures and eliminate authoritarian leadership styles," the expert says.

Lowering a person's workload, however, won't be helpful in reducing stress. In the Korn Ferry survey, 79 per cent of respondents said not having enough work is more stressful than having too much work. What's more, 74 per cent would rather take on more work if they got paid more rather than cut back their workload and receive less compensation.

"There is the old adage that if you want something done, ask a busy person," Baltzley says.

Pooja Singh

Former Features Editor, Entrepreneur Asia Pacific


A stickler for details, Pooja Singh likes telling people stories. She has previously worked with Mint-Hindustan Times, Down To Earth and Asian News International-Reuters. 

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