Stress is the No. 1 workforce health issue, ranking above physical inactivity and obesity, according to the 2013/2014 Towers Watson Staying@Work Survey. However, only 15% of employers identify improving employees’ emotional and mental health—by reducing stress and anxiety—as a top priority of their health and productivity programs.
Part of the problem: An apparent disconnect between how employees view stress and how their employers respond.
Workers say they’re stressed because they’re overworked. Employers seem to believe it’s because employees don’t know how to cope.
Employees say inadequate staffing is their No. 1 source of stress, followed by low pay (or stingy pay raises) and unclear or conflicting job expectations.
But employers rank the top three causes of workplace stress as lack of work/life balance (86%), inadequate staffing (70%) and technologies that expand employee availability during nonworking hours (63%).
Employees ranked lack of work/life balance fifth. While employees ranked low pay or low pay increases as their second-biggest source of stress, employers ranked it ninth.
“Employees seem to be saying, ‘support me, pay me, and direct me,’ but employers are focused on other stress factors,” said Shelly Wolff, senior health care consultant at Towers Watson. “Stress has a strong link to physical health, emotional health, personal purpose and community—all contributing factors to workplace performance.”
Employers report that they promote their employee assistance programs (EAP) (85%), provide access to financial planning information and services (61%) and offer flexible working options (51%) to help employees manage stress. While employers feel that the EAP is a primary way to address stress issues, only 5% of employees say they use this resource. Also, only about four in 10 employers (39%) offer employees overt stress management interventions such as workshops and seminars.