Workplace stress levels on the rise worldwide, poll finds

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 September, 2012, 6:32pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 September, 2012, 6:42pm

Half of working professionals worldwide are more stressed than they were 18 months ago, according to a survey by business consultancy Regus.

The survey, which polled 16,000 professionals across the world, identified professional reasons, not personal ones, as the main determinants, with 59 per cent blaming their job, 44 per cent blaming personal finances and 37 per cent on dealing with customers.

Mainland China saw the biggest number of stressed workers with 75 per cent of the 355 respondents polled reporting a rise in stress levels from 18 months ago – 25 per cent higher than the global average.

Chinese workers cited problems with job development, time management and organisational direction as their biggest drivers of stress.

The findings come at a time of monumental change in China as it struggles to deal with a slowdown in the global and domestic economies, while trying to tackle an array of social and political problems, all ahead of a major leadership transition.

Credit-deprived small- and medium-sized companies along the export-dependent coast are also struggling to keep their heads above water. Four out of five respondents in Shanghai reported a rise in stress levels.

In Hong Kong, 55 per cent of respondents experienced increased stress levels in the past 18 months.

High unemployment, rising borrowing costs and other economic woes have also led to greater anxiety and stress across Europe. About 58 per cent of respondents in Germany reported a rise in stress levels.

“It’s stressful not knowing where the world economy will end up or whether there will be a break up of the euro zone,” Hans Leijten, vice-president for Regus, East Asia, told the South China Morning Post.

“These economic stresses flow downstream from country to company, down to the managers and lastly, to employees.”

Excess stress has been linked to a lengthy list of health problems ranging from high blood pressure to DNA damage. But for businesses, the biggest issue stands to be the loss in productivity as stressed workers are more likely to suffer from physical and mental health problems.

Greater flexibility in working hours was found to be most effective stress reliever with six in ten respondents believing that it would decrease stress and benefit their mental and physical health.

“Flexible working means allowing [staff] to work at flexible times in different locations – perhaps even closer to home,” said Leijten.

“This makes them more productive and it may also translate to significant cost savings for a company.”