Stress, engagement and productivity

2014

Employees suffering from high stress levels have lower levels of engagement, are less productive and have higher absentee levels than those not operating under excessive pressure, according to new research from professional services firm Towers Watson.

According to Towers Watson’s Global Benefits Attitudes survey, levels of workplace disengagement significantly increase when employees experience high levels of stress.

“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,” said Rebekah Haymes, senior consultant at Towers Watson

The research found that almost six out of 10 (57 per cent) employees who claimed to be experiencing high stress levels also reported that they felt disengaged. In contrast, only one in ten employees claiming low stress levels said they were disengaged and half of this group claimed to be highly engaged.

“This clearly shows the destructive link between high levels of stress and reduced productivity,” Haymes said.

Levels of absence are also influenced by stress, the research found, 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 per cent higher for highly stressed employees with an average of 16 days per year versus around 10 days for employees claiming to have low stress.

Inadequate staffing appears to be one of the biggest causes of stress, with half (53 per cent) of employees naming it as a top cause of workplace stress. But significantly, few employers consider this to be a major problem, with only 15 per cent of senior managers acknowledging it as a cause of stress in their own organisation.

Conversely, a third (34 per cent) of employers thought technology that made employees available outside working hours was one of the top causes of stress but employees largely disagreed, with only eight per cent citing it as a problem.

“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,” Rebekah Haymes added.

“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.”