SURVEY SAYS – How's Your Stress Levels?

August 6, 1009 ( - This week I asked readers if their job was more stressful today than a year ago - and how they were dealing with it - both personally, and with their workforce.

Well, things are clearly more stressful now – the most common answer to that question this week ( 24.6% ) was “yes”, while a nearly equal 23.7% agreed with the sentiment “you better believe it.”  

Just under 17% said it wasn’t more stressful, while 12% said it wasn’t more so, but that the stress/job was different.   As one reader noted, “Actually, I took this job about 1 year ago to have less stress. Now I’ve gone way to the other side and I’m bored to tears. A happy medium would be nice.”  Another noted, “I recently changed jobs to achieve a better work/life balance and reduce some of the stress from my prior job. Though I like my new job, there is no a stress reduction – just new stressful situations.”  On the other hand, just over one-in-ten said that it WAS more stressful, though the stress/job was different.

The remaining 11% opted for “other” – but even that grouping mostly seemed to be dealing with more stress.

Multiple “Choices”

For readers who were dealing with more stress, I asked how they were dealing with it – unfortunately (as several readers pointed out), I only allowed for a single response.   As it was, however, the most common answer, cited by 28.1% , was “just hunkering down”) – just ahead of the 27.1% who chose “other”, but who mostly opted for a “more than one of the above” answer.   

One reader went so far as to say “If you had added a category, “Most of the above,” you would have no doubt had 100% of respondents check that one.”   Or, as another reader said, “How about more exercise BECAUSE of more eating BECAUSE of more stress. Why no multiple choice?”

As for what else readers were doing to deal with the stress:

7.3% - making more time for family/outside interests

6.3% - more exercise

6.3% - looking to change jobs

4.2% - more eating

2.1% - talking about it with friends/spouse/counselor

2.1% - taking it out on others

1.0% - more drinking/drugs (though, one reader cautioned "Does "drugs" include Excedrin Migraine?"

The remaining 15% said things weren't more stressful now.

Among the "other" suggestions for dealing:

"I understand how the Law of Attraction ( works and I utilize it to help me focus on the positive aspects of my job and personal life. I have been able to maintain a positive countenance when those around me have been filled with fear. It certainly makes life more joyful to focus on the positives, identify what I am able to control and change my perspective on the rest. A change of perspective changes everything."

"The problem is, with significant reductions in staff and initiatives to reduce cost, the remaining employees are having to do the work of multiple staff plus implement the new cost-saving programs. Leaves no time for the other stress-reducing activities (exercise, family, social interaction). That only leaves one of the options above, and I haven't used that one since the 60's."

"More exercise, more insomnia, more chocolate, spending more time with my dogs (they seldom talk back or complain)."

"My answer would be "Talking about it", but if you ask my husband and son they would say "Taking it out on others"."

"Biting nails."

"I'm hunkering down to tackle the work, which means I'm working more hours, which means I spend less time taking care of my personal life. And that means that my kids are suffering, my house is falling apart around me, my friends are wondering if I fell off the face of the earthl Maybe I should just resort to one of the other choices - like 'more eating' or 'more drinking/drugs'!"

"Just trying to get in that whole fictitious work/life balance but by the time I get home, eat, clean up dinner, walk the dog - it's bed time."

"The stress isn't going away, and I've noticed that working more hours has not reduced any of the workload. I walk when I need to respond to the fight or flight feeling. Talk, talk, talk to my support. Try to not think about it when with family and friends."

"I generally share my frustration with my dog and cats. They have a tendency to listen very intently, and probably understand at least as much about this job as anyone I know, and they don't feel the need to throw in their 2 cents' worth."

"Sort of hunkering down, sort of delegating the stress, and managing not to resort to public flogging (so far). I survived the worse and just need to finish off a couple pesky clients. August should be fine (though I seem to remember saying that a month or so ago)."

"Telling myself over and over and over again - "it's just a job""

"Taking time every day to realize that my job does not define me and finding other outside activities as well as spending time with my family to attempt to find a balance."

"I like what I do and I like the company, but there are changes in the next few years that will affect my job significantly and I think now might be a good time to start looking. My job is very high energy and high stress already and that has only increased over time. The more I accomplish, it seems the more everyone expects. It's hard to keep topping yourself. I actually do several of the items above. Trying to leave work on time, not working from home, taking a walk at lunch, venting when I get home, spending more time doing the things I like to do, etc."

"Just not letting other people's problems and issues bother me and not take everything personally anymore."

"Thinking about retiring and getting a part time job."

Or, as one reader admitted, "I'm not, that's the problem!"

Speaking of dealing with the issue, I asked readers to share how they/their firm was helping the workforce deal with the additional stress - to which nearly half ( 45.5% ) said simply "we're not."   On the other hand, 15.2% were communicating more, 4% were allowing for more flexibility in hours/telecommuting options, while 13% said it wasn't more stressful.  

On the other hand, more than one-in-five ( 22% ) opted for "something else" as their response - and though many of these were (again) looking for a more-than-one-of-the-above option (my bad), this is also where a lot of frustration found an outlet.   Here's a sampling of the positives:

The leaders are stressed and expect everyone else to be stressed. I try to scatter rays of sunshine and offer alternate perspectives when others seem receptive.

Our team vents to each other (and our boss sometimes, surprisingly) and try to go "off campus" for lunch.

More than one of the above: More communication, everyone doing the best they can

More focus to concentrate on things we can control to prevent issues

Better bonuses, money does help ease the strain

Our Wellness Center is a big plus.   They offer a variety of classes that help to reduce stress - including Yoga. And our EAP does some of their monthly communication pieces on stress reduction.   Personally, I'm love the chair massages - we offer them 3 days a week.

