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New survey zeroes in on Americans’ No. 1 workplace stressor and how it affects job retention

Posted by Neha De

October 27, 2021

A recent report from the American Psychological Association has revealed that the No 1 factor that is accelerating work-related stress is low pay. According to the survey, 56% of workers said their low salaries have had a huge effect on their stress levels — this is up from 49% in 2019. 

The survey was commissioned by the APA to look at workplace experiences during the pandemic, measure employee stress related to work and capture what employees are looking for from their employers as it relates to their mental health, specifically in the context of the pandemic and changing priorities. More than 1,501 U.S. employees were surveyed from July 26 to Aug. 4. 

When it comes to the impact of various factors on worker stress levels at work, following pay, long hours and lack of opportunity for growth or advancement were the next most-frequently cited workplace stressors, at 54% and 52% respectively. Other factors such as heavy workload, lack of paid time off or sick leave, commuting and lack of involvement in decisions were also mentioned by respondents.

The findings draw attention to the fact that even though businesses have introduced mental health resources meant to prioritize employee well-being during the pandemic, 1 in 3 employees said the most meaningful way employers can support workers is through pay.

Unless the issues addressed, employees are willing to quit

Stress is leading to attrition as employees are putting themselves first. More than 40% of the respondents said they intend to find a new job with a different company in the next year. 

According to a different survey, 26% of employees said they plan to look for a new job when the threat of the pandemic decreases if companies don’t address workers’ needs. 

In that same vein, the APA survey found that employees who feel tense or stressed out during the workday are more than three times as likely to seek employment elsewhere — according to the survey, 71% of employees feel tense or stressed out during the workday. 

The report also found that workers who have witnessed or experienced discrimination in their current workplace are more than twice as likely as those who have not to look for another job in the next year. 

Already disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, employees from certain marginalized groups, including Black, Hispanic, LGBTQ+ workers or those with a disability, are more likely to report stress and intentions to leave their organization.

Meanwhile, women are more likely than men to state that their companies need to intensify their efforts when it comes to paying staff members fairly and allowing flexibility, which is likely the result of the gender wage gap and disproportionate caregiving burden among women.

What employers can do

A vast majority of workers believe there are certain steps their employers can take that can help create a “psychologically healthy workplace and support employees’ mental health.” Examples are offering flexible hours, encouraging employees to take care of their health, reminding employees to use paid time off, advocating breaks during the workday, providing mental health resources and regularly recognizing employee contributions, among others. Essentially, employees increasingly want their employers to have a holistic approach if they wish to achieve a psychologically healthy workplace. 


Neha De
Neha De

Neha De is a writer and editor with more than 13 years of experience. She has worked on a variety of genres and platforms, including books, magazine articles, blog posts and website copy. She is passionate about producing clear and concise content that is engaging and informative. In her spare time, Neha enjoys dancing, running and spending time with her family.

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