Work can be stressful, there’s no doubt about it. But it seems that accumulating stress is becoming too much for many Canadians. One in four admit to leaving a job due to unbearable work-related stress, a new Monster Canada report finds.
And not only have 25 per cent of Canadians already walked away from a job, but 17 per cent have also considered it, the job search website reveals.
So why are employees feeling so stressed? According to Arturo Gallo, content manager at Monster Canada, it all comes down to workload.
“Fifty-eight per cent of Canadians report feeling overworked,” Gallo reveals. “And out of those people, nearly one-third say their workload is their main cause of stress.”
Another source of stress, the report reveals, is dealing with office politics.
The survey didn’t find a link between the type of career one holds and an employee’s likelihood of quitting due to stress, but they did find other factors and patterns that pointed to employees’ chances of quitting because of stress.
What you earn
Canadians earning a salary less than $40,000 a year were most likely to say they’ve left a job because of stress (38 per cent), the report says. This is followed by those within the earning bracket of $40,000 to $59,000 a year (27 per cent).
This finding suggests that employers should focus more retention efforts on employees who make less than $40,000 a year since they are more susceptible to job stress, the report says.
Where you live
Employees living in Quebec are the most likely to say they’re overworked (64 per cent), followed by Ontarians (61 per cent).
Those who are least likely to say they’re overworked are west coasters (41 per cent), the report found. And while British Columbians say they’re the least overworked, they are actually slightly more likely than the average Canadian to say they’ve left a job due to work stress (27 per cent, compared to the national average of 25 per cent). British Columbians were also found to be the least motivated employees in the country 27 per cent, compared to 22 per cent nationally).
That work-life balancing act
“What’s interesting was perhaps this little contradiction: despite many working Canadians who report feeling overworked or stressed, actually two-thirds of them agree that companies and employers support work-life balance,” Gallo says.
In fact, those with kids under the age of 18 are more likely to say their employers support a work-life balance (71 per cent). That’s compared to 61 per cent without kids.
The report speculates that while employers often offer work-life balance initiatives, employees may not actually take advantage of them.
Generational and gender differences
According to Gallo, millennials are the most likely to feel overworked.
“About 63 per cent of millennials are more likely to say they’re overworked. That’s compared to 57 per cent of the older generation between the ages of 35 to 44, and then 50 per cent for those over 45,” Gallo says. “As well, 29 per cent of millennials were more likely to leave a job due to stress.”
Gender differences were apparent as well.
While men were more likely than women to indicate they’re overworked (60 per cent vs. 55 per cent, respectively), women were more willing to drop their job due to stress (28 per cent of women vs. 22 per cent of men).
Don’t quit just yet
While piling work and mounting stress may be pushing you to your breaking point, Gallo says to hold off on quitting right away.
Instead, take charge and see if there’s anything you can do in collaboration with your bosses to better your situation at work.
This means approaching your manager and letting them know what you’re feeling. From there, suggest solutions to your problem and see if there’s something you can work out between you and your employer.
For example, maybe try working from home once or twice a week, or ask if your company is able to hook you up with a gym membership or local yoga classes to help relieve stress.
“It’s always very important to have open communication with your manager when you’re feeling overworked and/or over-stressed,” Gallo says. “Present your case when you have a problem, present your alternatives and he or she should be able to help you find a good solution.”
Understanding stress in the workplace
Workplace stress isn’t any different than everyday stress, says Mark Henick, national director of strategic initiatives at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). Because we spend most of our time at work, however, it can have a significant impact on employees’ health.
“When you’re exposed to stress chronically and you come into work and you’re reminded of it every single day, your body never has a chance to restore itself from that physiologically and psychologically stressful environment,” Henick says. “So the result of chronic stress is that your body eventually become depleted. If you don’t take a break, your body will make you take a break.”
Stress can take on many forms, whether it’s work that continues to pile up, unclear expectations from your managers, harassment in the workplace or physically demanding tasks, says Henick.
But this isn’t a new problem, he adds. It has always been around.
“I think the problem has always been there but I think we’re doing a much better job now of actually recognizing it and calling it out,” says Henick. “In Canada, certainly at a policy level, this is still a very new thing. We only just recently started talking about workplace stress and psychological health and safety so it’s going to take a while for that knowledge to trickle down throughout our economy. Eventually, businesses are going to realize that if you don’t safeguard the psychological health and safety of your employees, it puts you at a competitive disadvantage and those companies are going to see the negative business impact.”
Symptoms you shouldn’t ignore
Everybody handles stress differently, Henick says. Because of this, it makes it difficult for people to know what their personal breaking point is as some may handle stress better than others.
However, there are physical, emotional, social and mental signs that may help people indicate if stress is present, which the Mood Disorders Society of Canada has outlined.
- Teeth grinding
- Stomach and digestive problems
- Sexual dysfunction
- Increased use of alcohol or cigarettes
- Over or under eating
- Dry mouth
- Pounding heart
- Sweating palms
- Increased number of accidents
- Mood swings
- Lashing out
- Cynicism of others
- Social withdrawal
- Avoidance of social activities
- Poor concentration
- Low productivity
For a full list of symptoms, click here.