What Are the Major Stress Factors Causing Employees to Lose Sleep?

18 April 2017

cover image

Workplace stress has an influence on sleep. People who are stressed sleep less. The Stress in the Workplace Study, conducted by the international Paylab.com portal, shows that employees who regularly sleep 6 hours or less during the work week are more likely to complain about stress at work. They suffer from an onslaught of duties and responsibilities, low salary, overtime work, and a lack of free time and rest. The survey was conducted at the start of 2017 and involved a sample of 58,508 employees in 11 European countries. The survey is part of PAYLAB COMPENSATION MONITOR which observes on regular basis trends related to remuneration.

Only 8 per cent of people who sleep 6 or fewer hours a day during the workweek say they don't feel stress at work. The longer people sleep, the higher the share of those who are more at ease and who say that stress at work doesn't bother them.

Comparing low and high-income employees, those with lower incomes are a bit worse off. The survey showed that for those with lower incomes, a significantly smaller share of workers reported no stress at work.

Employees are exposed to stress at their place of work to achieve adequate levels of performance and results. People who sleep less than others suffer as a result of their work more intensely than the average. Less qualified employees and employees with low incomes are afflicted by their finances, poor working conditions and working environments, and, to a much greater extent, suffer from work-related health problems, commuting, and poor relations with colleagues. Conversely, managers and those earning above-average incomes in their country are more afflicted by a heavy workload, often mentioning the feeling of being burnt-out and stress from organisational changes while often finding it difficult to achieve a work-life balance.

How long do employees sleep?

The largest share of employees (75 per cent) sleep 6 to 8 hours, which is considered sufficient for mental and physical rest and regeneration.

There are some who typically sleep more than 8 hours before a workday, but these lucky few only account for 5 per cent of the total. There are also many employees who don't spend much time at all in bed. Around 19 per cent of working people sleep less than 6 hours a day during the workweek. They are largely people over the age of 35. Slightly more employees at lower level positions are affected, such as support staff (27 per cent), qualified manual labourers, and employees in the service industry (25 per cent). This may have something do with the fact that their working hours begin earlier or are tied to shift work, as the same groups of people complain more often about commuting (19 per cent). However, other professions don't get much sleep either. For instance, around 21 per cent of top managers sleep less than 6 hours.

What bothers employees the most? Demands, expectations, and performance

Employer demands and pressure to perform are the largest contributors to stress among employees. Up to a quarter of employees reported suffering from extraordinary pressure in terms of the duties and responsibility inherent in the tasks they undertake. In terms of those in management, one third of managers reported this form of stress. Another major impediment to work involved overtime work, which was reported by up to 16 per cent of employees as a serious problem in the survey.

Other stress factors include an inability to cope with the workload (10%), high demands and expectations of a superior (9%), and the demands and expectations of clients (9%).

A disturbing manifestation of chronic stress in the workplace is burnout, or emotional and physical exhaustion from work. In the survey conducted by the Paylab.com portal, up to 15 per cent of employees reported this feeling and the largest accumulation was observed in people between the ages of 35 and 44. Burnout affected employees at all levels, and was a bit more prevalent among managers. Up to 17 per cent of top managers and 16 per cent of low to mid-level managers reported it in the survey. Burnout most often affects professionals such as programmers, physicians, medical professionals, teachers, psychologists, police officers, and the like.

Lack of work-life balance produces stress 

Another important area causing stress for employees is difficulty in finding a work-life balance. The most stress factor in this specific area for employees is financial problems stemming from low earnings, causing the inability to meet their basic living needs. This aspect was reported as a key stress factor by a quarter of respondents, and was a bit higher among people with lower levels of education, in lower ranking positions, and those working in the state or public sector.

Lack of work-life balance is a stress factor indicating an imbalance between work and one's private life where work beings to impinge on the rest of their lives. Other sources of employee discomfort and stress included commuting (10%) and too little time off/holiday (10%)

Another problematic area for employees was work-related medical problems, which was reported by 9 per cent of respondents from among rank-and-file employees.

Parents with children certainly understand the difficulties in combining work with family obligations. Overall, 5 per cent of respondents reported this was a source of stress, but the figures were 8 per cent for female employees overall and a tenth of employees aged 35 to 44. Caring for sick children has an impact on attendance, and picking up children from school or kindergarten and driving them to various after-school activities exposes employees to time stress.

Working environment and relations

The work environment itself may be a source of stress. Women compared to men were a bit more sensitive overall to bad working conditions and working environments. 13 per cent of respondents reported this as a significant stress factor. People also see organisational changes as a stress factor, with 9 per cent of employees and 16 per cent of managers selecting this option. An important factor that keeps people up at night is poor relations with colleagues (9 per cent), and women were much more sensitive to this in particular.

About the survey

The survey is part of PAYLAB COMPENSATION MONITOR which observes on regular basis trends related to remuneration. The international Stress in the Workplace survey was carried out online by the international Paylab.com portal through local salary comparison portals, managed by Paylab in 11 CEE countries (Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina). The survey was conducted online in the local languages of the respective countries in January and February 2017 on a sample of 58,508 employees.



Daniela Beráková, Pribinova 19, 811 09 Bratislava, Slovakia

Tel.: +421 2 32 20 91 89, Mobile: +421 905 761 264, e-mail: [email protected]


Find out if you are being paid fairly

Get a free, personalized salary comparison.

Compare your salary