Workplace Stress – Inevitable Or Avoidable?

Stress in a psycho-social context, says the Cantech Letter, is most often described as a harmful physical or emotional reaction to what is perceived to be excessive demands placed on a person, coming from either an external or internal source.

Stress in the workplaces is prevalent in today’s society. The April 27 issue of ‘Weyburn This Week’ cites a survey indicating that 67 per cent of Canadians say that their work causes stress, while 63 per cent say this stress has a negative impact on other areas of their lives.

Their health also suffers; 59 per cent find that workplace stress negatively affects their health.

Research On Stress At The Workplace

Canadians aren’t alone in their suffering. In April, to mark World Day for Safety and Health, the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) highlighted workplace stress and its impact in various countries. For example, the cost of work-related depression in the European Union alone is €617 billion ($902 billion CDN) a year.

“We found that work-related stress

costs global society untold billions in direct and indirect costs annually,” said Valentina Forastieri, an ILO expert on occupational safety and health, in a UN news release.

“And that is quite apart from the human price paid in misery, suffering and even, according to some of the reports we looked at, in suicide.”

Workplace Stress Statistics

A survey conducted in Japan reported that 32.4 per cent of workers said they suffered from strong anxiety, worry and stress from work. Meanwhile, 2011 data from Chile showed that 27.9 per cent of workers said stress and depression were at work; interestingly, 13.8 per cent of employers agreed.

A recent study conducted by Britain’s Guardian newspaper discovered the following:

• More than a third (38%) of the U.K. workforce think that their workload is unmanageable to some degree;
• 48% think that their workload has increased over the last 12 months;
• 43% said that they experience work-related stress more than half of the time;
• 30% said that their productivity has suffered as a result of stress at work;
• 44% said that their motivation has suffered as a result of stress at work;
• 59% said that stress has affected their home life/relationships to some degree.

At The Workplace: Causes

The ILO ties some of the stress to technological advances and some to globalization. The organization notes that worldwide competition is costly and tempts some employers to cut corners in regard to working conditions and workers’ rights.

In addition, technology has made it possible – and even likely – that workplace demands creep beyond work hours, blurring the lines between job and leisure time.

“With the pace of work dictated by instant communications and high levels of global competition, the lines separating work from life are becoming more and more difficult to identify,” ILO’s Forastieri said. “An appropriate balance between work and private life is difficult to achieve.”

She noted that many businesses still view workplace safety and health as costs, not as investments in the future of the business. This is unfortunate from both societal and personal perspectives, especially given the toll that workplace stress can have on the individual.

Research published in 2015 by the business schools at Harvard and Stanford universities found that a variety of health issues related to workplace stress, such as heart attacks and high blood pressure, kill about 120,000 Americans annually.

Pressure At Work

In Japan, writes National Post reporter Gillian Duncan, there is an actual term for death from overwork: karoshi.

“It was first recognized [sic]as an official cause of death in the 1980s,when a number of previously healthy high-ranking business people in Japan died in their prime,” she noted.

“To be considered a victim of karoshi, a person who dies from a cardiovascular-related condition must have worked at least 100 hours of overtime the month previously.

But suicides are also considered if the victim worked 160 hours’ overtime or more in one month or more than 100 hours for three months in a row. If they were found to have died as a result of karoshi, the victim’s family is entitled to compensation.”

Given all of this data, employers will have their work cut out for them if they are committed to helping the United Nations achieve its 2030 sustainable development goals.

One of the targets in Goal 8 focuses on “safe and secure working environments for all workers,” and it includes not only the physical safety of workers, but their mental health and well-being.


Since these goals were adopted by U.N. member states in 2015, it’s time for businesses worldwide to examine ways of reducing the stress their workers experience.

Meditation At The Workplace

Research has found that stress fuels absenteeism, hampers on-the-job productivity and contributes to costly employee turnover. In other words, it can and it does affect the company’s bottom line.

Stress has become the norm in many U.S. workplaces and is directly at odds with research showing that, to better engage and retain talent, businesses must focus on reducing workplace stress.

Fortunately, there are a greater number of companies taking stock of the damages of stress, both to the individual and to the corporation itself.

Employee assistance programs and stress awareness campaigns are more mainstream than they have ever been. In fact, many companies are turning to meditation to boost their bottom line.

Not meditating yet? It’s easier than you think.