U.S. Employers Unresponsive to Employee Needs, Survey Finds

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More than a third of surveyed U.S. workers experience chronic work stress, with low salaries, lack of opportunity for advancement and heavy workloads topping the list of contributing factors, according to national survey results released March 5, 2013, by the American Psychological Association's (APA) Center for Organizational Excellence.

The APA Work and Well-Being Survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive from Jan. 9-21, 2013. Approximately 1,500 U.S. adults ages 18 and older who are employed full time or part time or are self-employed participated.

On the heels of the recession, many respondents reported feeling stuck in their current situations, with only 39 percent citing sufficient opportunities for internal career advancement only half (51 percent) saying they feel valued at work.

In addition to feeling undervalued, some participants were dissatisfied with the lack of opportunities to share their ideas. Less than half (47 percent) said their employers regularly seek input from employees, and even fewer (37 percent) said the organization makes changes based on that feedback.

Compounding the problem, less than half of respondents (46 percent) reported that they receive adequate monetary compensation or nonmonetary recognition (43 percent) for their contributions at work. Just 43 percent of employees said recognition is based on fair and useful performance evaluations.

And despite the growing awareness of the importance of a healthy workplace, few respondents said their organizations provide sufficient resources to help them manage stress (36 percent) and meet their mental health needs (44 percent). Only 59 percent reported having adequate employer-provided health insurance, 42 percent said their organizations promote and support a healthy lifestyle, and 36 percent reported regularly participating in workplace health and wellness programs.

“This isn’t just an HR or management issue,” said Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the American Psychological Association, in a statement about the results. “The well-being of an organization’s workforce is a strategic business imperative that is linked to its performance and success.”

Women Still Face Disparities at Work

The survey also revealed that the office still doesn’t seem like a level playing field for many women, who reported feeling less valued than men (48 percent of women vs. 54 percent of men). Less than half of employed women (43 percent) said they receive adequate monetary compensation for their work, compared with 48 percent of employed men.

Further, fewer women than men reported that their employer provides sufficient opportunities for internal career advancement (35 percent vs. 43 percent) or resources to help them manage stress (34 percent vs. 38 percent). Though women were more likely than men to report having good mental health (86 percent vs. 76 percent), more women said they typically feel tense or stressed at work (37 percent vs. 33 percent).

Work-Life Fit, Flexibility Lagging

Only 52 percent of respondents said they believe that their employers value work-life balance, with just 39 percent reporting that their organizations provide options for flexible work. A mere 30 percent said their employers provide benefits that help them meet their nonwork demands more easily.

Moreover, 37 percent of women reported regularly using employee benefits designed to help them meet demands outside the office, compared with almost half of men (46 percent). Just 38 percent of women said they regularly use flexible work arrangements, compared with 42 percent of men. Overall, 33 percent of respondents said work interference with personal or family time has a significant impact on their level of work stress, and one in four reported that job demands interfere with the ability to fulfill family or home responsibilities.

“When employers acknowledge that employees have responsibilities and lives outside of work, they can take steps to promote a good work-life fit and help individuals better manage these multiple demands,” said David W. Ballard, head of the APA Center for Organizational Excellence, in the same statement. “Forward-thinking organizations are re-evaluating work practices, providing employees with resources that support well-being and performance and applying new technologies that help shift work from somewhere we go from 9 to 5 to something we do that is meaningful and creates value.”

To help organizations promote a healthy workplace, the center offers the following resources for employers:

  • Good Company newsletter, blog and podcasts, featuring resources to help employers create a healthy, high-performing work environment.
  • Searchable database of professional, academic and popular press literature related to employee well-being and organizational performance.
  • Case examples and best practices from award-winning organizations.
  • Webcasts and online courses for human resource professionals, benefits managers, health and wellness professionals, organizational consultants and business leaders.

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