Surveys: Few Employers Addressing Workplace Stress

Workplace stress is the most frequently cited reason U.S. employees consider leaving their jobs. While employers acknowledge that stress is affecting business performance, few are taking steps to address it, according to two surveys by Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a consulting firm.

Nearly half of U.S. employers (48 percent) say stress caused by working long hours is affecting business performance. However, only 5 percent are addressing this concern, according to Watson Wyatt's 2007/2008 Staying@Work report. Similarly, more than one-quarter (29 percent) of employers believe stress caused by widespread use of technology such as cell phones and personal digital assistants is greatly affecting business performance, but only 6 percent are taking action to confront the issue.

"Many companies don't appear to appreciate how stress is affecting their business," said Shelly Wolff, national practice director of health and productivity at Watson Wyatt. "Too much stress from heavy demands, poorly defined priorities and little on-the-job flexibility can add to health issues. By leaving stress unaddressed, employers invite an increase in unscheduled time off, absence rates and health care costs -- all of which hurt a company's bottom line."

One way stress is influencing business performance is through employee retention. Stress is the most frequently cited reason U.S. workers give for why they would leave a company. Forty percent of respondents say it is one of their top three reasons, according to Watson Wyatt's 2007/2008 Global Strategic Rewards(R) report. However, employers fail to list stress among the top five most cited reasons they think workers leave their jobs. Instead, they cite insufficient pay, lack of career development and poor supervisor relationships.

"Pay alone is not enough to retain and engage today's workers," said Laura Sejen, global director of strategic rewards at Watson Wyatt. "To remain competitive, companies need to understand fully what causes employees to join or leave and what causes them to be productive if they stay. A total rewards approach that includes both monetary and nonmonetary rewards is more meaningful for employees and more effective for employers."

More information on the reports can be found at http://www.watsonwyatt.com/research/reports.asp.

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