Majority of employees are unhappy at work, study finds

Nearly three-fourths of American workers are actively hunting for a new job, and the vast majority don’t feel like they get enough recognition from their company, according to a new study that reveals the state of today’s office workers.

The 2017 Mind the Workplace report, released by the nonprofit group Mental Health America (MHA) and The Faas Foundation, surveyed more than 17,000 U.S. workers in 19 industries and found that 71% were either “actively looking for new job opportunities” or had the topic on their minds “always, often or sometimes” at work. Only 19% said they “rarely or never” think about getting another job. The survey was distributed to workers across industries, with the largest participation from health care workers, like Medical Directors or Pharmacy Managers.

Here are some of the study’s findings on how employees say they’re really faring:

Professional recognition is hard to come by

When it comes to feeling appreciated enough by their companies — either through salary or recognition — American workers are struggling, according to the survey. From smaller cities like Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to New York City, there seems to be recognition deficits across the country.

Seventy-seven percent of workers surveyed said some of their colleagues get recognition they don’t deserve, while those who bring more to the table professionally get ignored, according to the study.

Nearly half — or 45% of participants — said they “rarely or never” raked in the amount of money they deserved, and 44% said skilled workers, like systems engineers, were “‘always or often’ overlooked.”

Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of MHA, commented on why this is bad for business.

“We know that employees who are overstressed and under-supported can significantly impact the people around them and a company’s success…Interestingly, our research found that recognition overall was more important than salaries in employee satisfaction – which means even small companies with limited budgets can improve workplace health and productivity by focusing on the individual in addition to the bottom line,” he said.

Companies should pay attention to how each employee is faring at work, and not just wait until an employee’s exit interview to see how they feel.

Feeling alone

It’s easy to feel like you’re working in a sink or swim environment, the survey found.

Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said that the stress of their job had “a significant impact on their mental and behavioral health.”

Sixty-six percent of respondents said they “sometimes, rarely or never” feel like they can trust their colleagues to support them at the office.

And 64% percent of employees reported that if things got tough, their supervisor would “sometimes, rarely or never” support them.

Companies like Facebook create groups so that employees feel less alone. The company uses the Workplace by Facebook tool to aid in building a community within the organization. Workplace, described as an internal Facebook just for your company, allows the organization to be in constant communication about a variety of issues.

Skyrocketing stress

Andrew Faas, Founder of The Faas Foundation, writes in the report that work environments may be a huge source of stress for employees — he even cites a 2016 Harvard/Stanford study that found that an average of 120,000 workplace deaths annually might be linked to work-related stress.

“[W]hen we consider that these are premature deaths, this is a number one killer,” Fass writes.

Key triggers for stress are job demands, the amount of responsibilities, team dynamics and “staff management,” according to the report.

Add to that a perception that bosses and colleagues have “a lack of recognition, support, and structure in their workplace,” and workers’ stress levels skyrocket, the study found.

“[O]ur data confirms that higher levels of stress contribute to increased absenteeism and mental and behavioral health risks,” researchers wrote.

The Mind the Workplace report found that a whopping 63% of respondents said that they “always, often or sometimes” take part “in unhealthy behaviors such as drinking or crying regularly.” Only 37% said “rarely or never.”

It was the same numerical breakdown for people when asked how often they work by themselves because of the their negative work environment.

The detrimental nature of stress at work has also been echoed in other research done by the Society for Human Resource Management and Kronos.

The executive summary of the organizations’ Total Financial Impact of Employee Absences in the U.S. Survey in 2014 also showed that there’s a clear link between stress and absenteeism.

“Absenteeism is clearly a key driver of inadequate staffing and thus may result in rising employee stress levels. Poor management of employee absences can lead to a vicious cycle of rising stress levels that negatively affect employee health and morale and lead to even more days of work missed,” the summary says.

Here are some ways to combat stress before it boils over.