Employees are more stressed in their jobs than they were during the depths of the pandemic, according to a new survey released this week by Gallup.
Only 32 percent of workers polled in August 2021 said they were "completely satisfied" with the amount of on-the-job stress they face, down from 35 percent and 34 percent who reported feeling totally fine with their levels of stress in 2020 and 2019, respectively. So in other words, more people in August of 2021 felt either completely unhappy or just "somewhat" fine with their level of workplace stress than in 2020 and 2019. The Gallup poll measured how employees feel about 13 different factors that play into their job satisfaction.
Other factors like promotion opportunities and salaries also received lower marks than in past years. Only 42 percent of workers expressed "complete satisfaction" with their career opportunities and only 38 percent were satisfied by their pay. Less than 50 percent of workers were also completely satisfied with the health insurance offered by their employers.
What's more, the poll shows that time off and workplace safety did not contribute to workplace stress in a meaningful way. That means, you can't just throw vacation time at employees and expect their moods to change.
But you also can't ignore the issue. Whereas higher stress can sap productivity, reducing it can improve it--not to mention overall job satisfaction.
Here are three ways you can help:
1. Pay up and cross train.
When you can, pay up. If employees are dissatisfied by their salaries and opportunities for growth, raises and promotions can have a positive effect on morale and stress. Unfortunately, these moves aren't always feasible--so in those instances, a one-time bonus for workers can be worth the cost, according to BambooHR's director of HR, Cassie Whitlock. Also, cross-functional job training in different parts of a business can help some employees feel like they're getting more from their jobs.
2. Go beyond PTO.
Prioritizing mental health in the workplace itself has also been a challenge for many companies: Another survey published in August by Vancouver-based workforce analytics company Visier found that a staggering 89 percent of U.S. employees have experienced burnout in the past year.
According to that survey, increasing time off may not be enough to eradicate burnout--and in Gallup's poll, 78 percent of employees were already "completely" or "somewhat" satisfied by the amount of vacation time offered. Instead, it may be more fruitful for employers to make improvements to workflow practices to better optimize employee workloads.
3. Check in on workflow.
Employers can relieve some workers' stress by eliminating "non-value-added work," Frances Frei, co-author with Anne Morriss of Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader's Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You, previously told Inc. They also suggest making priorities clear and demoting some tasks as nonessential. Expressing commitment to employees' success can also make them feel valued and more equipped to tackle challenges, without increasing stress. Organizational surveys and one-on-one meetings can give employers a better idea of their worker's needs, which can enable them to thoughtfully allocate resources (like mental health benefits) and restructure workflows to reduce employee stress--leading to more job satisfaction for everyone.