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Help Your Employees Cope With Stress

Help Your Employees Cope With Stress

by Marie-Lou Almeida and Camilla Frumar

Story Highlights

  • 44% of employees globally say they are stressed
  • Stress levels have been rising for the past decade
  • Organizations, leaders, managers: follow 6 steps to reduce employee stress

Forty-four percent of employees worldwide say they are stressed -- maintaining a record high set in 2021 -- according to Gallup’s latest research. Employee stress levels have risen over the past decade before reaching the levels seen today. However, there is hope: Gallup’s research shows that engaged employees are less likely than their less engaged coworkers to report feeling stress, meaning there is something that leaders and organizations can do to help reduce stress levels.


In Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2023 Report, East Asia tied with the U.S. and Canada region for the highest level of stress at 52%, and Australia and New Zealand had the second-highest rate at 47%. Stress has become a constant companion in modern life. Demands from work and personal responsibilities can feel relentless amid the constant barrage of information from the 24-hour news cycle and societal pressures. It feels inescapable and, at times, suffocating.

But a key sentence in the World Health Organization’s definition of stress helps point toward a solution: Stress can be defined as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. Stress is a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats in our lives. Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The way we respond to stress, however, makes a big difference in our overall well-being.

Gallup’s research shows that engaged employees are less likely than their less engaged coworkers to report feeling stress.

While stress is unavoidable, how we perceive and cope with stress can significantly influence our overall wellbeing, mental health and quality of life. Gallup’s finding that engaged employees are less likely to report being stressed also suggests that engaged employees respond better to stressors in their lives.


According to the State of the Global Workplace 2023 Report, stress affects certain groups or types of workers more than others:

  • More younger workers (younger than 40 years -- 43%) are experiencing stress than older workers (39%).
  • More women (46%) are experiencing stress than men (42%).

Engaged employees tend to have a strong support system and social connections and access to resources that allow them to handle challenges more effectively. Engaged employees also tend to get greater enjoyment from their work, find meaning in their roles and have a stronger sense of purpose. As a result, they are less likely to experience stress-related symptoms like burnout or emotional exhaustion.


Given the resilience high engagement helps build against stress, it is not surprising that engagement has 3.8 times as much influence on employee stress as work location, according to Gallup. In other words, how workers feel about their jobs matters a lot more in reducing stress than where they do their job.

While there is a positive relationship between engagement and decreasing stress levels, another fundamental factor in lowering stress is employee wellbeing. Gallup research shows that when employees are both engaged at work and thriving in their wellbeing, reported stress levels decrease substantially.

What this finding illustrates is an opportunity for organizations to decrease employee stress levels even more by focusing on engagement and wellbeing, particularly for women and younger people who report more stress. Younger employees could have higher stress levels because they have less experience managing their response to it, so they might need additional support.

Women, interestingly, report higher levels of engagement than men but also higher levels of stress. This could be the result of the many conflicting demands on women such as often being the primary caregiver, taking on more of the domestic work, etc. Organizations can respond to women’s unique needs at work by offering flexible schedules and inclusive cultures.

How Can Organizations Help?

Stress is a normal part of life, but companies can make a difference for their employees by focusing on lowering the stress people feel because of their work and workplace. Organizations that focus on boosting engagement play a significant role in helping employees manage stress, build resilience and improve their overall wellbeing.

Stress is a normal part of life, but companies can make a difference for their employees by focusing on lowering the stress people feel because of their work and workplace.

Our recommendations for organizations:

1. Implement policies and programs that support employee wellbeing. This could include flexible work arrangements and ways for employees to connect and strengthen relationships. But what’s more important is that leaders follow these policies and programs themselves, relieving any stigma associated with taking advantage of these resources, especially if they are newer offerings.

2. Develop managers to be coaches, not bosses. Gallup data show that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement. This means organizations that develop their managers’ skill sets to better engage employees can positively influence engagement and potentially decrease employee stress.

3. Provide access to coaching or counseling services. Make sure employees know that these programs are available and understand how to access them. Offering these services can help employees deal with stress and build resilience in the face of everyday stressors beyond your organization’s control.

Our recommendations for leaders and managers:

1. Have regular, ongoing conversations. The most important habit a manager should develop is having a meaningful conversation with each employee once a week. To help address burnout during these talks, managers should:

  • Help employees prioritize what is expected of them, particularly when they feel overwhelmed.
  • Understand and acknowledge what challenges employees may have outside of work. Explore what flexibility you could offer to help with their issues.
  • Encourage team members to share their challenges and their strategies to address them.

2. Make the most of the days together on-site. For hybrid workers, plan for the days they are together in the office, using this time to connect, collaborate and do more creative work together.

3. Act how you want others to act. It is important that managers and leaders not just talk about how to effectively manage stress but show employees how they are managing their own stress. If a manager is not engaged or effectively managing workplace stress, their team is likely less engaged and could be experiencing the effects of their manager’s stress. Like their employees, managers should find support when they are disengaged or stressed to ensure they don’t spread it to others.

Gallup’s research indicates that engaged employees have higher levels of psychological wellbeing. They experience more positive emotions, have a greater sense of optimism and exhibit higher levels of resilience when faced with challenges. This emotional resilience helps buffer them against stress and enables employees to cope more effectively with work demands. Organizations that invest in their employees’ engagement through policies, offerings and manager development can help safeguard their people to be more resilient when faced with stress.

Want to reduce workplace stress? Focus on engagement.


Marie-Lou Almeida is a Learning and Development Senior Consultant for Gallup in Sydney.

Camilla Frumar is a Senior Consultant for Gallup in Sydney.

Jessica Schatz contributed to this article.

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