Are people more stressed or more productive?

Mixed results from series of workplace surveys paints murky picture

Are people more stressed or more productive?

It’s a confusing time. The news has been filled with alarming numbers about rising levels of stress and anxiety, of isolation and even depression.

Take this recent survey from KPMG that found nearly half (49 per cent) of Canadian employees say their workload is heavier today than before the pandemic.

And a further 31 per cent claim to be so overworked that they are burnt out or on the verge of going there.

Or another Canadian survey done recently that shows 83 per cent of remote workers feel disconnected from their workplace culture.

And yet, there’s a steady stream of surveys coming out that seem to contradict or at least lighten the negative stats.

Take this recent one from the Conference Board, which found that U.S. workers’ job satisfaction jumped to 56.9 percent in 2020 – the highest in 20 years.

Overall, satisfaction increased for the 10th consecutive year to its highest level since 1995, climbing from a low of 42.6 per cent in 2010. The percentage of workers reporting engagement in their work also increased from 53.2 per cent in November 2019 to 54.3 per cent in November 2020.

Where are employees happiest? The biggest jump in satisfaction came with company policy on health plans, followed by the performance review process, flextime and family leaves.

However, there were declines with satisfaction in the areas of job training program, the physical environment, interest in work, workload and retirement plans.

Or how about this? Another poll finding that 82 per cent of managers feel their workload has increased ─ but 80 per cent say they have been more productive. And 70 per cent of employees also say they have more work to do ─ but 89 per cent say they’re more productive, according to the survey of 608 managers and 401 employees.

Part of the problem could be that the surveys involve a range of respondents from different industries, so the experience of the retail worker compared to the knowledge worker will not be similar or even relatable, and yet they’re all grouped into one for the survey results.

Of course people are different too. Different personalities adjust to situations differently, so the introvert may prefer the work-from-home approach more than the extroverted colleague seeking the energy of the office. The single parent may not enjoy the work from home as much a coworker living the single life.

Either way, it makes for a confusing time for HR in trying to figure out what setup works best for their staff going forward. We’re always told the one-size-fits-all approach is not advisable when it comes to employment law situations, and that seems doubly true when it comes to the future of work, because shared experiences are few and far between ─ and after a stressful year, people aren’t shy about voicing their preferences.

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