One in five IDA members is stressed: "A warning sign"

High work demands and a lack of management put pressure on IDA members, who are more stressed than the national average. IDA's newly elected chairman calls it a warning sign to employers.

Poor sleep, fatigue and lack of enthusiasm for their work affects many IDA members.

In a new survey of 2,086 members, all of whom are in employment, 21 percent say they have "often" or "always" felt stressed in the past 2 weeks.

This means that IDA members are at the alarming end of the stress barometer compared to the rest of the labour market.

"Nationwide surveys of the psychological work environment show that 15-16 percent of employees respond that they are stressed, but highly educated professionals are typically less stressed than average. In this light, the results from the IDA survey are remarkable," explains Malene Friis Andersen, who has a PhD in psychology and has been researching psychological work environment and stress for many years.

Serious consequences for the individual

As a consequence, stressed IDA members experience symptoms with a negative impact on their performance at work and well-being in their private lives.

For example, 51 percent of the survey respondents say they are tired in their daily work, 38 percent have more trouble sleeping than usual, and 13 percent have more conflicts.

In the long term, this could mean that stressed members will have more sick days and be out of employment for longer.

"Together with researchers from the National Research Centre for the Working Environment, we have conducted a fairly comprehensive study of how employees who report being highly or very highly stressed in the past 14 days are doing. We can see that over the next four years they have more days off work than employees who do not feel stressed," says Malene Friis Andersen.

She warns that high levels of stress can force some to cut back on hours in order to keep up with their work.

"This is something they struggle with in the healthcare sector, for example, where more people say they go part-time to cope with the pressure of work. It's a trend that IDA also notices in this survey, where the most stressed individuals want their working hours reduced."

Lack of management increases workload

The survey of IDA members shows that high work demands and stress are closely linked.

More than six in ten members say they "often" or "always" experience high work demands and time pressure in their work. And among this group, 51 percent feel stressed.

When the workload becomes overwhelming, it is often linked to a lack of management, according to the study.

31 percent of IDA members report that their manager is not at all or only to a small degree involved in prioritizing their tasks, and among this group, 40 percent are often behind in their work.

According to IDA's work life consultant, Eva Jakobsen, a lack of leadership can lead employees to overwork to feel confident of getting their tasks done.

"It's stressful when there's a lack of feedback and clear expectations with regards to tasks. It creates a lot of insecurity for the individual, which can make it difficult to turn off the computer in the evening, because as an employee, you may not be sure whether what you've accomplished during the day is good enough," says work life consultant Eva Jakobsen and continues:

"It can mean that the brain is not restored, because you are always a little "on" and working between cooking and putting children to bed."

She points out that both managers and employees need to be better at talking about well-being and stress at the workplace.

"It is the responsibility of management to ensure a healthy work environment so that no one gets sick from going to work. But no manager can read minds, and it's only become harder to spot signs of stress in employees now that working from home has become more common. It is the responsibility of the management to create a clear framework, but it's everyone's job to talk about tasks and well-being."

Chairperson: stress is not the responsibility of the individual

According to IDA's newly elected chairperson, Laura Klitgaard, the survey confirms a trend that has been visible in recent years. She stresses that it is the responsibility of the management to ensure a healthy work environment.

"This should be a clear warning sign to employers that they need to be more proactive when it comes to preventing stress. Managers must actively ensure that their employees have reasonable work demands and that they know the framework of their tasks."

"As the survey shows, IDA members are willing to push themselves for their workplace and colleagues, but this must not result in them being preyed upon."

Laura Klitgaard acknowledges that it can be difficult for individual managers to intervene, if employees do not themselves report that they are under pressure. That is why IDA is first and foremost working to ensure that more managers, union representatives and health and safety representatives are trained to deal with challenges relating to stress and the work environment.

"We need to create an understanding among all employers that it pays to prioritise a healthy work environment. In the long run, the cost of having stressed employees is far higher than the revenue from the extra order you might just get in the book by making your employees run faster."

Are you worried that you might be stressed?

If you experience stress symptoms, you can always contact IDA for counselling. 

Contact IDA