U.S. and Canadian Workers’ Stress Levels Skyrocketed During the Pandemic, Despite Higher Levels of Employee Engagement

Gallup’s latest State of the Global Workplace report finds that U.S. and Canadian workers experienced the highest daily stress levels in the world, increasing their daily stress levels by eight percentage points during the pandemic to 57%, compared with 43% globally. Despite these high stress levels, U.S. and Canadian employee engagement levels rose by two percentage points to 34% regionally compared with 20% globally during the pandemic.

Globally, employee engagement decreased by two percentage points from 2019 to 2020, and the workforce reported higher worry, stress, anger and sadness in 2020 than in the previous year. Western Europe has the lowest employee engagement levels globally compared with the United States and Canada.

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Gallup estimates that low employee engagement costs the global economy $8.1 trillion.

“The trends among U.S. and Canadian workers are similar with slight increases in employee engagement but also increases in daily stress. Though they found themselves even more involved in their work, increased daily stress may put them at high risk of burnout,” said Jim Harter, Gallup’s Chief Workplace Scientist.

In the U.S. and Canada, stress and worry were experienced differently across gender lines, with 62% of working women reporting daily feelings of stress compared with 52% of their male counterparts. Working women worry more than men, with 53% of women reporting daily worry compared with 43% of men. Regionally, North America’s daily levels of worry among workers increased by ten percentage points during the pandemic to 48% — compared with the rest of the world that remained at 41%.

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Though U.S. and Canadian workers reported lower levels of thriving during the pandemic at 56%, their thriving levels were still higher than the those in the rest of the working world at 32%.

Employed American and Canadian men reported higher thriving levels (58%) than women (53%), though those findings are not surprising considering the high levels of stress, worry and sadness women experienced during the pandemic as many juggled work with becoming full-time caretakers for children or the elderly at home.

As employers rethink their workplaces in 2021, they have lessons to learn from 2020. Most importantly, leaders need to recognize the influence of employee wellbeing and employee engagement on workforce resilience.

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