Study: Typical American workplace physically, emotionally draining

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — If your workplace has you stressed, a minor consolation may be that you are not alone.

A major study conducted by the RAND corporation and Harvard Medical School finds more than half of American workers are dealing with unpleasant and possibly hazardous working conditions.

People working in an office
A new study finds that the typical American workplace is stressful and causes both physical and emotional wear on employees quite often.

The results of the 2015 American Working Conditions Survey, which polled thousands of American workers, was analyzed to reveal a treasure trove of data on U.S. working life — with many of the results pointing toward a nation of physically and mentally stressed employees.

“I was surprised how taxing the workplace appears to be, both for less-educated and for more-educated workers,” the study’s lead author Nicole Maestas says in a news release. “Work is taxing at the office and it’s taxing when it spills out of the workplace into people’s family lives.”

An associate professor at Harvard Medical School and an adjunct economist at RAND, Maestas found that a “disturbingly high” amount of workers faced a hostile or threatening social environment at work.

The researchers also drew attention to the finding that over a quarter of workers report not having enough time to do their job. They said this was especially true for white collar workers.

While the statistics showed major issues, there were a few bright spots as people reported having some freedom to do their jobs as seen fit, confidence in their skills, and workplace social support.

Here’s a look at some of the data by the numbers:

3,066 adults surveyed
85% apply own ideas at work
82% must solve unforeseen problems
80% have steady and predictable work
80% say work is “meaningful”
78% must be present at their workplace during regular business hours.
74% report intense or repetitive physical exertion for at least a quarter of the day
67% frequently work at high speeds or under tight deadlines
62% hold jobs whose tasks are typically monotonous
58% describe their boss as supportive
56% have good friends at work
54% work the same number of hours day-to-day
38% see good prospects for advancement.
33% have no control over their schedule
26% say they have too little time to do their job
(percentages are approximate)

The researchers said the study was designed to be comparable to a European Working Conditions Survey. They expect to make future reports comparing the American workers experience with other workers across the world.


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