For a growing number of workers, Monday morning is coming earlier. And they aren’t happy about it.
According to a recent national survey, chronic workplace stress is contributing to higher levels of anxiety among workers who often report having these feelings of workplace dread on Sunday nights before the start of the week.
It’s the downside of a strong labor market.
The tight labor market means higher employee turnover and fewer employees to do the work, thereby increasing stress at short-staffed workplaces. That’s one of the reasons for the reported rise in anxiety many employees feel. Another factor is the notion that some employees feel they need to check emails or do work-related tasks even when they aren’t at work.
What’s an employer to do?
“Communicate,” said Jeanie Sharp, regional manager for Robert Half and Accountemps in the Greater Lehigh Valley and Delaware. “Meet with your team; meet with them on an individual basis to see if they are experiencing this. Encourage them to manage time wisely … so they are not bringing work home with them on the weekends.”
Accountemps, a California-based division of Robert Half International, offers accounting and finance staffing services. It has an office in Hanover Township, Northampton County.
Survey says …
Robert Half undertook a recent survey, conducted by an independent research firm and including responses from more than 2,800 professionals 18 or older and employed in office environments in 28 major U.S. cities.
The survey found:
- 39 percent of U.S. workers reported having the ‘Sunday Scaries’ – anxiety felt Sunday night before the start of the work week;
- 44 percent cited heavy workloads/project deadlines as the primary cause of anxiety, followed by having a challenging relationship with their manager (18 percent) and not liking their job duties (17 percent).
- Workers in some cities reported higher levels of anxiety: Sacramento, Los Angeles, Denver and Cincinnati.
- Cities with the least levels of anxiety: Nashville, Tampa, Portland, Minneapolis and Boston.
Sharp suggested managers should lead by example and do their best to disconnect on weekends and evenings.
“It’s not always feasible and it’s not always reality,” Sharp said.
For employers, it’s important to look for signs that employees are overworked, such as missed deadlines, working overtime or co-worker drama, Sharp said. Other signs are changes in their relationships with co-workers or managers.
“I think workplace stress and workplace anxiety is a legitimate concern and should be talked about,” Sharp said.
Susan Larkin, vice president of Allied Personnel Services in Allentown, said workplace stress and anxiety is becoming more common, in part due to short staffing.
“Pretty much every business you call now … they need people,” Larkin said. “We are seeing a lot of overtime. I think people are working a lot more in general.”
In the past, workers could take vacations knowing there was enough staff to provide back up and get the work done, but that’s increasingly rare. But there is still pressure on – and stress for – remaining staff.
“A lot of times it’s because they can’t find someone to work that shift and it’s falling onto the employees,” Larkin said.
Larkin doesn’t see Sunday anxiety causing more people to be absent on Mondays. But it can lead to burnout and unhappiness.
“I think people don’t find joy in their jobs anymore,” Larkin said. “High employee turnover affects everybody.”
She described it as “the flipside of the low unemployment rate.”
“I would say this applies across all sectors,” Larkin said, including both white-collar and blue-collar jobs.
What can be done
Tina Hamilton, president of MyHR Partner in Upper Macungie Township, has been in the human resources field for 32 years, and said there are some steps employers can take to mitigate stress.
For example, employers can offer perks to make Mondays a little more appealing, such as free lunch or breakfast but most employers are not going to do that every week, Hamilton said.
Another strategy employers can use is a four-day workweek but it’s an option that’s not realistic for every company, she said.
One of the mistakes employers make is thinking on their own that they know what employees want without asking them directly.
“But if you are going to ask them, you have to respond,” Hamilton said. A helpful question to ask is, ‘what would make your Mondays more pleasant?’
But it also comes down to mindset, which is harder to influence.
“It starts fundamentally with having the type of job people enjoy,” Hamilton said. “An employer, unfortunately, doesn’t have complete control over their attitude.”