Statistics and strategies for combating workplace stress
The effect of stress on the American workforce cannot be overstated. According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) “2021 Work and Well-being Survey,” nearly 60% of employees had recently experienced work-related stress, and this stress resulted in a lack of interest, motivation or energy for 26% of employees, difficulty focusing for 21%, and lack of effort at work for 19%1.
Compounded side effects of stress can have detrimental consequences for mental health, productivity and motivation — including burnout. According to Mental Health America in 2021, 71% of employees reported it was increasingly difficult to concentrate at work, compared to 65% in 2020 and 46% in 20192. That’s a 25% increase in just three years, and stress in the workplace could be playing a key role.
Mental Health America also points out that most employees spend a significant portion of their lives at work. This fact of life makes it crucial for companies to prioritize mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
Mental Health America surveyed more than 11,000 employees across 17 industries in the United States as part of its “2022 Mind the Workplace: Employer Responsibility to Employee Mental Health” report. Eighty percent of employees surveyed agreed that the stress they experience in the workplace affects their relationships with coworkers as well as their lives outside of work, including relationships with friends and family.
Stress can occur even in the healthiest work environments. For example, nearly 15% of employees who describe their workplace as healthy say workplace stress has led to other mental health concerns. However, this is compared to nearly 32% of employees in unhealthy workplace environments who say workplace stress interferes with their mental health. While stress may impact workplaces across the spectrum, maintaining a healthy workplace can clearly benefit employees’ stress levels both on and off the job.
Creating a space for positive mental health in the workplace requires investments made at all levels of an organization, from executive leadership to management to employees themselves, as Mental Health America suggests. These investments include setting the right intentions, dedicating time, and taking action to address and improve mental health in the workplace.
For example, APA’s survey found 97% of employees believe actions from their employer would improve their mental health. Such actions include offering more flexible hours, encouraging employees to take ownership of their health, and urging employees to take breaks and leverage their paid time off. Additionally, 37% of employees believe their mental health would improve if their employer provided mental health resources, and 36% feel being regularly recognized for their contributions could help organizations establish a more psychologically healthy workplace environment, according to APA.
According to Mental Health America, companies can take action to address stress in the workplace and show they care about the mental health of their employees in several ways. These include understanding the relationship between employee mental health and engagement, identifying primary drivers of employee stress and burnout, assessing how the company can support work-life balance at all levels of the organization, and considering how the physical and social work environment contributes to the company’s overall mental health strategy.
Stress in the workplace can have a ripple effect throughout employees’ personal lives and an entire organization. As such, companies can benefit from prioritizing the mental health and wellbeing of their employees.
 American Psychological Association. “2021 Work and Well-being Survey.” https://www.apa.org/pubs/reports/work-well-being/compounding-pressure-2021. Accessed April 4, 2023.  Mental Health America. “2022 Mind the Workplace: Employer Responsibility to Employee Mental Health.” https://mhanational.org/research-reports/2022-mind-workplace-report. Accessed April 4, 2023.