Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Stressed At Work? You’re Not Alone

Image via Diego Cervo/

Greatist is the fastest-growing fitness, health and happiness media start-up. Check out  more wellness news at

Not everyone has a boss as glamorous as Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, but many of us know exactly what Anne Hathaway feels like as she struggles to be a superhuman employee. Workplace stress, whether it comes from a tyrannical superior, an overflowing inbox, or competition between coworkers, is a major problem in the U.S.

That’s according to the results of a new survey from the American Psychological Association, which found that more than one third of American employees experience chronic work stress. But what’s more shocking is the fact that most workers say they don’t know how to cope when stress strikes. These findings serve as a reminder that organizations need to make mental health a priority in order to maintain happy, productive employees.

What's the Deal?

In January 2013, the APA surveyed 1,501 Americans over the age of 18 who were working full-time, part-time, or self-employed. The results, published in March, showed that a third of respondents reported being chronically stressed at work. Among the most common causes of work-related stress were low salaries, a lack of opportunity for advancement, and heavy workloads.

These results aren’t especially surprising — in fact, I admit I expected the number of stressed workers to be higher. The more eyebrow-raising finding is that just 36 percent of employees said their organizations offer sufficient stress-management resources, and fewer than half said their organizations are equipped to meet their mental health needs. In terms of overall health, fewer than half of employees said their organizations promote a healthy lifestyle. The survey didn’t specifically define “mental health needs” or “healthy lifestyle,” but other researchers have proposed management programs that encompass everything from cognitive behavioral therapy to physical activity.

Why it Matters

This research backs up findings from other APA surveys that suggest Americans aren’t getting the support they need when it comes to overall health and wellness. The Stress in America survey, published February 2013, found that more than half of Americans say their healthcare provider offers little or no support to help them manage their stress. So even if American employees are looking for help outside of the workplace, chances are, they aren’t finding it.

But stress management at work doesn’t just mean mandatory shrink appointments for all employees (although those can work, too). Other possibilities include yoga, mindfulness meditation training, and even bringing a furry friend to work.

Still, the onus isn’t entirely on healthcare professionals or the leaders of business organizations to help people deal with their stress. Just 36 percent of employees surveyed said they participate regularly in any wellness programs their workplace offers. Presumably, if more workers took advantage of stress management resources already in place, the amount of frazzled employees would decrease accordingly. Other ways to combat stress on the individual level include making health and fitness a priority, taking real lunch breaks (instead of eating in front of the computer), and hitting the gym mid-day. That last one is especially important since workplace stress is associated with an increased risk of physical inactivity.

When it comes to pretty much any job, the question isn’t whether we’ll get stressed (we will) but whether we’re equipped to handle our feelings. The latest APA surveys reveal that both individuals and the organizations they work for need to be better prepared with short- and long-term approaches for managing employee stress.

Image via Diego Cervo/

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.