October 2012
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TD Magazine

Stressed Out?

Stress levels at work are higher than they've been in years, according to recent data from the Kenexa High Performance Institute.

Pick up that squeeze ball, and take note: Work stress levels are holding at a steady high. According to Stress: The Global Economic Downturn Has Taken its Toll on Employees, a recent WorkTrends report by Kenexa High Performance Institute (KHPI), stress is on the rise across geographies, industries, and job types. Most likely, you are not surprised.

"The economy affects organizations and staff through layoffs and a lack of money available for organizational practices such as work-life balance and training initiatives," says Rena Rasch, research manager at KHPI. Rasch shares several major findings that emerged from the report.

  • Stress levels are higher in organizations that instituted layoffs within the past 12 months (perhaps due to the "survivor effect").
  • Younger workers are less stressed than older workers, which could be a result of increasing responsibilities for older generations.
  • Globally, stress levels among men and women are nearly equal except for the United States, where 35 percent of female employees report elevated stress levels compared with 27 percent of their male colleagues.
  • A lack of work-life balance was the number one predictor of stress for both men and women.

"Leaders can focus interventions on target groups—for example, hone in on ways to decrease stress for women in the United States," explains Rasch. "Also, tailor interventions to the problems particular age groups face. As far as increasing work-life balance, organizations should institute work-life balance programs. A flexible schedule and comp-a­ssion and consideration from leadership can go a long way."
KHPI's newest data show that while stress levels in 2012 are not increasing, they are holding at a higher level than they have in the past five years. Yet those employees who report higher levels of training and development satisfaction report lower levels of stress. Only 12 percent of employees who are satisfied with their training and development say the stress level at work is unreasonable. In comparison, 64 percent of employees who report low levels of training and development satisfaction claim that work stress is unreasonable.


Additionally, 56 percent of surveyed employees in the United States feel that they're getting solid training and development from their jobs and organization overall. Sixty-five percent of these employees claim that their job makes good use of their skills, but only 45 percent report that their managers invest in their growth and 48 percent say their organizations help to develop their skills.

"These responses show that either employees are getting the training they need with or without their manager's help or that the job provides the training they want," Rasch explains. "What employees are lacking is the manager's investment. Direct managers and the organization in general must demonstrate that training and development is important and support employees."

About the Author

Community of Practice Manager, ATD  Ann Parker is senior manager of the Human Capital Community of Practice and the Senior Leaders & Executives Community of Practice at ATD. Prior to this position, she worked at ATD for five years in an editorial capacity, primarily for TD magazine, and most recently as a senior writer and editor. In this role, Ann had the privilege to talk to many training and development practitioners, hear from a variety of prominent industry thought leaders, and develop a rich understanding of the profession's content.

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