Job Stress

What is job stress? Numerous surveys and studies confirm that occupational pressures and fears are by far the leading source of stress in most American adults. The number of people who are severely affected by stress has steadily increased over the past few decades.

While there are tons of statistics to support these allegations, how significant they are depends on such things as how the information was obtained (self-report vs. answers to carefully worded questions), the size and demographics of the targeted group, how participants were selected and who sponsored the study.

Some expedient polls claim that a some specific occupations have been declared as being "the most stressful" by certain organizations or unions in order to acquire higher wages or better benefits for their members. Other surveys may be conducted to promote a product, such as the "Stress in the Nineties" survey by the maker of a deodorant that found housewives were under more stress than most CEO's of major corporations. Such a conclusion was reached by making telephone calls to residential phones conducted in the afternoon. It is crucial to keep all these caveats in mind when evaluating job stress statistics.

Some of the reasons and effects of job stress are as follows:

* Longer and harder working hours: A report found that the number of hours of work increased 8% in one generation to an average 47 hrs/week with 20% working 49 hrs/week. Workers put in more hours on the job than the labor force of any other industrial nation, where the trend has been just the opposite. According to an International Labor Organization study, many people put in the equivalent of an extra 40-hour work week in 2000 compared to ten years previously.

* Violence: According to certain studies the crime rate has increased steadily due to increased levels of job stress. An average of 20 workers are murdered each week, making homicide the second highest cause of workplace deaths, which is also the leading cause for fatality in female employees. Many non-fatal violent crimes such as sexual and other assaults also occur each week while the victim is in her workplace. There are over a million such cases reported across the globe per year.

These figures are probably higher since many incidences are never reported. Certain dangerous occupations like police duty and cab driving understandably have higher rates of homicide as well as fatal assaults. Nevertheless, postal workers who work in a safe environment have experienced so many fatalities due to job stress that "going postal" has crept into our lingua. "Desk rage" and "phone rage" have also become increasingly common terms that are regularly experienced in most offices.

* Insecurity: A study reported that more jobs had been lost in the previous year than any other year in the last half century, and that the number of workers fearful of losing their jobs had more than doubled over the past decade. That was several years ago and the problem has worsened considerably since then. A report released stated that "more than 1 million people lost their jobs in a particular year, 83% higher than the previous year's total." There are fears that this may be just the tip of the iceberg as accounting irregularities of a similar nature may augur the downfall of large organizations widely assumed to be on a solid financial footing.

* Job absenteeism: According to a survey of 800,000 workers in over 300 companies, the number of employees calling in sick because of stress has tripled in the last decade. An estimated 1 million workers are absent every day due to stress. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work reported that over half of the 550 million working days lost annually from absenteeism are stress related and that one in five of all last minute no-shows are due to job stress.

If this arises in key employees of the organization; this can lead to a domino effect that has the capacity to spread down the line and in turn upset other scheduled businesses. Unexpected absenteeism is estimated to cost companies a lot and the price tag for large employers could approach millions annually. A three year study conducted by one large corporation found that 60% of employee absences could be traced to psychological problems that were due to job stress.