Our modern culture of overwork seems to have reached new heights. Even though we know that stress, especially chronic stress, is really bad for us, many of us still subconsciously ascribe to societal ideals that tell us that being "so busy" and having little time for anything but work is normal or even good. Now, new research confirms what we already guessed — most American workers are stressed.
Paychex recently released the results of their survey on the current state of stress and the American worker, which was completed by 2,000 full-time U.S. employees. The findings reveal that stress is common. The report also identifies specific factors that contribute to stress and pinpoints what folks are doing to combat it.
Although everyone is different, it's interesting to consider your own stress in relation to these current norms. Is your level of stress typical? Are you aggravated by the same things that stress most workers? And, are you managing your stress differently than others?
1. The majority of workers are stressed on any given workday
Participants were asked to rank their stress on a scale of one to five. One in four, 25.7 percent to be precise, said their stress was at a level four. And, 4.9 percent said it was at a five out of five. Altogether, more than 70 percent of respondents ranked their stress at a level three or higher. Over 60 percent said that they felt stressed three or more workdays per week, on average. This means that, on any given day, more workers are feeling stressed than not. This state really is the norm.
2. Some industries are more stressful than others
There was quite a bit of variation when survey results were broken down by industry. Folks in marketing and advertising spent an average of 3.84 workdays per week feeling stressed (nearly 80 percent of the time) whereas workers in the real estate, rental, and leasing industry were reportedly the least stressed, at just 2.61 days per week. Other stressful industries include art/entertainment/recreation and wholesale and retail. But, utilities and transportation and warehousing were relatively less stressful.
3. Job titles and income matter too
The report also found that income plays a big role in stress levels. The workers who reported being most comfortable with their income levels also reported less stress in general. The opposite was also true. Those who said they were not comfortable with their earnings were also likely to experience more stress.
Job level matters, too. Those who identified as owners and partners reported being stressed the most days per week (3.62 out of 5 days) with middle management right behind them (3.45 out of 5 days.) Senior level employees (2.86 out of 5 days) and temporary or freelance employees (2.68 out of 5 days) reported being stressed the least often.
4. Certain aspects of working life are particularly stressful
Some parts of working life are more stressful than others. There were six factors that more than 10 percent of those surveyed identified as especially stressful. The most significant item, at 16.1 percent was "complicated or hard work." The next was "long or erratic hours" at 14.7 percent. "Lack of control" and "lack or resources" each scored just below 11 percent, and "tough deadlines" and "too much work" scored just over 10 percent.
5. Watching TV is the most common way to relax
The survey also questioned workers about how they like to relax after a long day or a long week at work. One answer stood out above the rest. Over 65 percent said they like to watch TV after a long day, and 54.4 said they did the same after a long week. Other common weeknight decompression techniques included spending time surfing the internet, changing into comfy clothes, and having a meal. Weekend relaxation activities include these too, as well as spending time with friends and family and participating in a favorite hobby.
It's important that we take a good look at the findings of this and similar studies in order to more fully understand the role stress plays in our lives. Also, we should take note of how normalized routine stress has become in our society. Because, despite the rest of the findings, this report also notes that people are mostly pretty happy with their quality of life. Among the 2,000 full-time workers surveyed for this report, 89.6 percent said their quality of life was a three or higher, despite the stress.