Managing Employee Stress in the Workplace

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A smiling group of workers in protective vests and helmets give a coworker a round of applause.The nature of work and the demands of the workplace are continually evolving and have changed significantly over the past 50 years. Perhaps now more than ever before, work-related stress poses a recognizable threat to the health of workers. For leaders in the occupational safety field, managing employee stress is a crucial responsibility that not only protects employees but can help a company’s bottom line.

Work-Related Stress: An Overview

Work-related stress can be defined as the physical and emotional damage that occurs due to a mismatch between work requirements and the resources, needs and capabilities of workers. It is a common problem for all workers. Gallup’s “State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report” revealed that 43% of employees around the world felt stress on a daily basis. The stress was even more prevalent among American and Canadian workers. Gallup reports:

  • 57% of all workers reported feeling stress daily.
  • 62% of female workers reported feeling stress daily.
  • 52% of male workers reported feeling stress daily.

Stress is also causing individuals to reconsider their current state of employment. The American Psychological Association’s (APA) “2021 Work and Well-Being Survey” found that 79% of employees experienced work-related stress a month before being polled. The APA’s survey also reports that the following groups of workers who feel stress at work plan on finding a new job within the next year:

  • 71% of all employees
  • 63% of disabled employees
  • 58% of Hispanic employees
  • 57% of Black employees
  • 56% of LGBTQ+ employees

This type of stress has unfortunate ramifications. Says the APA survey:

  • 67% of frontline and low-level employees have felt negative impacts of work-related stress in the past month.
  • 64% of mid-level employees have also felt these negative impacts in the same time frame.
  • 35% of frontline workers have also felt ‘fed up’ quite frequently or more often in the past month.

All these workplace stress issues can have a significant impact on business performance. Gallup’s report noted that the lack of engagement at work, which was partially due to stress, costs the global economy $8.1 trillion in lost productivity annually. The American Institute of Stress also reports that American employers spend approximately $190 billion annually on employee health care and employee absences directly related to workplace stress.

Work-Related Stress Symptoms

The origins of workplace stress can vary. Employees cite the following triggers as the most likely to cause work-related stress, according to the poll:

  • 56% — low salaries
  • 52% — lack of growth or advancement opportunity
  • 50% — workload
  • 48% — unrealistic job expectations
  • 48% — problems with their supervisor
  • 43% — coworker issues

In some cases, the work-related stress symptoms can cause or increase the chances of developing detrimental physical conditions. These can include high blood pressure, headaches, diabetes, heart problems, asthma, arthritis and skin conditions.

Besides physical symptoms, many workers can experience psychological stress symptoms. Says a 2021 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA):

  • 59% of employees experienced some sort of negative psychological impact.
  • 26% of employees had a lack of interest, motivation or energy while on the job.
  • 21% of employees had difficulty focusing.
  • 19% of employees had a lack of effort or ambition at work.
  • 17% of employees had negative thoughts.

Strategies for Managing Stress in the Workplace

Organizations that implement strategies for managing stress in the workplace can experience several benefits that can directly impact their employees’ health and their own bottom lines. These benefits can include reduced absenteeism, reduced turnover, lower medical insurance costs, higher productivity and a stronger company culture. These factors can help improve a company’s overall profitability.

There are several ways employers can help contribute to a stress-free environment. One of the most important steps is to investigate employees’ sources of stress and work to eliminate them.

Employers can also implement stress-reducing programs or initiatives to teach workers how to deal with common stressors, such as deadlines. These can help workers develop healthier responses. They can also encourage employees to adopt healthy behaviors, such as taking yoga or participating in wellness programs.

Finally, employers should be willing to make changes to their work environment. These changes can be small, such as redecorating or redesigning workspaces, or playing classical music. They can also involve using technology to redefine work and production, such as allowing employees to telecommute.

Reduce Stress, Increase Satisfaction

Work-related stress is a huge problem for the American workforce, and the consequences if left unchecked can be devastating. Fortunately, employers can address this issue by implementing a host of strategies designed to reduce stress and build happier, healthier work environments.

Eastern Kentucky University’s online Bachelor of Science in Occupational Safety program helps students become leaders in helping keep workplaces safe and stress-free. The program is designed to help you cultivate the knowledge and skills to mitigate stressful workplace situations before they cause issues, allowing employees and employers to thrive.

Learn how EKU can empower you to make a valuable difference in the workplace of today and tomorrow.

Recommended Reading

Intelligence Gathering for Corporate Security

Occupational Safety vs. Process Safety

Production Versus Safety in the Workplace


American Psychological Association, The American Workforce Faces Compounding Pressure

American Psychological Association, “Burnout and Stress are Everywhere”

Business News Daily, Employees Reveal How Stress Effects Their Jobs

Business News Daily, “Stressed Out! Unrealistic Expectations Put the Pressure on Workers”

CNBC, “U.S. Workers Are Among the Most Stressed in the World, New Gallup Report Finds”

Corporate Wellness Magazine, “Workplace Stress: A Silent Killer of Employee Health and Productivity”

Gallup, State of the Global Workplace

WebMD, “The Effects of Stress on Your Body”