In the study published by Lepaya last week, we found that as many as 66% of European workers suffer from unhealthy levels of stress at work.

The research addresses a certain ‚work stress epidemic‘. These numbers really don’t lie and employees as well as employers have to make a change if they want to see positive numbers in this regard.

56% of Dutch, 67% of Belgian, 70% of British and 71% of German employees indicated that they experienced a lot of stress in the workplace.

But what also emerged from the survey is that 71% of all employees would like to work on their stress management skills. This is a very positive note. Employees are willing and open to further development in dealing with work stress.

Employees are open to learning stress management skills

With a lot of work pressure – due to increasingly higher expectations and additional deadlines – stress is not always unavoidable. However, it is not ’natural‘ and it is not a part of work. Fortunately, with the right skills it is possible to deal with stress in a healthy way and in many cases even possible to prevent stress entirely.

As mentioned before, no less than 71% of European employees indicate that they are willing to develop and work on their stress management skills.

76% of Belgian, 77% of British and 70% of German employees are positive they still have a lot to learn and develop!

This goes for all ages. From age 30 and under to 60+, employees are open to development. Learning really is for every age. This is logical, after all it is by learning these skills that employees can increase their own happiness at work. Apart from being happier less stress also means better performance. When work stress does not appear to be an inhibition, an employee will prove to be more productive and more engaged with the organization, and will stay longer as a consequence. This makes skills development just as important for employers as it is for employees.

What we also gather from the research is that Dutch employees, compared to European ones, indicate that they have already made more progress in the development of stress related skills. They think they need less support in this area than the rest of Europe. However, we are still talking about 60% of Dutch employees who would like to develop further and work on their stressmanagement.

The research showed that having the right stress management skills influences the level of work stress itself. With 40% of Dutch employees thinking they are already developing their stress management skills, we also see lower figures for stress in the workplace. In relation to the European employees surveyed, 56% of Dutch employees experience a lot of work stress compared to 71% of German employees.

"An attentive focus on managing stress and developing skills has a positive effect on the level of work stress."

Which skills help against work stress?

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Responsibility of stress at work

The figures show that work stress is an urgent problem, and this is not positive news for organizations. Employees who experience a lot of stress at work are more likely to drop out due to burnouts or will even leave, looking for an environment and role that will cause them less stress.

However, looking at the figures there is also good news for employers. Because we see that employees are more than open to developing stress management skills. This means that organizations can accommodate their employees in this! Offer the right skills to employees so that they can perform better, and thereby also create a healthy organizational culture (and ROI) for the organization. Because when an employee is in the right place and has the right skills to do her/his job, she or he will become of more value to the organization.

Regarding responsibility, research shows that despite the great willingness to work on preventing stress, only a quarter of the Dutch respondents see this as their own responsibility. With 71%, the Dutch looking to their employer for a solution.

„The Dutch are relatively articulate, so our work culture is less hierarchical than that in other Western European countries,“ says Janssen. “This allows us to raise a problem with an employer more quickly. Germans, for example, are generally less likely to do this.”

In neighboring countries, this percentage is more than twice as high. Of the neighboring countries surveyed, 47% of Belgians and 50% of British and Germans do not consider solving and preventing unwanted work stress a task for the employer, but for the employee her- or himself. This shows that there is definitely a degree of shared responsibility. Where employees look at themselves as well as at their organization. Yet only a small proportion of Dutch employees and around half of British and Belgian employees consider it their own responsibility to solve and prevent unhealthy levels of stress entirely, perhaps including an unhealthy work culture.

To a large extent, German employees agree but still point to themselves with a small majority of 51%. Even though we see that especially in this country the levels of stress are very high.

Stress in the workplace must be addressed and discussed with the large number of employees who experience this. Janssen: „That applies to both the employer and the employee. Both must take responsibility for addressing stress and showing understanding for the other party. The employer must recognize that this is part of the modern way of working. Take a critical look at whether only the symptoms of stress in the workplace are combated, or whether fundamental action is taken to create a healthy working environment in the long term.“ (1)

The next generation is asking for help

Many employees are open to developing the right skills, but at the same time indicate that they want more support. 57% of Dutch workers indicate that they need more help to prevent work-related stress, for example by increasing stress management skills through training.

With many employees seeing it as the employer’s responsibility to intervene, this is a great opportunity.

"It is nice to see this willingness among workers, but employers in particular have many opportunities to increase sustainable employability. Stress has multiple causes and preventing a high workload is not always the only solution. Sometimes it simply has to do with the expectations between employer and employee. It is therefore important to properly map out the underlying reasons. Get to the root of the problem and also focus on stress-reducing tactics and training."

René Janssen, founder of Lepaya Tweet

A narrow majority, 52%, of the Dutch also believes that their employer pays too little attention to solutions or prevention of work stress.

The research also shows that Belgium with 67%, the United Kingdom with 65% and Germany with 57% would also like more help in combating work stress. Although we saw earlier that in these countries it is almost 50/50 when it comes to responsibility of preventing stress many employees still would like more help. Which in practice means that the organization will have to meet them halfway in this regard.

This becomes apparent when we look at the German employees. Although a small majority of German employees see countering work stress as their own responsibility, many still expect support from their organization.

It becomes really remarkable when we add in the age factor. It turns out that young professionals in particular are asking for help in preventing unhealthy stress levels.

Almost 70% of the under 30s and 30 to 39 year olds want help from their organization when there is too much stress at work. There seems to be a certain expectation that the young professionals hold their employer to. With such high numbers, young professionals seem to be saying that they more or less expect their employer to offer support. Since almost 60% of this young age group does not see it as their own responsibility to solve or prevent work stress.

Up to the age of 59, the majority of European workers agree with this. We see the greatest differences between the highest and lowest age groups. A small minority of people over 60 do expect help, while around 50% do not expect help from the organization regarding stress. That’s a 20% difference compared to the ‚under 30′ and ’30 to 39‘ age groups.

The next generation of employees are clearly asking for support from their employer. That’s not surprising, the work stress epidemic is growing according to Forbes and younger employees are directly affected by this from the start of their professional career. They haven’t normalized work stress as a necessary evil of work, which is why we see a different pattern of expectations among young professionals.

End of the work stress-epidemic

Work stress is related to a number of factors that play within an organization. If we want to see an end to the work stress epidemic, someone has to intervene.

Good news is that at 71%, European workers are more than willing to develop stress management skills. A large part of the responsibility, as 56% of employees indicate, lies with the employer. If employees want to be able to tackle this problem effectively they will need support. Many European workers therefore are asking for help, as many as 62%, especially young professionals. The next generation, with 70%, expects more support from their organization in preventing and resolving stress than they are receiving today.

With the right skills, employees are willing to start solving and preventing work stress as soon as today. They want to create a healthy work culture and atmosphere for themselves where they can come into their own as professionals. The employer plays a large part in this and, as René Janssen says, ‚has the chance to increase sustainable employability‘. After all, an employee can develop the right skills to deal with stress, but they must be given the right tools.

Offer your employees the right tools

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