If you’re feeling stressed at work, you’re not alone. Two alarming studies show how financial stress is affecting Americans in the workplace.
According to the 2017 Workplace Benefits Report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, 56 percent of American workers are stressed about their financial situation. Among those employees, 53 percent say their financial stress gets in the way of work productivity.
Despite feeling stressed at work, The 2017 State of American Vacation from Project: Time Off found only 54 percent of American workers used up all their vacation days last year. Worse, two out of three employees that take time off end up working on vacation anyway, showed a Glassdoor survey conducted by Harris Poll.
So, if Americans are feeling stress in the workplace, why aren’t they taking vacation days? Here’s a look into the mind of the American worker — and what to do if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Fear is driving American workers to exhaustion
The majority of American workers may be stressed at work, but it’s fear that’s keeping them chained to their desks.
In a 2016 interview with MarketWatch, Glassdoor career trends analyst Scott Dobroski said fear of falling behind at work or getting fired is one reason why American workers aren’t vacationing enough.
The recent recession doesn’t help either. It shook the U.S. economy and deeply affected Americans’ financial stability and career opportunities. Add on the increasing costs of an education and homeownership, and suddenly many Americans are feeling the squeeze.
That all makes holding a steady income more important — and puts more pressure on employees already concerned with job security.
That fear, in part, leads 66 percent of Americans to work while on vacation, according to Glassdoor. That’s an increase of 5 percent from three years ago.
Overall, 662 million vacation hours were left unused in 2016, reported Project: Time Off. That’s a lot of time off workers need to unwind.
Millennials more financially stressed than other generations
The Bank of America Merrill Lynch study found that millennials are the most financially stressed generation of today’s workers.
According to its study, while 56 percent of Gen Xers say stress interferes with their work, 67 percent of millennials say the same. And 68 percent of millennials say that stress affects their health, compared to 56 percent of Gen Xers and 51 percent of baby boomers.
That means, among today’s workers, that millennials are feeling more financially pinched, and their health is suffering due to it.
But one reason why millennials’ finances are getting in the way of work productivity is simply due to the fact that they take their finances to work with them. Millennials spend an average of four on-the-clock hours each week on their personal finances. That’s double what Gen Xers reported and four times what baby boomers reported.
Consider, however, that millennials face mountains of student debt and increasing living costs. A 2016 graduate who took out loans for school, for example, has $37,172 in student loans. And three-quarters of millennials with student loan debt say their loans are “unmanageable,” found the 2016 Wells Fargo Millennial Survey.
With high student debt and the Great Recession just a few years behind us, it’s no wonder millennials are worried about money — and working like crazy.
5 tips for working smarter so you can be happy and productive
If financial fear and stress at work are affecting you, you can turn that ship around. Find ways to work smarter so you can get ahead at work and with your finances.
1. Get a snapshot of your finances and create a budget
While looking at your finances might be scary, not looking at them can be much worse.
After all, when you’re not certain of what you’re dealing with financially, you’re letting your imagination fill in the blanks. And that’s never good.
To get your finances under control, take a hard look at your bank and loan accounts. Consider what debts you’re dealing with and what steps you can take to pay down loan balances faster. This is where creating a budget can help you.
Even if the plan of action you come up will take years to complete, you’ll have the benefit of being in the know and in control.
2. Leave your budget and financial woes at home
While a budget won’t magically erase your stress, it can give you a clear picture of how you can get your money under control.
Knowing what you need to do to achieve financial independence means you can focus better at work. That assumes, of course, that you leave your budget at home.
If you struggle to do so, remember that bringing that stress into the workplace only hurts you. After all, the better you can focus at work, the better your chances for a raise or promotion. And that’s where our next step comes in.
3. Talk to your manager to see how you can improve at work
Want more money? Find out how you can get that raise or promotion.
Schedule a time to speak with your manager to discuss how you’re performing at work and can improve.
Not only will talking with your manager help you create a plan of action, it’ll show your manager that you’re eager and engaged in your work. After all, managers love to see that their employees are doing their best and striving to improve.
Just don’t forget to check in with your manager after a few weeks or months. That way, you keep your manager in the know on your progress.
4. Find opportunities to increase your income and skillset
A great way to increase your income is by seeking out other work opportunities and making yourself a more attractive job candidate.
Consider evening and weekend classes, conferences, meetups, or finding a mentor in your field. Although you may have to spend some money to network or hone your skills, those costs may be outweighed by increased income.
You might also find that you can pick up side gigs related to your day-to-day job. Just make sure none of this extra work interferes with your job. You don’t want to overwork yourself.
5. Schedule check-ins with yourself
This one is super simple. Check in with your plans — and your personal health — regularly.
Revisit your budget every month and your financial goals every quarter. At work, keep a running record of your progress and share it with your manager.
Reviewing your progress and even sharing it keeps you accountable. Stay tuned to what you need to do to move forward in your career and achieve financial independence.
Most importantly, check in with yourself. The purpose behind a budget or career plan isn’t to stress you out. Yes, each require attention, but they should also help make life a little less stressful by focusing your energy on actionable checklists.
Schedule times for relaxation, too. Even devoting a couple hours a week to stretch and unwind can help you stay focused throughout the week.
Take control of your financial stress before it takes control of you
It can be difficult conquering financial stress and anxiety. But it needs to be done. After all, when you let your anxiety balloon, it can make it more difficult for you to stay afloat.
When work or financial stress get you down, focus on things you can control. You can make a plan to ensure you’re moving forward in your career, and you can find breathing room in your finances.Taking control of your money and career isn’t easy. But if you focus on what you’re good at and hold yourself accountable, you’ll find solutions and opportunities at every corner.
Taking control of your money and career isn’t easy. But if you focus on what you’re good at and hold yourself accountable, you’ll find solutions and opportunities at every corner.
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