How Stress Eats Away At Your Engagement At Work

It’s fairly well known by now that employee engagement levels are at awfully low levels amongst workers around the world.  There have been numerous attempts to dissect just why that is, with suggestions ranging from a lack of control over ones work to a fundamental lack of passion for the work we do (we’re bored in other words).

A recent survey conducted by the professional services company Towers Watson suggest the culprit may be something altogether more traditional.  The results of the survey suggest that our lack of employee engagement is down to little more than pressure, and the stress that results from it.

Their Global Benefits Attitudes survey found that when disengagement levels were high in an organisation, so too were stress levels amongst employees.

“A third of respondents said they are often bothered by excessive pressure in their job,  and this can lead to higher instances of disengagement and absenteeism, clear indicators of low productivity in the workplace,” researchers from Towers Watson said upon the release of the study.

Stress equals disengagement

The survey found a strong correlation between stress levels and disengagement, revealing that nearly 60% of employees who reported high levels of stress were also disengaged in their work.  As a contrast, just 10% of those with low levels of stress reported that they were also disengaged in work.  What’s more, roughly half of this low stress group claimed to be highly motivated.  Quite the contrast.

“This clearly shows the destructive link between high levels of stress and reduced productivity,” Towers Watson say.

Stress and absenteeism

Sadly, the survey also found that stress can have a big impact on absenteeism in the workplace.  It found that when an employee was highly stressed, they would take nearly 5 days off of work due to sickness each year.  This compares to just 2.6 days for employees that weren’t stressed.

What’s more, the study revealed that stress would also have an unwelcome impact upon presenteeism.  This is when we turn up for work when far from 100%, and are therefore pretty unproductive.  It emerged that this was 50% more likely to occur in the highly stressed employee than their lesser stressed peer, culminating in 16 days worth of presenteeism vs 10 days.

So what is causing stress to be so high?

Well, the survey suggests that the biggest cause of stress in our workplaces is inadequate staffing levels.  Over half of those surveyed named that as the top cause of stress in their workplace.  Interestingly, much fewer employers regard this as a problem, with just 15% of senior managers believing that staff levels contribute to stress in their workplace.  All rather telling.

Another sign of disconnect between bosses and employees was over technology.  Nearly a third of bosses thought that digital and mobile technologies would stress employees out, due to them enabling work to be conducted outside of ’office hours’.  Alas, just 8% of employees agreed with them.

“If business leaders want to promote a lower stress environment in their workplace it’s vital that they understand the real causes of stress in their organisation,” the researchers revealed.

“These can be specific areas that are not immediately visible to management if good communication and feedback structures are not in place throughout the organisation. Without this, even the most well-meaning management team can find itself focusing energy and resource on the wrong areas.”

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Disconnect between management and workers

I think that is the nub of the issue here.  There was a clear disconnect between what managers and employees thought was stressful.  It’s hard to tackle an issue that you’re not fully aware of, so the first task for managers has to be to get a much firmer grasp on what is stressing employees out.

What do you find stressful in your own workplace? Comment below!

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