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The Obvious Link Between Inadequate Staffing and Stress Explains Why You Hate Your Life

Have you experienced workplace stress at any point in your career? In the last year? How about the last month? Or perhaps today?

CGMA Magazine reports that stress at work is most often caused by a familiar factor. Understaffing:

One-third of professionals frequently experience excessive pressure at work, according to a global survey by Towers Watson. This level of workplace stress can engender disengagement and absenteeism, which in turn results in reduced productivity.

Inadequate staffing levels were cited as the primary cause of stress by 53% of the employees who responded to the Global Benefits Attitudes survey. The poll gathered responses from more than 22,000 employees in 12 countries. Lack of work/life balance was the second most common cause of stress amongst employees, cited by 40% of respondents.

One person doing the work of half a dozen is stressful? I don't believe it.

To get an idea of who feels this way, the Towers Watson 2013/2014 Global Benefit Attitudes survey spans 12 countries, with the U.S. survey including 5,070 respondents employed by non-government organizations with 1,000 or more employees.

Interestingly, a third of employers surveyed think technology that keeps employees constantly "available" even outside of working hours is one of the top causes of stress, but only 8% of employees agreed that being "always on" contributes to workplace pressure. Surely anyone who has answered a quick email at 10pm from the bathroom would agree it's really not that big of a deal.

From the survey news release:

Rebekah Haymes, senior consultant and wellbeing specialist at Towers Watson said: “The research clearly shows the destructive link between high levels of stress and reduced productivity. A third of respondents said they are often bothered by excessive pressure in their job and this can lead to higher instances of disengagement and absenteeism – clear indicators of low productivity in the workplace.”

According to the research, absence levels are also influenced by stress with highly stressed employees taking an average of 4.6 sick days per year compared to 2.6 days for low stress employees. ‘Presenteeism’ – the act of attending work when unwell and unproductive – was 50% higher for highly stressed employees with an average of 16 days per year versus around 10 days for employees claiming to have low stress.

The solution, according to Haymes, comes from within the company, not the employee. "Companies could take more responsibility for educating employees about the benefits of better sleep, physical activity, good nutrition and a work life balance in order to keep employees healthy, happy and productive," she said.

"If business leaders want to promote a lower stress environment in their workplace it’s vital that they understand the real causes of stress in their organisation. These can be specific areas that are not immediately visible to management if good communication and feedback structures are not in place throughout the organisation. Without this, even the most well-meaning management team can find itself focusing energy and resource on the wrong areas," she said.

We hope you are listening, "business leaders." You know who you are.