Are your employees stressed? Three things you can do to reduce stress in the workplace

Employee Engagement

Since the beginning of 2023, the most dominant negative emotion chosen across all Inpulse surveys was ‘stressed’, with almost a fifth of respondents (18%) selecting this emotion. This is in response to the unique Inpulse question ‘How do you feel about working at [your organisation]?’ where people can select up to two emotions. 

When looking at the verbatim comments for why people feel stressed, the main reason is due to workload. This is not a slight majority, the overwhelming majority of people are saying heavy workload is causing them to feel stressed. Heavy workload and the pressure that comes with this is having a significant impact on people’s wellbeing (both physical and mental) and their work life balance. Since the beginning of 2023 and across all Inpulse surveys, only 69% of people feel they can achieve a balance between their work and home life.

Alongside the high levels of stress, ‘unappreciated’ has been the second most dominant negative emotion chosen, with 15% of respondents selecting this emotion since the beginning of 2023. This is predominantly due to them not being thanked or recognised for their efforts. Essentially, people feel they are doing more (increased workload) yet don’t feel that is being recognised or acknowledged. Furthermore, the fact that the workload issue hasn’t been addressed by senior leaders has exacerbated the feelings of unappreciation as people don’t think the company cares about them.

So why has workload become such a major issue? Has workload actually increased in recent years or are people just more aware of it now?

From our experience and wider research, there are three macro-level trends that are impacting workload:

  1. The economic climate means organisations are having to make redundancies and/or people are leaving the company and not being replaced, thus there is a reduced workforce so increased workload for those that have remained. Additionally, to address the financial pressures that companies are feeling, they have heightened targets and KPIs in order to cover additional costs/ inflation which has in turn increased the pressure people are feeling at work.
  2. Due to the rapid change in working arrangements (mass move to hybrid working) over recent years, internal systems and processes are lagging behind as they have not yet caught up with the new working world, so they have become barriers to efficiency. Thus, causing frustration as they are impacting people being able to undertake their role effectively.
  3. People’s attitude towards work has shifted. Since the COVID pandemic, people value work-life balance more and are more aware of maintaining a good balance, protecting their boundaries so they can make time for what is most important to them. Thus, their awareness of their workload has heightened and their capacity for work has decreased. 

Why is it important organisations address the issue of workload? 

Well, firstly, if you fundamentally care about your people then you should want to do something about it because high workload is affecting their wellbeing. That’s the human perspective. Secondly, from a business perspective, our data shows that workload is one of the main reasons why people consider leaving their organisation within the next 12 months so if you want to retain your people then you need to do something about this.

So, what can you do? 

Our data and insights show that this issue of workload isn’t shifting. It’s been an issue for the last 2 years and will continue to be unless significant action is taken. It’s not a simple fix. It requires making tough decisions and investing resource and finances. It’s not rocket science, but it does require commitment from all levels of leadership. 

Here are three actions you can take to have a significant impact on reducing the workload and pressure your people are feeling:

  1. Extend deadlines to deliver projects – where you may have given three months for a project previously, extend this to six months to enable people to complete that project and other competing priorities.
  2. Postpone or cancel projects that aren’t essential right now – review all internal projects and identify those that are essential and those that can be postponed or cancelled. This prioritisation will help filter out unnecessary projects or initiatives that you can come back to or may decide are no longer required.
  3. Allocate more budget for resource – this obviously depends on your financial situation and may not be feasible. However, where possible, investing in additional resource to lighten the load on others will help – even if it is short term contracts or outsourcing specific tasks and responsibilities.

Of course, these actions may impact your bottom line and slow down your pace of change, but the cost of your people’s wellbeing and likelihood of them leaving will prove far more costly in the end.

Master Engagement Throughout the Employee Lifecycle