Workplace Survey Finds Concerns About Stress, Anxiety

July 15, 2003
A new survey examining attitudes in the workplace found stress about the economy, increases in emotional ailments including substance abuse and depression, incidents of anger, complaints and rudeness among coworkers.

Attitudes in the American Workplace IX, the Marlin Co.'s ninth annual national workplace survey, found that overall, 43 percent of American workers say that people in their workplace express fear or anxiety about national or world events at least several times a week. One-third say they've observed an increase in anxiety or stress-related physical ailments in their workplace in the last year, such as headaches, colds or stomach problems. Twenty-seven percent report an increase in emotional problems, such as depression, insomnia, substance abuse or family conflicts.

Employees whose coworkers express fears or anxiety about national/world events at least several times a week are also more likely than those who do not hear these fears expressed on a regular basis to report that there has been an increase in both physical and emotional ailments related to stress among co-workers in the last year.

"Interestingly, employees report that most of this stress is coming from outside of the workplace, but they bring it with them on the job regardless of the source. Managers must find a way to deal with these outside factors if they want to have a smoother-running workplace. This is a tall order, as the past assumption has been that most stress is job-related," said Marlin President Frank Kenna III.

"Unfortunately, today's managers were schooled in yesterday's techniques and woefully lack the skills needed for today's environment" he added. "They must listen and respond to what their employees are feeling if they want to have any chance of defusing the stress time bomb."

Other results of the study:

  • 42 percent reported an increase in complaints among co-workers in the last year; 33 percent reported an increase in gossip; 24 percent an increase in rudeness; and 29 percent an increase in anger.
  • 44 percent said it's a source of irritation that people don't follow the company attendance schedule and 29 percent said the same thing about offensive jokes.
  • 27 percent said morale is lower than it was a year ago and 30 percent said their own ambitions are less important now than 12 months ago.
  • 35 percent reported an increase in the number of stressed customers; 31 percent said there's been an increase in the number of customers who are hard to deal with, and 25 percent say they've seen an increase in customer complaints.

Fifty-four percent of respondents say management is helping employees deal with stress. Where management helps, employees report fewer emotional and physical ailments, higher morale, fewer complaints, less gossip and lower stress levels.

"Stress can kill. Imagine a doctor telling a patient he has a heart condition but not bothering to prescribe treatment," said Kenna. "That's not unlike what happens with stress. Lower stress levels help prevent disease. They also boost morale, reduce health-care costs and absenteeism, and generally help a workforce build trust, develop team skills, and create a mindset in which people can deal with conflicts before they become crises."

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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