Employees increasingly suffer from work stress and high work pressure. Mental health problems at first glance seem to be a trend, just like remote working. However, as temporary as trends tend to be, that is not the case with mental health problems.

A normalization is taking place, or as Forbes describes it a ‘work stress epidemic’. With a focus on stress at work we see that mental health problems are often closely related to an unhealthy work environment. To better understand this, Lepaya surveyed 1,322 European workers regarding their stress tolerance. As it turns out, workers across Europe experience unhealthy levels of stress!

This article is a deep-dive of the press release that appeared on 15th July 2021.

More than half of European workers experience stress at work.

Lepaya conducted research on stress at work among 1,322 European workers. What seems to be happening? No less than 66% of those surveyed experience work-related stress.

Work-stress

Specifically ‘unhealthy’ high levels of stress. High levels of work pressure, long working days, changes within the organization or lack of job security are all factors that can play a role in this.

With 66%, a large majority of employees suffer from these unhealthy stress levels. This clearly shows that there is indeed a lot going on within their organizations, and despite the fact that they may be in the right profession, they still are culpable for suffering unhealthy levels of stress. While only 34% indicate that they are not bothered by such high levels of stress.

If we focus on Europe, we see that the levels of work stress also differ considerably per country.

While more than half (56%) of the Dutch state that they experience too much stress, it turns out that Dutch employees are the best off.

Work-stress in The Netherlands

67% of Belgian employees experience high levels of stress, while 70% of employees from the United Kingdom experience the same levels. German employees take the cake, with as many as 71% saying they experience an unhealthy amount of stress.

Work-stress in the UK
work-stress in germany

The most stressed German workers, according to the figures, work in the financial, automotive and manufacturing industry, health care and education.

Most stressful industries Germany

Unlike the sectors that emerge among German workers, the most stressed Dutch people mainly work in the hospitality, information and communication sector, and in public administration. Equally to the German workers the health care and education sector prove very stressful industries for the Dutch as well.

Most stressful industries The Netherlands

Education and healthcare appear to be two of the most stressful sectors. And this is not surprising! Especially during the pandemic, these are the two industries that have often been prominently featured in the news due to increasing workload and an increase in burnouts in these industries.

Who is responsible for the solution?

The above mentioned figures show that work stress is indeed an acute problem. A significant number of Dutch employees experience stress, and up to 71% of German employees. If we do not want to normalize stress at work and increase the number of burnout complaints, action must be taken. But by whom?

Responsibility preventing work-stress

44% of employees believe that solving or preventing stress is their own responsibility. However, 56% disagree with this. These statistics show that there is certainly a degree of shared responsibility. Where employees look at themselves as well as at their organization.

A small proportion of Dutch employees consider it their own responsibility to solve and prevent unhealthy levels of stress, and perhaps also an unhealthy work culture. While 71% of Dutch employees look to their employer for a solution.

Belgium, the United Kingdom and Germany are somewhat more divided. 53% of Belgians say they hold their employer responsible, and 51% of the British employees.

Although many German employees experience stress, we see that when it comes to responsibility opinions are split. Nearly half of people who work in Germany see prevention of work stress as a responsibility of both themselves ánd the organization.

The Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom really put the responsibility for resolving unhealthy levels of stress on their employers. To a large extent, German employees also support this sentiment, but 51% of those surveyed still regard the responsibility as their own, even though we see that especially in Germany the levels of stress remain very high.

Help with stress

Placing responsibility with the organization does not necessarily mean that help is actually offered in counteracting or preventing stress.

Although more than 71% of the Dutch consider it their employer’s responsibility to tackle stress, 57% would still prefer to see more support from their employer in this regard.

support with work-stress

In addition, a narrow majority, 52%, of the Dutch counterparts believe that the employer pays too little attention to solutions or prevention of work stress.

Employers pay too little attention to work-stress The Netherlands

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.

Organizations should help out more dealing with work-stress Europe

It is remarkable that a small majority of German employees see work stress as their own responsibility, but still expect more support from the organization.

Young professionals in particular seem to want help in preventing unhealthy stress levels, and perhaps are taking support in this a bit more for granted.

Ages affected by work-stress Europe

More than 60% of 30 to 39 year olds expect their organization to offer help with too much stress at work. Up to the age of 59, the majority of European workers agree with this. A small minority of people over 60 do expect help, while around 50% do not expect help from the organization with stress.

