Business Group Blog

Americans Really ARE Workaholics

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Americans really are workaholics, according to a new poll of employed adults, with consequences for their own health, the health of others, and maybe the health and sustainable performance of their employers.

  • Almost 2/3 say they often or sometimes work overtime or on the weekends.
  • One in five say they work 50 or more hours per week.
  • Less than half use all or most of their paid vacation, and among respondents who take vacations, 30% say they do a significant amount of work while on vacation.
  • A majority go to work when sick (including half of restaurant workers and more than half who are in medical jobs).
  • A majority say they are stressed at work, and one in five say they’ve experienced a great deal of stress at work in the past 12 months.

At the same time, employer initiatives have a notable impact on workers.

  • A majority (54%) say their workplace is very supportive of employees taking steps to improve their personal health – and another 34% say their workplace is somewhat supportive. Overall, 88% say their workplace is somewhat or very supportive of personal health.
  • Among employees who say their job affects their overall health (44% of those surveyed), more people say their job is good than bad (28% vs. 16%) for their health.
  • Of full-time workers who responded to the survey, 56% say their employer offers a formal wellness program; among the minority who participate, 88% say the programs are very or somewhat important to their health.
  • Nearly half of respondents rate the efforts of their workplace to reduce stress as excellent (15%) or good (34%) – however, among those who have experienced a great deal of stress in the past year, the ratings are overwhelmingly fair or poor.

Stress remains the #1 challenge to employee health and well-being globally. What can companies do? Changing organizational culture, environment and policy is more impactful than adding programs -- and having to promote them to employees. Adopting the goal of “well-being in all policies” on a company-wide basis is one way to maintain ongoing, high-level focus on preventing costly burnout and regrettable turnover.

This could mean expecting managers to plan ahead and hire temporary workers to cover staff shortages. It means actively encouraging employees to take their vacation, and eliminating the expectation that they stay connected while on vacation. It may mean maximizing opportunity for family engagement, especially when offering support for employees to manage their well-being in a sustainable way – sleep hygiene, exercise and nutrition, financial wellness, resiliency.  And so on.

As much as companies have already responded, the demands of work continue to accelerate and the challenge persists. Leveraging culture and policies in favor of well-being is essential to keep pace in the current climate.

For more information on changing organizational culture and helping employees manage stress and their health, see the Business Group’s toolkit, Managing Stress: Employer Strategies and Interventions or our issue brief, Seeing the Bigger Picture: Beyond Wellness to Well-being.