stressEurope continues to lead the U.S. in a sharp and continuing focus on workplace stress – excluding NIOSH’s research. OSHA is silent on the subject of work-related stress. Cultural differences are at play here: stress is infrequently publicly discussed in corporate corridors in the U.S., where a combination of potential disability claims and the go-it-alone John Wayne tend to silence talk about job stress. Europe takes a less independent, more collectivist view of job stress.

Read on to learn how workers in Europe perceive stress in the workplace. To our knowledge, a similar poll has not been undertaken in the U.S.

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) commissioned Ipsos MORI to develop and conduct a poll of full-time, part-time and self-employed workers aged 18+ about occupational health and safety. Ipsos MORI carried out fieldwork in 31 European countries, conducting a total of 16,622 interviews between 23rd November 2012 and 5th February 2013.

When asked to choose from a list of six possible causes of work-related stress, 7 in 10 workers select job reorganisation or job insecurity (72%).

Hours worked or workload comes next, with two-thirds (66%) of workers selecting this.

Being subjected to unacceptable behaviours such as bullying or harassment is seen as one of the most common causes of work-related stress for 6 in 10 workers (59%),57% identify a lack of support to fulfil their role from colleagues or superiors as a common cause of work-related stress, followed by 52% who select a lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities, and finally the limited opportunity to manage work patterns is selected by 46% of European workers.

It is notable that women in the workplace, those in the middle age band (35-54) and workers in non-manual roles generally select more causes out of the six read out than their counterpart groups. Conversely, workers in workplaces with 10 workers or less select fewer causes of work-related stress than workers at larger workplaces.

Job reorganisation or job insecurity is the highest-ranked cause of work-related stress in nearly all countries, though hours worked or workload is ranked highest in Austria, Cyprus, Iceland, Lithuania, Malta, Romania and Spain. These two causes are ranked joint highest in Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden. Only in Liechtenstein does another cause – unacceptable behaviours such as bullying or harassment – rank higher than either.

Health or care workers are more likely than average to select hours worked/workload (77%), unacceptable behaviours such as bullying and harassment (64%) and lack of support from colleagues or superiors to fulfil their role (61%).