Nearly every second Estonian experiences work stress during corona year[Marit Raag | 22.07.2021 :]
Seesam’s latest insurance study reveals that 64% of Estonians experienced work stress during the last year. People were most concerned with excessive work load (58%) as well as no longer finding satisfaction in work (32%) and experiencing mental health issues (28%).
“The study reveals that almost every other Estonian was affected by work stress last year,” Seesam’s Marketing Manager Tiia Prööm comments on the principal findings of the latest work satisfaction study.“The main stressor is excessive work load, but stress is also caused by health issues seen in constant fatigue, a negative mental state and concentration issues. 18% of people even said that work stress caused them to avoid contact with clients or colleagues.”
Managers were hit hardest
Executives and managers who are responsible for a number of people were hit hardest by work-related rearrangements. 76% of managers and a total of 81% of entrepreneurs admitted to experiencing work stress in the past year.
According to Pia Pedanik, Chairwoman of the Estonian Union of Work and Organizational Psychologists, specialists have noticed the devastating effect the corona-year has had on mental health. In her work as a psychologist at occupational wellbeing centre Meeletervis, she sees people every day who have suffered the adverse effects of the coronavirus crisis one way or another.
“When we think of work groups who have had to change their work over the course of the last year and a half, this hasn’t been easy for anyone. Employers have had to make several difficult decisions during a brief period of time: How to reorganise work to keep everyone in good health? How to complete all of the work in a timely and productive manner to keep clients and employees happy?” says Pedanik.
As this new way of working required novel approaches, all managers were tasked with an additional responsibility. “In addition to work, these rearrangements often also addressed the social aspect. Managers had to think of a way to keep employees motivated from a distance and to manage people over virtual meetings and keep them integrated with the team,” says Pedanik, describing the principal challenges faced by managers. Another set of difficult decisions needed to be made if the company had to make people redundant. Some companies opted for cutting wages to avoid redundancy, but this did not always go hand-in-hand with the work load. “Work left over from people made redundant was distributed between remaining employees, increasing their workload,” describes Pedanik. “This solution is not sustainable in the long run.”
More employees = more stress
Statistics also reveal that work stress was more frequently experienced in large companies with 500+ employees. In small companies with up to 10 employees, ca 55% said they experienced work stress, but that percentage goes up by almost 15 points in companies employing more than 500 people.
“In large companies, maintaining status quo was not an option and many employees felt a sense of injustice when it came to deciding who would work from home and who would be permitted to stay at the office and in what numbers,” explains the specialist. In her work, she has seen both people who wanted to keep going to the office but were not given the chance and employees who were asked to continue to come to work on a daily basis while they would have preferred to work from home for health reasons.
“We have come a long way on the subject of mental health, but we still have a long way to go. We are only now coming to an understanding that mental health is a part of people and is also present in the working environment,” says Pedanik.
How to cope with work stress?
According to Marit Raag, the representative of Seesam insurance who carried out the study, it can also be noted that employers are increasingly concerned about the health of their employees. “Some time ago, employers would enter into health insurance contracts for their employees mainly to cover physical health costs, such as dental care, rehabilitation and appointment fees to see specialists, but today every insurance package also includes psychologist services. It is good to see that so many companies have decided to create every opportunity to allow employees to take care of their health and not only in terms of coping with consequences, but also by establishing means for preventive intervention,” says Raag.
The expert points out that working on yourself is the most important part of preventing stress. “Looking inside yourself is key to knowing how to pay attention to the way you feel, how to notice changes and the causes thereof and how to capture the moment you might benefit from talking to someone about your problems,” says the expert. In an ideal world, employers establish a pathway to grant employees quick access to an appointment with an (occupational) psychologist, but if no such pathway exists, it is always possible to turn to your line manager, a trustee, HR or simply a good colleague. “It is always a good idea to keep an eye out for your colleagues. It you notice that someone who is usually very talkative and has as positive outlook on things suddenly appears aloof, cynical, sarcastic and only gives short replies, it may be a sign that they are feeling stressed and need help,” says Pedanik.