Indian Employers Rank Stress as Top Lifestyle Risk Factor

Stress is the number one lifestyle risk factor, ranking above physical inactivity and obesity, according to the inaugural Asia Pacific edition of the [email protected] survey conducted by global professional services company Towers Watson.


While Indian employers lead their regional counterparts in developing strategies to manage work-related stress, only 38% identified improving the emotional/mental health of employees (i.e. lessening the stress and anxiety) as a top priority of their health and productivity programs. This signals a vast scope for improvement in strategic initiatives aimed at tackling stress among Indian employees.


Globally, the causes of poor health are remarkably similar; however, the tools, abilities and resources needed to address these vary greatly across regions. Nonetheless, multiple issues related to stress are driving the need for a greater organisational commitment that extends beyond employees’ physical and mental health; one that encompasses the work environment, culture and interpersonal relationships that connect employees to the mission and goals of the organisation.


The 2013 Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes Survey highlights that the main sources of stress for employees across the globe are tied to their experience at the workplace.


“Stress is directly linked to physical and emotional health – important contributing factors to workplace performance," says  Anuradha Sriram, Director – Benefits, Towers Watson India.  "In a challenging economic scenario, where companies are stretched to balance costs and maximise productivity, employers need to identify specific triggers that impact employee wellness, engagement and in turn productivity - failing which, they run the risk of diverting time and resources to fixing non-critical issues and alienating their workforce at the same time.”


Top causes of work-related stress
When quizzed on sources of stress, Indian employees rank unclear or conflicting job expectations (40%), inadequate staffing (lack of support, uneven workload or performance in group) (38%) and lack of work/life balance (38%) as the top three reasons, according to Towers Watson’s Global Benefit Attitudes Survey that polled 22,347 global workers out of which 7,094 workers are in Asia Pacific (2,006 workers are based in India).


In Asia Pacific, the top contributors were inadequate staffing, low pay (or low increase in pay) and lack of work/life balance.


Globally, inadequate staffing is common as the single most important contributor to work-related stress.


The report attempts to analyse top solutions adopted by employers that are aimed at creating a workplace culture that proactively manages stress. Indian employers promote flexible working options (50%), organise stress management interventions (e.g. workshops, yoga, tai chi) (43%) and undertake education and awareness campaigns (41%) to help their employees manage stress.


Interestingly, while 85% of US employers promote Employee Assistance Program (EAP), only 2 of every 5 Indian employers are following suit. Written guidelines on stress are ranked last in the list of Top 10 steps taken by employers to manage stress with only 10% of Indian employers favouring that option.


The report reveals the growing recognition among employers that the workplace experience can both contribute to and reduce employee stress.


As a testimony to this trend, an increasing number of employers are planning lifestyle change programs that are not as prevalent as of now.


Almost 1 in every 3 Indian employers has instituted stress or resilience management programs in 2013 and an  almost equal number plan to follow suit in 2014. With stress being ranked as the #1 lifestyle risk factor in India, this number is likely to grow.

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