People@Work: Economic Recovery Aside, Workers Are More Stressed Out Than Ever

After years of recession and a less than stellar economic recovery, growing numbers of worker are feeling the emotional toll. Many of them feel undervalued and stressed out, and they're dissatisfied with their jobs, a new survey finds.

More than a third of workers regularly experience on-the-job stress, and about half say inadequate pay significantly contributes to those feelings, according to the poll, commissioned by the American Psychological Association.

In addition to stress and money woes, 43% of workers polled also fret about lack of career growth and advancement opportunities, and heavy workloads. Nearly as many were concerned about unrealistic job expectations and long hours. Further, less than half (43%), say they are adequately compensated in non-monetary terms or are recognized for their contributions in the workplace.

What's more, it appears employers aren't doing all they could to help workers cope. The survey found that only 57% of workers were satisfied with policies their employers put in place to help employees balance the competing demands of work and family life. Further, just 52% of employees said they feel valued on the job. Only two-thirds reported being motivated to do their best at work, and about a third said that they intend to seek employment elsewhere within the next year.

The Vast Majority of Employees Are Worried

That workers are succumbing to increasing levels of stress isn't news to Wendy Kaufman, CEO of Balancing Life's Issues, a Ossining, N.Y.-based consultancy that provides corporate training on a variety of workplace issues. Reached Friday, Kaufman said her staff was conducting three workshops on coping with stress that afternoon alone.

The sources for stress that Kaufman and her staff find mirror those of the APA study -- fallout from the recession. Even if people are working, they still feel vulnerable to job loss. "Their jobs [are] still not secure," Kaufman says, and those who have survived layoffs are left wondering how long before they, too, join the unemployment lines.

"The vast number of people, I would say, are worried," she says. "Worry and stress are just tremendously related."

Contributing to the problem are poorly designed employer programs that aren't effective in combating stress. The issue is further exacerbated by a dearth of adequately trained professionals in the field to teach such skills, which, Kaufman adds, should have been learned at an earlier stage in life.

"The fact is that we are now asking adults to relearn a skill that should have been taught to [them as] children," she says. Parents today need to teach their children how to be good time managers very early on, she adds. Knowing how to use time effectively, along with other organizational skills, is key to keeping stress in check.

Smart Employers Can and Do Reduce Worker Stress

The good news is that some employers have developed effective programs -- including eight that the APA recognized with its Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award last week -- that help to create healthy workplace cultures that benefit both workers and employers.

By developing programs that increase employee involvement, improve health and safety and aid in striving toward work-life balance, among other factors, those employers have significantly reduced rates of employee turnover and chronic stress while increasing job satisfaction, APA says.

The results show that despite the uncertainty that exists in the current economy, employers can cultivate workplaces where workers are both productive and happy.

It's a growing trend, says APA Chief Executive Norman Anderson. "And it is our hope that all organizations will eventually have some type of psychologically healthy workplace program."

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Its past time that American workers responded to their slave driver employers by joining or forming a union to give them leverage for better working conditions and pay. Its a well documented fact that wages and incomes have not kept pace with the profits that companies make by always insisting on 'more productivity' from fewer and fewer workers. It has now reached its limit and workers have no incentive to work smarter or better because they know it will never be reflected in a pay raise. Companies have never been more profitable and all they want to do is hoard their wealth which they have no intention of sharing with their employees. Union contracts that tie productivity gains with pay increases are needed more than ever yet some people are blaming the 12% of American workers that are unionized with everything that's wrong with the country. The benefits and laws that protect workers were initiated by trade unions and even today in the so called 'right to work' states unions are responsible for any pay increases the employees get. Those pay increases are then paid to all employees regardless of whether they were union members or not, even though without unionization no raise would be forthcoming. Greed to increase stock value and wealth for 'investors' is the driver in a Capitalistic system like ours. Profit comes first and during the past 20 years employees are not even on the beneficiary list to receive anything for their efforts in making a company successful. Our standard of living has suffered as a consequence and now we all see the result of the never ending demands of employers to lower wages 'or else we will go to China'. The old union war cry in England used to be: "Democracy Doesn't End At The Factory Date'. Democracy as far as labor in the US is concerned is totally dead once one goes beyond the factory gate. That is a fact that the union bashers are blind to.

March 26 2011 at 5:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Productivity gains over the last decade while workers worked harder, longer, and for less and corporations and businesses walked away with record profits. And it floors me how people are so against unions yet enjoy the benefits those workers fought for and the unions negotiated. Last summer my father died and my son was too afraid to take time off work to attend the funeral out of state. And this was after the big wigs came in their fancy cars and announced in the spring that they wanted them to get done in four days what took five days the year before. When is enough enough for these people? No sick days, vacation, or overtime. Is it any wonder people are in the streets protesting in gop states.

