A study by recruitment consultancy Robert Half has ranked eight major Western nations on a scale of worker stress.
Good news, if you live in either Holland or New Holland. The Netherlands came in at most relaxed, followed closely by Australia – arguably in line with both countries’ reputations for an easy-going, laid-back populace.
The UK, the US and Belgium followed with slightly more stressed workers, while Canada, France and finally Germany rounded out the bottom of the table.
At least part of the reason for the results could be work–life balance: the Dutch are ranked number one for work–life balance by the OECD Better Life Index.
But a healthy work–life balance may only be part of the reason.
A few demographic factors noted by the study include gender, with women tending to be more stressed than men, and salary range, with those in the US$50,000–$75,000 range being the most relaxed. Unsurprisingly, those in huge organisations (10,000 employees or more) were generally less happy.
Age also played a part, with workers 55 and over being less stressed, showing a downward decline from workers who were of a younger age. One hypothesised reason is that older workers have more experience than their younger counterparts, and thus feel more comfortable.
As would be expected, certain industries were found to be more stressful than others. Industries like healthcare, manufacturing and HR tended to be more stressful, with those in accounting, admin and IT being more relaxed. This conforms with previous studies which have reported similar rankings.
Most crucially, the survey found that the majority of workers believed their happiness was the responsibility of both themselves, and their bosses.
So what can you do to help your workers?
Andrew Morris, Director of Robert Half Australia, believes “Eliminating all work-related stress in the office may not be possible, but taking proactive steps to reduce it can improve staff performance, engagement and overall workplace happiness”.
The study recommends six strategies to remain cool, calm and collected at work.
- Employ people who are a good fit from the start
- Empower your staff with autonomy, support and collaboration
- Express your appreciation, praise your team
- Provide meaningful, inspiring work
- Evoke a sense of fairness and justice
- Ensure healthy workplace relationships
The benefits are clear; keeping workers happy also keeps them loyal to and passionate about the company.
It also improves your team’s health. A motivated employee will likely result in less sick days and absenteeism.
Morris has a few specific suggestions as well. “The most successful companies have systems in place to effectively monitor and manage stress levels, whether in the form of seeking regular employee feedback or increasing temporary staff headcount to help manage high workloads.
“Other company initiatives include offering employees increased sick leave, sabbaticals, or encouraging more social activities with staff outside the office.”