Younger employees more affected by workplace stress

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Read More Mark Stringer
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50% of Gen Y workers reported heightened stress at work, compared with 44% of Gen X and 35% of Baby Boomers

Younger workers are more affected by workplace stress than their older colleagues, according to the 2015/16 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey by Willis Towers Watson.

Half (50%) of Generation Y workers reported experiencing heightened stress in the workplace, compared with 44% of Generation X and 35% of Baby Boomers.

The study of 1,895 UK employees found that the top causes of workplace stress for Generation Y were inadequate staffing and low pay, which mirrored the top two causes across all generations. This was followed by a lack of work/life balance and unclear and/or conflicting job expectations, whereas for Baby Boomers the main causes of stress were cited as company culture and excessive organisation change.

Separate research from AXA PPP Healthcare, released on World Mental Health Day, found that 76% of workers who have had financial difficulties say their mental health has also deteriorated. Additionally, 71% who have had problems with their physical health have also experienced difficulties with their mental health.

Mark Winwood, clinical director of psychological health for AXA PPP Healthcare, highlighted the link between life circumstances and mental health.

“Our research shows that when employees are experiencing financial problems or have a mental or physical health issue the link between these areas of wellbeing may lead to their negative experience being exacerbated,” he said. “It’s a potentially toxic mix that calls for careful handling. When considering wellbeing initiatives, employers would be wise to take a holistic approach to enable employees to maintain their mental, physical and financial wellbeing.”

Rebekah Haymes, senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson, said that companies cannot afford to ignore stress.

“To address workplace stress employers first need to understand its root cause from their employees’ point of view,” she said. “Those who base their efforts on misguided assumptions risk trying to solve the wrong problems, and could end up wasting money and alienating staff. Understanding employee views is key to ensuring support is directed to known issues and leads to more successful outcomes.”

Comments

Let's be clear here. Whilst there is always a need to make it clear that mental health is a key area for the workplace, vague research above does not help the cause. What we have here are generalizations around generational cohorts, for which there is little academic evidence. Alongside this, the concept of Stress- a very hard to define concept is then placed on top of this. Above all, extrapolating this then again a relatively small research set (n=1895) means that this is taken as "fact". One hopes the HR community takes a step back to critically analyse such reports and reflects on what data these statements are being made upon - certainly by those who stand to gain from its dispersal in a commercial sense. By the way- just a thought for your picture editor. Rather than playing the usual gender visual narrative card (playing into the usual "stereotype" of women in the workplace....) why not try something a bit more radical and show a male image of "distress"? Just a thought.


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Hello Mark. Thank you for your comment. I selected the picture for this article. I (and the rest of the HR team) regularly use pictures of males in articles about stress and mental health issues and try to make sure our choices reflect the diversity of the workforce. Please see the following: http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/employees-not-disclosing-mental-health-conditions http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/mental-ill-health-costs-uk-billions-a-year-say-unite-and-mind http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/employees-more-likely-to-hide-mental-health-issue-than-physical-health-problem http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/what-are-an-employers-responsibilities-around-mental-health http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/67-of-business-leaders-struggling-with-stress http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/uk-employees-among-most-stressed-in-the-world-global-survey-of-60-000-reveals http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/middle-managers-suffer-most-from-workplace-stress-cipd-survey-reveals


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Mark, I tend to agree with you though I can only offer anecdote. Many of my clients are at executive level ie Baby Boomers and Gen X: that they're in counselling suggests they're distressed. Work and all that goes with it in terms of status, income, their place in the hierarchy plus extraordinary hours (that seem to be nothing more than macho culture) is fine until life gets involved. If something outside of work requires their attention - relationship problems, illness, something involving members of their family - there is no room for it. Stress increases exponentially. My daughter, 25, is in a senior role but her generations' understanding of her future is that there is no stability and they will always be poor. As a Gen Xer myself I remember how frightening it was when Jobs For Life disappeared over the horizon just as I entered the workplace but employment contracts were normal. That was 35 years ago and we're still having to tell managers to treat employees as human beings. When empathy is used as a marketing tool you know things have become fatuous.


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Well done- hands up - my bad.....


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Dear Bek, Thank you for bringing workplace stress under the spotlight on World Mental Health Day. However, and to use a quote from Rebekah Haymes (Towers Watson) from your article, “Those who base their efforts on misguided assumptions risk trying to solve the wrong problems…[..]”. Understanding the theory, and how and where the data you are quoting in an article came from would have helped to give the deserved credibility to the point you are trying to make. Generational ‘labels’ (i.e.: baby boomers, generation X, etc.) are derived from ‘Generation Cohort Theory’, a theory originated in the marketing field. HR consultants, and HR practitioners, often use these labels in the workplace, perhaps unaware that they are using something that there is no agreement on. Furthermore, in doing so, they may be assisting to spread generational stereotypes and biases at work that mostly, by the way, lack evidence. Generational Cohort Theory is controversial, not only because there is no agreement on boundary years of these ‘generational labels’, but also because it does not take into account key considerations such as (in no particular order): education, social class, ethnicity, religion, gender, country of birth, country of residence, etc. Alternative conceptualisations of age do exist so why not exploring those at work instead? With regards to the sample used, your article cites “1,895 UK employees”. My questions are: Were these employees recruited from one or many organisations? If so, there is no mention of industry, sector, or anything else that may be relevant and appropriate when examining and critically reflecting on data. I agree with Mark’s comments earlier, how can this information be taken and presented as “fact”? In any event, I will not discount the fact that your article helps to bring to the fore mental health issues at work, and this is in itself positive. The more this subject is discussed in the open, perhaps more people of ALL ages, and at different stages of their careers and beyond, will start to receive the necessary understanding and support. Kind regards Paula Fitzgerald


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Great discussion and thought provoking stuff. I whole heartedly agree that blanket categorisations are not helpful. A) it is hard to define generations, and B) psychological research tells us clearly that differences between people in generations are bigger than generalised differences between the generations. In other words - we should attend to the individual. What we do have to address though is bad job design. I work with many organisations across the private and public sector, and have seen a real mushromming of work intensification (i.e. you can't get the job done in the allocated time) and expectations are very high. We must concentrate on working smarter, not harder, and being clear about humans can and can't actually do in an average working day is key.


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