Companies worldwide are experiencing massive increases in workplace stress, with South Africans particularly hard hit.

According to a global survey undertaken by Regus of more than 11 000 corporates across 13 countries, 58% of companies worldwide experienced an appreciable rise in their workplace stress over the last two years.
In South Africa, however, 63% of workers reported an increase in stress, indicating that South African employees have felt more burdened by rising stress levels during the financial downturn.
Regus’ multi-national global economic indicator survey, the Regus BusinessTracker, asked more than 11 000 respondents about their experience in the workplace during tough economic times. The resulting data offers a consistent survey benchmark with which to assess national work environments versus global averages.
The Regus BusinessTracker survey found that South African workers experienced a greater rise in stress than their international counterparts, with 63% reporting that their levels of stress have grown “higher” or “much higher” over the past two years.
The most significant stress hike in the countries surveyed occurred in China, with a full 86% reporting an increase in stress. The lowest increase in stress was felt in Germany and the Netherlands, with a respective 48% and 47% reporting a hike in workplace stress.
According to a survey by the WageIndicator Foundation, workers in South Africa are, on average, more physically tired as a result of their jobs than in any other country out of the 11 surveyed. When it comes to mental exhaustion, South Africans rank second only to Spain.
Regus’s survey confirmed that South African workers are particularly stressed by increased focus on profitability: 42% of workers confirmed that this pressure is responsible for the greatest hike in their stress levels. 31% of South Africans also reported that a lack of administrative support has elevated their workplace stress in recent years, and this particular issue is stressing out South African employees more than workers in any of the other countries surveyed.
Company size has also had an influence on the level of stress increase experienced in recent years. Regus found that, globally speaking, workers in larger companies (more than 1 000 employees) have experienced a greater rise in workplace stress: 65% of employees in larger firms have reported higher levels of stress, versus 54% of people in SMEs. This may be due to the potential for downsizing that is, by definition, greater in larger firms. The threat of redundancy will inevitably lead to more stress, and those who remain often find themselves with double the responsibilities but no additional reward.
Sector variations on a global level were also apparent throughout Regus’s survey, with workers in the healthcare and pharmaceuticals industry reporting the greatest increase in stress (65%), and retail showing least growth in stress (52%).
Joanne Bushell, CEO Regus Africa and Middle East, comments: ‘While many countries have announced the technical exit from recession, expert commentators have noted that recovery will not take significant strides for another six to 12 months. For company employees and managers, this means that stressful challenges still lie ahead before the momentum of recovery really takes hold.
Stress in the workforce can provide companies with real problems: management and work productivity can be seriously impaired, motivation levels may be damaged, and conflict between colleagues can undermine professionalism. With any of these factors in play, companies will see damage to bottom-line commercial and financial results. At a time when firms are fighting to return to significant growth, we can see why managing stress becomes a crucial issue.
One of the most significant factors in reducing employees’ stress levels is helping them to maintain a healthy work-life balance.