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Robots and Changing Job Skills Are Stressing Your Employees Out

Robots and Changing Job Skills Are Stressing Your Employees Out
Credit: Obak/Shutterstock

Factors inside and outside the office are contributing to a rise in workplace stress for most employees, new research finds. A study from the online learning platform Udemy revealed that 52 percent of employees feel more stressed today than they did a year ago.

A number of issues contributes to the increased stress levels of today's workers. Inside the workplace, the possibility of being replaced by a robot is giving employees the most cause for concern. The study found that 55 percent of workers said they fear losing their jobs to artificial intelligence and new technologies at some point in their careers.

Concern about having the right skills for their jobs both today and moving forward is also stressing employees. The speed at which the skills required for their positions are changing, their feelings of being underskilled to do their jobs, and the expectations to know new skills without any training are all top factors in increased stress for employees. [Want a less stressful job? Here are 10 you should consider.]

Other issues raising workers' stress levels inside the office are having bad managers and working in a toxic environment.

Younger workers are feeling the most pressure. Of those who are more stressed, 44 percent are millennials, compared to just 33 percent of Gen Xers and only 21 percent of baby boomers.

"While workers of every generation report feeling more stressed today than they were a year ago, two-thirds of millennials say they are stressed at work most or all of the time," the study's authors wrote. "Perhaps that's because they have a longer career runway ahead and will be the ones on the front lines as artificial intelligence and automation become even greater threats to traditional employment."

Issues beyond the office also contribute to rising employee stress. The volatile political climate, personal finances and family issues are the top issues outside the workplace that are causing workers the most angst.

"Workplace stress has reached unprecedented levels in America, with a unique confluence of internal and external triggers – from a volatile political climate to the rise of artificial intelligence in the workplace," said Darren Shimkus, vice president and general manager for Udemy for Business, in a statement. "At the same time, the skills required to do our jobs change about every three months, and pressure to adapt is relentless."

A supportive manager is key to keeping stress levels low among employees, according to the research. When asked what's most important to them in office culture, workers were far more likely to say having supportive and effective managers and being given more opportunities to learn and grow than to say fun perks like free lunches and planned social activities.

"Free gym memberships and cool office decor don't contribute to employee retention, but having great managers does," the study's authors wrote. "If employers aren't training on soft skills, they're less likely to produce effective managers and prepare younger workers for those roles."

When it comes to learning new skills, many employees are taking things into their own hands. More than 40 percent of those surveyed have invested their own money in professional development.

Employers who do want to provide more training to employees should be mindful of the fact that workers of different generations prefer different methods of learning. Millennials like one-on-one coaching most, Gen X workers favor on-demand learning, and baby boomers prefer more traditional classroom learning.

"Employees are getting in the driver's seat of their training and careers to combat stress and find professional success," Shimkus said. "Businesses have a significant opportunity not only to help reduce workplace stress but also improve productivity and business outcomes by adopting an employee-driven approach to learning and professional development."

The study was based on surveys of more than 1,000 office workers who are in full-time jobs and over the age of 18.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad 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. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.