Overall European employees, with a majority of 62%, state that they would like to receive support from their organization. This is not surprising, after all, work stress is closely related to a number of factors at play within an organization. While an employee can develop the right skills to deal with stress, they must be given the right tools.

Organizations pay too little attention to preventing work-stress Europe

We note that 59% of European employees say their organization could pay more attention to reducing unhealthy stress levels. Especially the Belgians with 65% and Germans with 61% want their organization to take more action. It appears that many organizations fall short of employee expectations in this regard.

Dealing with stress

Stress, including some work pressure, is perhaps not unavoidable. However, with the right skills, it is possible to deal with stress in a healthy way and in many cases even to prevent stress.

No less than 71% of European employees indicate that they would like to develop their skills in dealing with work stress.

Developing stress management skills

Belgian employees with 76%, British with 77% and German with 70% think they still have a lot to learn and develop!

Developing stress management skills Germany

Dutch employees indicate that they are already further in the development of skills regarding work stress, or at least believe that they need less development in this area. 60% would like to develop further.

Developing stress-management skills The Netherlands

If we look at these figures in relation to the relatively lower rates of work stress among Dutch employees (in relation to the other three European countries surveyed), we can say that an attentive focus on coping with stress and the development of skills has a positive effect on the level of work stress. Because with the lowest experience of stress, 56% compared to 71% of German employees, Dutch employees feel that they are already focusing a lot on stress management.

We see very positive results in this area at all ages. From 30 to 60+, skills development is for all ages.

Ages developing stress management skills

It is clear that employees are more than open to developing skills that benefit them. Less stress means being happier at work, and of course happier at home. But this does not only apply to the employee themself After all, if an employee is happier, they will also appear to be more productive and more engaged with the organization, and as a consequence will be more inclined to stay for a long time.

The work-stress epidemic versus the pandemic

With a large majority of employees, from 56% Dutch to 71% German, who indicate that they experience an unhealthy amount of stress at work, we can speak of a work-stress epidemic.

But is this epidemic also related to the current pandemic? We asked employees whether they experience working from home and in particular a return to the office as a source of stress.

We see very positive results in this area at all ages. From 30 to 60+, development is for all ages.

Around 26% of Europeans said they have already returned to the office during the pandemic, and as much as 40% of the Dutch are already working in the office.

Working from the office increases stress Europe

Other than the Dutch employees, the rest of Europe, the Belgian, British and German employees are not looking forward to going back to the office. 42% of Belgian employees think they will experience more stress in returning to the office, as do  40% of Germans.

No less than 44% of British employees say they are most likely to experience more stress when they have to go back to the office.

We see that Dutch employees are not very concerned about it at this time. 26% say going to the office full-time is stress-inducing.

Although 26% doesn’t seem like much, employees are indicating here that they will experience extra stress. Adding more stress to already pre-existing unhealthy levels of work stress; a form of stress that is related to working in the office.

Unhealthy levels of stress in the workplace

With 66% of European employees reporting unhealthy levels of stress at work, we can safely say that work related stress plays a prominent role in the workplace.

Although Dutch employees experience less stress than German employees, we see a concerning level of stress in all European countries surveyed. A majority of European employees experience unhealthy levels of stress at work.

What also appears is that employees, especially the Dutch, expect their employer to offer help in countering stress. A majority of employees place the responsibility for prevention of work related stress on the organization.

Still, many people indicate that their organization does not pay enough attention to work related stress.

Some stress is closely related to working in the office. Around 40% of Belgian, British and German employees all think they will experience more stress when returning to the office. While 71% of German employees indicate that they are already under quite a lot of stress! Dutch employees are somewhat more moderate in this regard. But we do see that many Dutch people are already working in the office and that 56% are already experiencing stress at the moment.

On the positive side, about 71% of all employees are willing to work on their stress management skills and are open to doing so.

“It’s 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,” says René Janssen, founder of Lepaya.

Because when we talk about the responsibility of preventing work-stress, European employees indicate that they see it as a task for the organization to take action. Help develop skills and provide the right tools.

Mental health is becoming more prominent and part of our collective consciousness. Now that we also see that employees experience a lot of stress, but at the same time are also very open to a solution, this proves to be an excellent time for organizations to step in and lend a helping hand.

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