's of "good job", "how are you doing today" type communication to the staff. Along with various treats for those who are stress-eating!

We hired someone. Waiting for that learning curve to come around. Company has more tools available to assist associates with change as well as a reiteration that an EAP is available. We also have an in-house fitness center.

We are trying more communication but it is leveraged with cautious optimism. We've actually eliminated the compressed work week we've have for the past few summers to be able to get the work done. Voicing encouragement and appreciation goes a long way.

Jeans days. Lots and lots of jeans days.

As for the negatives:

Work force cut back to help cause it, not allowing vacation carry over but still insisting everything gets finished

We're not... We wouldn't want to try to give our employees any flexibility in their lives... no, not here.

They are adding more stress through restructuring.

Well as of last month we were reminded that the company is weathering the economy quite well. They even bragged that we had not had any layoffs. Then they laid off about 30 people. So I guess more communication...even if the facts change more quickly than they are able to get communications out to us.

More communication??? I wish. It's less communication & when there is communication it isn't accurate or reliable.

My firm just says everyone leaving was a poor performer anyway even if they always received good annual reviews.

Inspiring comments like, "You SHOULD be working longer! You SHOULD be working on the weekends! These are stressful times - that's what you should be doing now!" That makes us all feel better.

Far as I can tell, we are worrying about their stressful state while adding fuel to the fire.

But the Editor's Choice goes to the reader who responded to the "more money" option as follows:  "More pay? Call the worker's comp carrier - I have hurt myself, I just fell out of my chair, I'm laughing so hard!"  

And now, you've returned the favor!

But, returning to the personal stress of our readers, here's a sense of things:

"The combination of the economy, our industry (aerospace) taking a hit, FY ending 8/31, and doing union negotiations, benefit renewals, performance appraisals, 5500's, and closing an out of state facility at the same time...I can barely breathe!"

"1 1/2 years of ongoing cash flow issues is taking a toll. Couple that with the long commute & it's challenging."

"Last summer there wasn't a clue about the October downturn. October through April was hunkerdown and organize a downsizing of 23% of our workforce. Now the stress is how do we do the work of those who are gone while changing to a new computer system and updating our web site. Everyone is on edge.

"It seems to get more stressful by the hour, never mind from a year ago."

"YES!!! When you start laying off people, the work doesn't go away, just the people. Who's left to pick up all that work - the rest of us who stick around!"

"Seems we have been doing "more with less" for so long now, down time is a distant memory."

But then again, at least some of the stress was self-induced:

"My job is a little more stressful at this moment than it was last year simply because I do not have a long list of things to do. I start to panic when I don't have a lot on the horizon."

"I tend to create much of my own stress - I worry way too much!"

"It's more stressful if I'm in charge of the job; less so if I'm part of the "crew".

But this week's Editor's Choice goes to the (stressed) reader who said "It stresses me out to think about the stress..."

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!   You'll find more verbatims on the following pages….

  • Those who are busier at work this year seem to be more than happy to be busier since the reduction in force earlier this year. As for how the company is dealing with it, I get the impression they're thinking we're lucky to have a job at all.
  • I am in transition right now from Benefits Manager to HR Director, as our current HR Director is retiring on 12/31. It's an exciting time, but trying to prepare for the new job, stay abreast of the old job, and prepare my successor to take over all of the benefit functions is a little hectic. Nevertheless, I'm willing!
  • Work stress is only part of the life equation. When you add in other "life" stresses - school (both if you have gone back or are trying to get your kids through it), physical (if you're dealing with illness or injuries that require ongoing or extended treatment or rehabilitation), mental (if you have to deal with crazy people on a daily basis), home/personal issues (menopause, caring for elderly parents or very young children, mid-life crises) and economics (is my 401k at least a 201k yet?) but find that you can actually deal with it all and manage to still learn and smile about something every day, then life is not too bad.
  • Downsizing is always stressful; I'm just glad I still have a job (I probably wouldn't be reading NewsDash if I were unemployed)!
  • I also have a small staff most of whom are eligible to retire within the next 3-5 years, the first of whom is leaving in two months. Succession planning is one of my added stressors
  • For me, almost nothing worth doing is easy or stress-free, I feel much more valued and useful in my role today than a year ago when there was no work stress.
  • The work is not more stressful, but the slip in company performance coupled with the economic climate and resulting (perceived) lack of security is more stressful.
  • I am grateful I have a job, do not get me wrong. I feel that by keeping up with the extra workload that we are enabling the top people to give us more (*^*% to do, and when the economy gets better we will still be doing a ton of stressful work and then some.
  • Having my managers read "3 signs of a miserable job" by Patrick Lencioni. Picked it up to see if my job fit the signs and became inspired to make my folks' jobs less miserable instead.
  • Seems we have been doing "more with less" for so long now, down time is a distant memory. Working in state government is particularly stressful when a huge budget deficit exists and unions don't understand how big a chunk of that budget is attributable to the compensation and benefits.
  • My company went through a 20% layoff in April (on April 15th - tax day - what a day to pick!). Even though they said that we would reset priorities and improve efficiencies so that workload for the remaining people would only be minimally impacted - HAH! Yeah, right. The rest of us are trying to do it all - and no-one has had a raise in over two years.
  • My firm continues to believe we can do more with less by creating more efficiencies (after several years of this I am not sure how many more meaningful efficiencies we have left).
  • I see a general uptick in stress levels due to the year long layoff program and general economy in our company, but some of us are even more stressed right now as there is a possible sale of the company. Unfortunately, those of us in the know are also those of us most likely to be let go after the sale.
  • I'm just happy to still have my job. And I worry about losing it everyday.