Despite an improving economy and a trend toward more relaxed workplaces, 8 out of 10 of all Irish workers are reporting being stressed out on the job.
According to a recent study conducted by the international workplace consultants group Mercer, 80% of Irish workers reported they regularly felt stress while working. And 60% said they wanted the companies that employed them to do more to alleviate stressful conditions or provide outlets for stress in the workplace.
What Stresses Us Out?
What are Irish workers most stressed out about? According to the Mercer study, the biggest stressors were:
- Personal health issues
- Not having adequate income to provide for their family’s needs
- Not enough retirement planning
- Overwhelming household bill.
Noticeably absent from this list are worries associated with their jobs themselves. Nearly all of the biggest problems workers cited had to do with their personal – rather than their professional – lives.
Perhaps this is not surprising given the amount of effort many companies today are putting into such things as providing workers with realistic job previews, more frequent performance reviews, more spending on employee rewards and recognition programs, and other “touchy-feely” programs designed to improve employee morale.
More Workplace Support Systems
Still, given the overwhelming percentage of workers who report feeling stressed, employers need to seek new ways to help ease employee’s fears, even if they aren’t directly related to their job performance or the company’s productivity, according to Niall O’Callaghan, a partner with Mercer.
Those companies that go out of their way to ask workers what’s troubling them, then put in place systems to help alleviate some of this anxiety, often will see tangible results in terms of higher productivity and profitability and improved employee morale, O’Callaghan said.
Employee outreach programs also will help retain the company’s best employees and make it easier to recruit new workers, especially from younger generations that feel more entitlement and need more nurturing than their predecessors, he said.
Ireland vs. England
While the distance between Ireland and England is only about 120 miles across the Irish Sea, the two countries might as well be worlds apart when it comes to worker stress levels.
The Mercer study polled more than 2,000 workers in Ireland and UK regarding their stress levels. While 82% of Irish workers reported rising stress levels in the workplace, only about 74% of their British counterparts had the same complaint.
Irish workers reported far more anxieties about their everyday problems – to the point where it was interfering with their ability to concentrate on their work and deliver top-quality results to their employers.
And reports of stress among Irish workers spanned all age groups, both sexes, and even various income levels.
What Do Workers Want?
So what do Iris workers want from their employers that will help them overcome their rising stress levels?
For one thing, they want more financial security. About 60% of those interviewed for the survey said they would like for their employers to increase their share of the contribution to retirement benefits, or even offer retirement planning advice so that workers were more informed on how to plan for the future.
They also want more online training, career development, and higher wages.
And it might benefit employers to listen, according to O’Callaghan.
When workers are worried, distracted and not as healthy as they could be, it absolutely will affect their engagement to the task at hand, he said. Simply enabling employees to voice their concerns is often enough to set their minds at ease.
Stress Relief in the Workplace
While practically all workers want to feel more secure about their jobs, their income, and their financial future, decreasing stress in the workplace requires more than simply money.
Progressive companies seeking to ease workers’ minds and minimize their frustrations can try to engage their employees more in the decision-making process. They also can strive to add transparency to the things they do and say so that workers feel more associated with the company line.
Workers who are in better physical health are also more likely to be more relaxed and less stressed. Such things as meditation rooms, yoga, hypnosis, and other soothing, anti-anxiety activities can not only relax workers minds, but also get them to be more productive.
Companies that promote more activity in the workplace or who reimburse or simply encourage workers to join gyms or to be more active in their personal life also can reap the benefits.
When it comes to workers feeling stressed in Ireland and elsewhere, it’s not a problem that is going away anytime soon. But by seeking ways to engage, encourage, recognize and reward employees, companies can reduce anxiety levels both on the job and in worker’s lives outside the four walls of the office or factory.