Workplaces more stressful than five years ago, finds Korn Ferry

17 February 2020 2 min. read
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Most professionals say that their workplace is more stressful than it was five years ago, according to a Korn Ferry global survey of 1,405 people.

Fifty-one percent said the stress level in their workplace was much higher, while 37% said it was somewhat higher.

Ninety percent of respondents said they lost sleep occasionally or often due to work stressors, while 34% have called in sick due to work stress. Thirty-four percent said stress at their job got so bad that they had to quit.

The biggest stressor at work was too heavy of a workload (41%), followed by “the boss,” selected by 28% of surveyed professionals. Thirteen percent selected “not knowing how to do your job as expected” as the biggest work stressor.

Workplaces more stressful than five years ago, finds Korn Ferry

“A bad boss and too heavy of a workload often go hand-in-hand,” said Bryan Ackermann, managing partner, Korn Ferry Advance & Digitized Services. “While it’s important to accomplish tasks and achieve organizational goals, it’s up to both the employee and their supervisor to manage workloads and focus on what will create the best outcomes, including getting rid of non-effective ‘to-do’ tasks.”

Obviously there’s a trade-off to be made between getting employees to do as much work as they can, and breaching the limit where extreme stress leads to reduced productivity. Beyond “well-being” initiatives like fitness benefits and apps and mental health resources, an organization needs to provide workers with the tools to be effective. That means proper training, structures, and achievable tasks and goals.

The survey also found that large organizational changes were a source of stress. Ninety-three percent of respondents said a change in organizational leadership, such as a new CEO or head of their division, impacted stress levels to some or great extent.

The survey hinted at a lack of collegiality and co-worker trust. Thirty-nine percent of professionals said that it was highly unlikely that they would confide in a co-worker if something was stressing them out. Of the group who said they wouldn’t gripe to a colleague, 43% said it was because they were afraid they would be recorded and get in trouble, or that the colleague would tell their boss or HR.

Korn Ferry’s research also highlighted the intertwined nature of work and home stress. Ninety-three percent said that work stress had a negative impact on their personal relationships, while 74% said that home stress had a negative impact on their work productivity.

“Between work, family, and other responsibilities, it’s no wonder why we live in such a stressed-out environment,” said Ackermann. “The key for company leaders is to understand that the mental health of their employees is just as important as their physical health. They must take steps to create a work environment where employees thrive.”