WorkZone: Workers in the Northeast most stressed out


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Feeling frazzled at work? So is your annoying co-worker.

A recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Everest College found 80 percent of Americans feel stressed by at least one thing on the job.

Workers in the Northeast were the most in need of a chill pill, with 86 percent feeling stressed compared with a low of 75 percent in the West.

Overall, long commutes and low pay tied as the No. 1 workplace stressors, closely followed by unreasonable workloads. Annoying coworkers ranked third.

Next came poor work-life balance, working in a job that is not a chosen career, lack of advancement and fear of being fired or laid off.

The high overall level of stress means companies and their employees need to do a better job of finding ways to combat the problem, said Wendy Cullen, vice president of employer development at Everest, a chain of for-profit colleges in the U.S. and Canada.

“Work occupies a large portion of our lives, so keeping workplace stress in check is an absolute necessity in maintaining overall wellness,” she said.

Employers can help by offering formal wellness-type programs aimed at promoting mental and physical health, she said.

Companies also may want to offer workers the option of telecommuting from home, even if it’s only on a couple of days a week or on specific projects to cut down on those stressful commutes.

Employees suffering with low pay or long commutes should help themselves by developing a plan of action, Ms. Cullen said. “You really need to decide if this is the right job for me, and if it’s not, take charge and make a change.”

Ms. Cullen noted that many people who lost their jobs during the 2008 and 2009 downturn are now underemployed. With the job market picking up again, this is a good time to resume the hunt for a better position, she said.

People also can focus on de-stressing by exercising and taking time to relax at home.

“Just do activities that take your mind off the long commute and not having a big paycheck,” Ms. Cullen said. “If there are things you can’t control, you need to learn to manage those.”

Perhaps supporting the adage that with age comes wisdom, the survey showed that workers 65 and older were more likely than any other age group (50 percent) to say there was nothing about their job that stressed them out.

Education and income levels also played roles in the responses.

Low pay was the most-often cited stressor among workers with household incomes under $50,000 and among those with less than a college education.

The highest earners, and those with at least a college education, were more likely to cite unreasonable workloads or poor work-life balance as their top stressor.

“It makes sense,” Ms. Cullen said. “If you are an exempt employee vs. [being paid] hourly, if positions are not being backfilled, you could be working 60 hours per week but still be getting the same paycheck.”

One bright spot in the survey, she said, was the drop off in the percentage of people saying they were afraid of getting canned. That fell from 9 percent in Everest’s first workplace stress poll in 2011 to 4 percent in this year’s survey.

“It’s good to see that people are feeling better about the sustainability of their workplace.”

Patricia Sabatini: psabatini@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3066.


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