Workplace Stress is a Business Problem That Companies Prefer to Ignore

February 17th, 2008

Workplace stress is the most frequently cited reason U.S. employees consider leaving their jobs, according to a new survey by consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide.  Employees defined their  top causes of workplace stress as long hours, work/life balance, technologies that expand availability, and managers’ inability to recognize stress.

More surprisingly, another Watson Wyatt survey found that nearly half of employers (48%) acknowledge that stress caused by overwork is affecting business performance and 32% said that work/life balance issues were taking a toll on the bottom line.

Although companies know that workplace stress is a problem, very few are taking steps to address it. Only 5% said they are taking action to address stress caused by long hours. A more encouraging 16% said they are taking action to relieve stress caused by work/life balance issues.

Those companies that don’t address these issues may find themselves paying the price in health care and retention costs. According to a statement by Shelly Wolf,  national practice director of health and productivity at Watson Wyatt: “Too much stress from heavy demands, poorly defined priorities and little on-the-job flexibility can add to health issues. By leaving stress unaddressed, employers invite an increase in unscheduled time off, absence rates and health care costs — all of which hurt a company’s bottom line.”

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Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson

Hi Pamela -

It is completely insane, isn’t it, that companies simply don’t seem to care about the ramifications of stress caused by the work environment?! They must think “There’s stress in some work environments, but certainly not MINE.”

It’s really time to dismantle the whole foundation that ‘work’ stands on. Rid ourselves of the beliefs we hold about how work needs to happen. Start focusing on RESULTS and only RESULTS. Until then, stress will keep mounting and we will have no one to blame but ourselves…

Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson
Creators of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE)
Authors of the forthcoming book “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It”

Pamela Skillings

Hi Cali and Jody:
Sorry about the delayed response. My overeager spam filter was sitting on your comment. Thanks for your comment! I am a big admirer of your work with ROWE at Best Buy and can’t wait to read your book.


Cara Changeling

Hi Pamela
I have only just come across your post and can completely believe the Watson Wyatt surveys.
I left big corporate life at the top end because of redundancy but before seeking out similar posts, assessed my previous stress and happiness levels and decided the big corporations really do not have a handle on the work ethic. They either don’t care or think it is healthy for competition amongst the ranks.

I opted for change and chose the ‘work for myself route’. I now have results and a happy lifestyle and as Cali and Jody pointed out, now know that any stress is minor and can by fixed.

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