Even engaged employees experience stress: Report

36 per cent of the employees surveyed by Gallup were stressed out when engaged at work, while 56 per cent were stressed out when actively disengaged


Did you know that the global economy pays a heavy price for disengaged or poorly engaged employees? In fact, low engagement costs $8.8 trillion, and is responsible for nine per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP)!

Employees remain engaged at work, or not engaged at work, or actively disengaged at work due to various reasons. In all three situations, they may experience stress. For instance, even workers who are engaged at work may be so tired by the end of the day that they may have little energy left to sit down and converse with their family or friends. Over a period of time, those dear to them may label them as being socially unreceptive, which may trigger stress.

While work itself can be a source of stress, low engagement at work is related to higher stress. However, it is not just work-related factors that cause stress to employees. External factors such as inflation or family health issues can also be sources of daily stress.

When Gallup had undertaken a similar survey in 2009, 31 per cent of those surveyed admitted to having experienced a lot of stress the previous day. By 2013, this figure had gone up to 37 per cent. By 2020, 43 per cent said they had experienced stress the previous day. Of course, a lot of it could have been due to the pandemic-imposed tensions. In 2022, a significant 44 per cent of employees admitted to having experienced a lot of stress the previous day, similar to the record high levels of stress in 2021.

Engaged employees are less stressed

While leaders and managers cannot really change the stressors affecting their employees from the outside, they can do their bit to try and reduce the overall stress in their lives. More so because when employees are engaged at work, their stress levels are significantly low. And leaders and managers do play an important role in the engagement of their workers at the workplace.

As per a Gallup survey covering 160 countries, 36 per cent of the employees were stressed out when actively engaged and 56 per cent were stressed out when actively disengaged.

Fewer engaged employees think of switching

Across the world, the number of employees who admitted that this was a good time to find a job had increased in 2022. The only region where this number did not increase was the US and Canada.

Why were so many employees considering a job change? Because there were more jobs available for employees to consider the change. That also means that employees unhappy with their jobs had multiple options to choose from and move on from the jobs that were making them miserable.

With more job opportunities, more people think of switching jobs. Competition increases and that leads to better offers and salaries and more hiring activity. All of these are positive signs.

As per a Gallup analysis, engaged employees will consider taking up another job only if they are offered a 31 per cent pay hike. Employees who are not engaged or are actively disengaged will switch even if they get a 22 per cent pay hike at the new workplace. A whopping 61 per cent of employees look out for other opportunities when they are actively disengaged. On the other hand, only 43 per cent of actively engaged employees consider switching jobs.

Engagement has little to do with work location

The benefits and drawbacks of remote, hybrid or fully on-site work have been discussed to death in recent years. While some people are able to work and focus better working from home, others focus better in the office. The office goers look forward to the social bonding, camaraderie, development and culture building that happens in the physical office, while remote workers appreciate the flexibility, which results in greater autonomy and wellbeing. Some remote workers are happy to spend quality time with family and pets instead of wasting time commuting to work or stuck in traffic jams. Other remote workers find it challenging to separate their personal and professional boundaries.

The Gallup analysis reveals that engagement has 3.8 times as much influence on employee stress as work location. That means, the experiences of employees in their daily work, that is, their level of involvement and feelings of enthusiasm and excitement play a bigger part in reducing stress than where they are sitting and working.

About 52 per cent of actively disengaged employees working onsite were experiencing stress. An equal number of actively disengaged remote workers were experiencing stress. Forty-six per cent of fully remote workers experiencing stress were not engaged at work, while 38 per cent of onsite workers who were stressed were not engaged at work. If you think hybrid work is the solution, then the data shows that 48 per cent of hybrid workers who were stressed were also not engaged at work. On the other hand, 32 per cent of stressed out remote workers were engaged at work, and 34 per cent of the stressed out hybrid workers were engaged at work, and so were 29 per cent of on-site workers who were stressed.

Clearly, location has little to do here. Whether employees work from home, or from office or both, they can experience stress. That means, poor management and organisational culture are to blame. These cannot be fixed by the model of work or location of work.

What do employees want?

When asked what they would change about their workplace to make it better, the responses of 85 per cent of the quiet quitters pertained to culture, engagement, salary, benefits, well-being and work-life balance.

Engagement/ culture: About 41 per cent of the respondents spoke of wanting recognition for their contributions. They also wished for their managers to be more approachable and the liberty to be able to talk openly. They looked forward to more autonomy so that their creativity could emerge. They were eager to lean more things rather than stick to their same repetitive job. They sought more respect at work and hoped their organization would give a fair chance to everyone at promotions. Additionally, they also sought clarity in terms of goals and better guidance.

Pay and benefits: About 28 per cent respondents sought to change the pay and benefits offered by their organisation, to make it a better place. They felt they weren’t compensated well enough for the hard work they put in. They sought to be paid on time and in proportion to their qualifications and abilities. Some thought they’d be satisfied with a monthly gas voucher to cover transport costs. Others missed having a good canteen or cafeteria at the workplace. Yet others wished for fully subsidised child care, while some hoped for rewards for the company’s performance.

Well-being: About 16 per cent of the respondents came up with reasons or factors that directly affected their well being. For instance, some wished for their shifts to be announced in advance so that they could organise their free time better. Others wished for less overtime. Some sought an option to work from home more often, while others wished for longer breaks to eat their food in a relaxed manner. Some respondents wanted health clinics to be set up and wished their employers would be more serious and concerned about the health and life of the workforce. A place to relax or get together with co-workers for a casual coffee break was suggested by some, while others wished for time off from work to rest and relax.

On a positive note, 23 per cent of employees, globally, were engaged at work in 2022, as compared to only 12 per cent in 2009. Although engagement levels did drop in 2020, the positive trend has been restored. Most of this can be attributed to a seven percentage-point rebound in engagement in South Asia, including India — which is set to become the world’s largest country in terms of population this year. South Asia is at the top when it comes to employee engagement (33 per cent), globally.

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