March 16 2011 at 11:40 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Companies today know there is a long line of people that will gladly accept any job and as such consider most employees expendable. I know people who are afraid to take a day off becasue of what there manager's might do. These same companies hire mostly part time/temp workers keeping there benefit costs at a minimum. Days off are at your own expense.

March 15 2011 at 2:45 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Frank's comment

Employers do NOT care if you're stressed out. The more stressed you are....the more work you get.

March 15 2011 at 3:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


March 15 2011 at 3:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Big John

They feel undervalued because they are! Workers rights have been pushed back to the early 1900's and that is exactly what corporate America wants. They want to turn the middle class against the middle class with their marketing tricks and flag waving gimmicks and it is working across the country. People just making a living are told by anyone poorer that they need to lose their rights and get less pay. I have one question for those folks, where do you think you will ever get promoted to or better themselves if they let politicians destroy those jobs?

March 15 2011 at 2:21 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

reply to Mike regarding your comment: Damn I leave for a little to work on my wine celler and 56 is choking on olama's c--k.

This is the arrogance and ignorance of gop and tea party supporters and what is ruining our country. You cannot talk policy or legislation - just insults, name calling, and smartass one liners. Fox News and the Koch brothers have taught you well.

March 15 2011 at 11:42 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Over 19 months of manufacturing and export gains due to better trade agreements and enforcing existing trade laws. Also 100% write offs for improvements made in this country is what is driving our economy. And now the gop at federal and state levels are cutting jobs and wages and handing it over to corporations with no strings attached for job creation - it doesn't work. Workers have worked harder, longer, and for less for over a decade and have had enough of these failed policies and that is why they are protesting in the streets.

March 15 2011 at 11:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Time managers??? Sure, the good place ot start is carpooling! collectively, we can save some precious time with our families at home thanks to faster moving traffic ..

March 15 2011 at 11:12 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

I have never been in a union. However, I've worked for the same company for the last 20 years. I now find myself getting screwed by the company. Last week I got 32 hours. This week I have 30 1/2. We lost our bonuses this past year. Not that they were all that much. We work for a grocery chain. One of the largest grocers in the world. Nothing we can do. The Maryland dept of labor say's that "since Maryland is a (RIGHT TO WORK STATE), the company can give us whatever hours they want. Can make us clock out for a 1/2 hour, hour or whatever lunch break they want, keep us as long as they want. And have us come in whenever they want. As long as we don't go over 40 hours, no overtime pay. I asked the lady from the department of labor, "wasn't slavery stopped with the Emancipation Proclaimation of 1862"? Oh, many of us haven't had a pay raise in 5 years. And the anwer to no pay raise is, "your lucky you have a job". So now if I work only 30 1/2 or 32 hours a week, that's like only working 3 weeks a month. You would think that something could be done about this. But, this is America. Your screwed. Hey Obama, send some more money to some countries that need it. Why do we continue to send our tax dollars around the world? I don't recall anyone in Washington asking me approval for that, and I'm paying into this fund, and it's not funny!

March 14 2011 at 11:25 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to troopabn's comment

Actually the real culprit to your work situation is the corporation that refuses to pay you fair and decent wages for a 40 hour work week. And here's who you can thank -- the Tea Party who is helping the GOP send most jobs overseas so the CEOs can pocket the money and put more Americans on the unemployment line which MAKES ALL OUR TAXES GO UP.
Foreign aid is basically done as a good will gesture. Japan, for instance, will be receiving some after the nuclear disaster because they are our allies and have never taken jobs and aren't interested in killing us.

March 15 2011 at 10:19 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

These "trends" of a 30-32 hr. work week and less benefits, etc. have been in the making for almost 3 decades and accelerated tremendously under the Bush administration. Wages have mostly remained STAGNANT for workers while the wealth has been shifted to the top (1%). Please do your research so you don't waste all your time being mad at the wrong person. And DO expect everything to go TOTALLY downhill worse than your worst nightmare under the Republicans because with them busting the unions, there goes EVERYONE's paycheck, benefits and standard of living that the Unions helped to raise up. Your job protections and regulations and OSHA and all that will go down the crapper too. Businesses refuse to be monitored or told what to do and cannot be trusted to police themselves, as we found out from Wall Street, the big banks, Enron, the real estate companies, etc. And most of our government including the DOD, DOJ, etc. are all "dirty" as well.

March 16 2011 at 12:02 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

reply to mike: Can you - along with your republican tea party friends - stoop any lower?

March 14 2011 at 9:52 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to inasctg56's comment

56, what is it about OBSERVING ingorance that you find more distatesful than EXHIBITING ignorance?

March 14 2011 at 10:47 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

The simple truth is, so long as there is free trade, there will NOT be a recovery.

March 14 2011 at 4:43 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply