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Lead Your Team Personal Growth

Best-Educated Americans Experience the Most Stress at Work

Best-Educated Americans Experience the Most Stress at Work

Americans with the most education are experiencing the most workplace stress, according to a new study.

The elevated levels of stress ― which relate to a variety of workplace issues, including balancing work and home life ― could lead to high turnover of businesses’ most-valued staff, the study researchers say.

The study by GfK Custom Research North America finds that even though doctorate degree holders are the employees most engaged in work ― meaning they care most about their jobs and their companies ― they are experiencing the most stress.

These workers, who have become known as "knowledge workers" and the "creative class," are the people on whom companies typically depend most. Even so, they harbor the most concerns about job security, as well as having the resources to do their jobs effectively and maintaining a work/life balance .

The same holds true for employees who have master's degrees in comparison with those who have less education, the study found.

"They are just under a huge amount of stress," Thomas Hartley, vice president of GfK Customer Loyalty and Employee Engagement, told BusinessNewsDaily. "It is really important that companies are aware that a third of their employees could be feeling like that."

Engaged employees are a company’s most valuable asset, Hartley said, and addressing the pressures that the best-educated employees face is crucial to keep them from seeking employment elsewhere.

Hartley said  employers need to be even more aware of their employees’ needs as the economy begins to improve.

During recessions, employees are far less likely to change jobs , while employers, looking to lower their overhead, tend to lessen their investments in employee training and development. "When the economy starts to turn around, these are the first people to move," Hartley said of well-educated employees.

The study found that the recession is affecting employees' decisions in more than one way.

Despite high engagement, voluntary turnover is rising in professional and business services, Hartley said, because of compromising decisions made by employees during the recession.  Forty-five percent of the professional and business services employees surveyed said they were forced to alter life plans during the recession.

"What we haven't seen before is this feeling among people that they felt they had to make compromises," Hartley said.  "I think it is because of the intensity and length of the recession."

Job changes, Hartley said, may be their way of negotiating changes that bring their life back on track.

The study also looked at which industries had the most- and least-engaged employees.

The five industries with the most-engaged employees were:

  • Construction
  • Professional services
  • Business services
  • Information technology
  • Public utilities

Disengagement ― that is, employees not caring about their jobs or companies ― was reported highest in:

  • The retail sector
  • Real estate
  • Public administration
  • Education
  • Manufacturing

The study also found age plays a significant role in the engagement level; the research showed that employees who are 60 or older are the most engaged, while the youngest members of the work force, ages 18 to 29, were the least engaged.

"Younger people are more likely to feel like they took a job they didn't want," Hartley said. "That can be a bitter pill to swallow."

Chad  Brooks
Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.