NZ workers are becoming more stressed
Many New Zealand workers have experienced sharp increases in workplace stress in the last two years, a new survey from giant health insurer Southern Cross and BusinessNZ has found.
There's been a rising tide of media stories highlighting bigger workloads and increased stress at work in industries as varied as medicine, teaching, police and banking, and the Wellness in the Workplace survey of 93,000 employees confirms it is happening.
A total of 31.2 per cent of employees said their level of stress had risen in the last two years, with only 8.3 per cent saying it had declined, though not all of the big stressors in workers' lives are generated in the workplace.
Among the biggest causes of stress among workers were excessive workload, pressure to meet work targets, management style and workplace relationships, and long hours, the survey found.
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Workers at larger companies felt most stressed, but the survey found stress levels among workers at smaller businesses had increased more sharply since 2014.
A quarter of all workers in large companies with 50 or more employees said they worked excessive hours, with 22 per cent of employees of smaller workplaces saying the same.
Trying to hit targets was even more stressful, with just over 40 per cent of workers in larger companies citing it as a big cause of stress.
The rising tide of workplace stress has businesses worried, and many are responding with workplace wellness programmes.
"Last year we surveyed more than 500 of our corporate customers and for those that have a wellbeing initiative in place, their top motivator for doing so is to reduce stress," said Nick Astwick, Southern Cross' chief executive.
"Unfortunately New Zealand is by no means unique in this area. It's estimated around 38 per cent of the world's workers are suffering from excessive pressure on the job."
Wellbeing programmes for companies are designed to promote healthier, happier, more productive workplaces, and to cut absenteeism.
Sick and stressed workers are costing employers, who lost around 6.6 billion working days to sick staff in 2016. That could be costing employers as much as $1.5billion a year.
More than half of larger employers now have these programmes, and Southern Cross hopes to increase its revenues by marketing its BeingWell programme from later this month, based on its own internal programme.
But, Southern Cross noted: "Any steps towards reducing stress anxiety among staff will struggle to make headway, if net stress levels continue to show a sizeable increase year-on-year."
Richard Wagstaff, president of the Council of Trade Unions said sharp rises in workloads, increased monitoring at work, low wage rises and sharp increases in housing costs were all contributing to worker stress.
Workloads had increased sharply in the public sector as a result of rising demand for services, and squeezed budgets.
The survey showed a third of all workers at smaller companies, and a quarter of workers at large companies, were suffering stress as a result of their personal financial condition.
BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope said stress levels among workers remained more on the moderate than the high side.
"What's new this time is that workload is now the key cause of stress for smaller businesses. Previously that's been the domain of larger enterprises with 50 or more staff."
- Audio courtesy of Radio NZ