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Work More or Stress Less?

Today, more Americans report feeling stress and anxiety in their life, both inside and outside of work. We asked 2000 employees about their work-life balance. Check out the results.
Employees discuss their views of work-life balance.

Workplace Stress is on the Rise

Today, more Americans report feeling stress and anxiety in their life, and money and work are the top two contributing factors in their discomfort. As our research found, today’s political arena may be contributing to stress as well.

We surveyed over 2,000 full-time U.S. employees with ages ranging from 18 to 79 to determine their primary stress points at work, how often they feel stressed, and how the results of the election have impacted their work-life balance. We even asked them to rank their stress levels against their quality of life. However, you don’t have to stress; keep reading to see what we uncovered.

Work-Life Balancing Acts

Stress-related statistics based on survey responses.

When it comes to stressing at work, our study found different factors were more likely to be a downer around the water cooler than others.

Over 80 percent of survey participants told us the biggest point of stress at work was the time they missed out on at home. Of the over 2,000 people polled, most told us wishing they could spend more time with their kids was more of a cause of tension than anything else.

However, 79 percent also admitted feeling stressed when they thought about saving up for a nice vacation rather than going out. On average, workers in the U.S. use only 11 of their allotted 15 days of vacation, letting four days go to waste every year.

While some were worried about their time away from the office or with their family, 43 percent of employees told us they were stressed at work because of the presidential administration, and 62 percent were concerned the new administration would have a negative impact on their work-life balance.

More than half of participants didn’t cite the political climate as an additional work stressor at all. Further, over one-third believed the new administration would positively affect their professional and personal lives.

Is Stress Just Part of the Job?

Survey responses about average stress levels at work, and workplace stressors.

While more than 80 percent of those surveyed admitted at least one stressful point in their work life, we found that on a scale of one to five, over 42 percent rated their stress as a three, and almost 26 percent rated their stress as a four. An equal amount of working Americans ranked their stress as a one or five.

The most stressful part of their job was listed as complicated or hard work (just over 16 percent), long or erratic hours (almost 15 percent), and a lack of control at work or a lack of resources (nearly 11 percent each).

With over 70 percent rating their stress at work a three or higher, we found that more than half of those polled admitted to feeling stressed about work during three or more days a week. Not including weekends, that implies that over half of Americans find themselves stressed during at least 60 percent of the workweek.

Post-Grind Unwind

Responses about how employees wind down after work.

We additionally asked survey respondents how they like to decompress after a long day or week at work.

For stress-free time at home, 65 percent like to watch TV. From action-packed drama to easy-going comedy, an hour or two of TV each night was the No. 1 option for winding down after a long day at work.

Surfing the internet, getting into comfy clothes, and having a meal were other key components of a leisurely evening to forget the stress of the job.

When it came to time off and really leaving the workweek behind, watching TV was still a popular solution, but spending time with friends and family was nearly as likely to help people loosen up and enjoy a few days off. In addition to the web and stretchy yoga pants, participating in a hobby and sleeping were also highly rated activities (42 percent or more) for letting go of tension after a long week at work.

Enjoying Life Despite Work

How employees want to improve their quality of life, and rate current quality.

We also wanted to know just how much stress from the workweek can impact employees’ quality of life in and out of the office.

Most people admitted they already knew what they needed to do to improve their quality of life. Over half told us that stressing over things less would help them feel happier and that exercising more and eating better could have a positive impact on their mental (and physical) health. Science has shown that endorphins released in our brain while working out not only make us feel better, but they can also help combat depression and anxiety. We also found that around 10% of survey participants felt their quality of life was closer to being terrible than perfect.

Gender Differences

A breakdown of responses of men versus women and how they rank overtime stressors.

For men, 82 percent said their number 1 stress was wishing they could spend more time at home with their children. Further, 58 percent believed politics will negatively impact their work-life balance, while 55 percent said that working overtime was contributing to their feeling of stress.

Only slightly more women (84 percent) said that wanting to spend time with their children created a sense of stress at work, and almost as many said that saving for a vacation created a similar sense of anxiety. Women were also significantly more likely to acknowledge politics as a point of emotional contention in the workplace.

For men and women, complicated or hard work was a top point of stress, while men listed long or erratic hours and women identified a lack of control as major contributors to their stress at work.

Stressful Trades

Average number of days per week that employees spend stressed, broken down my   industry.

Those in the marketing and advertising industry reported feeling stressed more days on average than any other profession. With almost four stressful days a week or almost 80 percent of their workweek.

Those in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry, as well as in the wholesale and retail sector, were also more likely to be stressed, with almost three and a half days, on average.

However, those in real estate, and transportation and warehousing, reported being the least stressed.

Politically Stressed

Percentage of industries that feel work-life balance is negatively affected by the new   presidential administration, ranked by industry.

When it came to the stress felt by certain industries after the presidential election, those in the scientific community were the most concerned about how the Trump administration might negatively impact their work-life balance.

Those who work in the publishing, broadcasting, and journalism industry also felt stressed about the impact of the new presidential administration on their work-life balance.

Those in public safety and the military, as well as construction, reported being the least concerned about the impact of the election on their work-related stress.

Money Matters

Respondents rank the effect of income on their stress levels.

When it comes to stressing about work, we found that money plays a part in how much or how little stress people carry throughout the workweek.

Our study found those who were most comfortable with their income were the least likely to report high levels of stress (slightly over two and a half on a scale of five), whereas those who were the least comfortable with their income reported the highest levels of stress.

Those who were more comfortable with their financial situation also reported having fewer stressful days per week than those who weren’t. On average, those who were the most at ease with their income had two and a half stressful days each week compared to those who were the least comfortable and averaged just over four stressful days each week.

Stressful Positions

Stress levels as ranked by job role.

Employees in temporary or freelance positions had the lowest levels of stress of any role and reported the fewest days spent stressed each week. While their roles and work may not be guaranteed, they reported being less stressed than anyone else.

Those in support and administrative staffing positions reported lower levels of stress but not necessarily less of stress itself, while participants in middle management actually reported the highest stress levels; they ultimately indicated feeling more work-related tension than those in upper management and owners.

Owners and partners, on the other hand, were more likely to indicate stressful workdays than not, but middle management still ranked their stress per week higher than those in upper management positions.

Work Solutions

While many full-time employees surveyed reported being stressed for at least half of the workweek, many had solutions for winding down at the end of the day and believed they had a higher quality of life. Recent political changes have created a sense of work-life stress for certain professions – mainly in the science and journalism sectors.

There may be certain elements of the workplace that we can’t help but feel stressed over, but payroll and human resources don’t have to be among them. At Paychex, we help provide the services you need to help your team be as worry-free as possible. From receiving paychecks on time to employee benefits like retirement solutions and health insurance, Paychex helps provide employees with the top-quality services they deserve. Stress less so you can create and do more.



We surveyed 2,000 full-time employees about stress at work.

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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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