October 14, 2016
Younger workers are more affected by workplace stress than their older colleagues, with half of Generation Y UK workers (50 percent), reporting heightened levels of stress in the workplace, compared to 44 percent for generation X and 35 percent within the baby boomer generation. The Global Benefits Attitudes Survey of 1,895 employees in the UK by Willis Towers Watson suggests that the top causes of workplace stress for Millennials were inadequate staffing and low pay, which mirrored the top two causes across all generations in the survey. This is followed by a lack of work/life balance and unclear and/or conflicting job expectations, whereas for baby boomers it is company culture and excessive organisation change. The report also shows Gen Y workers are more worried about their finances than older workers, with 64 percent of younger workers reporting being worried, compared to 55 percent of generation X workers and 38 percent of baby boomers.
However the cause of worry for Gen Y appear to be about their future rather than their current finances, with just 20 percent reporting that they are currently struggling financially.
Rebekah Haymes, Senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson said: “Work/life balance appears as a stronger stress driver for Gen Y employees, while the characteristics of the organisation play a more prominent role for older employees”.
Earlier this year, Willis Towers Watson’s Global Staying@Work Survey indicated that employers prioritise different sources of stress, primarily a lack of work/life balance and excessive amounts of organisational change. Low pay, which plays an important role in financial worries, comes in thirteenth place of employers’ views on sources of stress.
Haymes added: “In an environment with tight margins, employers cannot easily manage issues around low pay and staffing levels. However, they can marshal resources and focus on providing guidance on stress management and coping strategies through their wellbeing programmes”.
The 2015/2016 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey report also suggests that younger workers are more likely to indulge themselves and engage in unhealthy behaviours as a coping strategy compared to their older colleagues, but they are also more likely to seek support from their personal network, including their managers, as well as seek professional help and use the services provided by their employers.
Haymes said: “Most employees seek to tackle stress on their own, but education against counterproductive behaviours could prove helpful, particularly for younger employees”.
The research also claims that highly stressed employees lose almost twice as many days at work to short term absence and presenteeism, and are almost twice as likely to be in poor health and disengaged from their job compared to their low stress colleagues.
Haymes continued: “Companies cannot afford to ignore the issue of stress for workers. To address workplace stress, employers first need to understand its root cause from their employees’ point of view. Those who base their efforts on misguided assumptions risk trying to solve the wrong problems, and could end up wasting money and alienating employees. Understanding employee views is key to ensuring support is directed to known issues and leads to more successful outcomes.”