Worldwide Stress and the Workplace


Unsurprisingly, our current society experiences higher levels of stress than previous generations. In 2019, it is estimated that over 700 million people worldwide are affected by mental health issues – many of which are directly correlated to stress. For many academics and researchers, the cause of these elevated levels of stress is clear: The Fourth Industrial Revolution.

What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is resulting in an increasingly fast-paced world, leaving society struggling to adapt in the face of constant change. The 2019 Global Risks Report stated that “psychological stress is related to a feeling of lack of control in the face of uncertainty.”

The 2019 Global Risks Report

This Industrial Revolution is impactful in very different ways than the past three, as shown by the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Global Risks Report. The report emphasizes the human side of global risks citing societal, technological, and work-related stresses as causes of an increasingly “anxious, unhappy and lonely world.”

Why so stressed?

The 2017 Gallup Negative Experience Index — a summary of the worlds’ emotional state taken from 154,000 people in 145 countries — recorded record high levels of stress, sadness, anger, and worry.

A 2018 study from Statistics Canada reported that 23 percent of Canadians who are 15 and older said that they felt “quite a bit” or “extremely stressed” most days, while 73 percent of all working adults aged 20-64 reported some level of stress.

Work is the leading cause of stress among the Canadian population while finances are second. However, additional factors such as the state of the environment, terrorism, as well as economic and political worries have increased stress levels over the past few of years.

The American Psychological Association’s 2017 Stress in America report indicated the top stressors for Americans were “the future of our nation,” money, and work.

Generation Stress

Young people report the highest levels of stress. In fact, a 2018 study by Psychological Bulletin found a 33 percent increase in two types of perfectionism among university students in Canada, the US, and the UK: “self-oriented,” having high expectations of yourself, as well as “other-oriented,” having high standards for others.

Worries about not being able to find a job despite being educated, the rising cost of living, and personal finances are cited as reasons that 70 percent of mental health issues in Canada are onset into younger years.

Another prevalent source of stress is social media. Social media encourages comparison, as metrics such as the number of followers that one has can easily be used as measures of apparent social success.

In North America, prevalent causes of stress are work, finances, and the rising uncertainty of our economic and political state.

Stress and the Workplace

Evidently, worldwide stress is rising due to many factors. At CTO Boost, we cannot ignore the prominent spike in the last decade of workplace-related stress.

The 2019 GRR highlighted a 2009-2017 study that found illness-related work absences had fallen by over 15 percent, while mental health-related absences had increased by 5 percent.  

A primary factor contributing to increased workplace stress is technology. Communications technology often allow professional pressures to infringe upon home life, especially considering the fact that one-third of American adults never turn off their smartphones. Technology is also shown to have effects on people’s attention spans, as well as their sleeping patterns.

What business leaders can do

The prominence of stress within our society often seems unchangeable, as governments cannot enforce well-being and empathy. However, business leaders of the world can. Whether employees’ stress is caused directly by work or external factors, stressed employees don’t bring their full attention to their work. It is in business leaders’ best interest to promote wellbeing for the sake of employees’ mental health, as well as the success of the organization more broadly.

In an article discussing the social issues highlighted in the 2019 GRR, the Financial Times lists two ways business leaders can respond to employee’s stress.

  1. Improve mental health and well-being in the workplace: creating a company culture with open communication and diversity.
  2. Engage with society in a meaningful way: in our technologically dominated world, loneliness and feelings of disconnection pervade as employees search for meaningfulness in their work lives. Creating a business environment that values social affinity and engagement can help create a sense of purpose for workers.

Boosting our Employees

As a company dedicated to creating a positive work environment, here are a few ways that CTO Boost does the above.

Improving Mental Health and Well-Being in our Workplace

  • Common workspaces: One study on Common workspaces revealed that 70 percent of people in co-working spaces reported they felt healthier than they did working in a traditional office setting, 91 percent said they had better interactions with their coworkers, and 60 percent are more relaxed at home since co-working.
  • 10-15 mins of daily stretching: Stretching reduces fatigue because it increased blood flow, improves posture, and relieves stress.  
  • Employee engagement: CTO Boost strives to create an atmosphere where everyone feels valued and is rewarded for their hard work. From video game tournaments to pizza parties, we always make sure our employees have time to de-stress and interact with one another in a social setting. We recognize that everyone needs a break- so we take it.
  • Benefits: CTO Boost provides full benefits to our employees such as massage and chiropractors in an order to relieve mental and physical stress.

Engaging with Society in a Meaningful Way

  • Startup Grind Toronto: CTO Boost is a host for the Toronto chapter of Startup Grind — a global community of entrepreneurs and innovators. Startup Grind has monthly events featuring successful guest speakers. Here, individuals can connect with others in the entrepreneurial community. We recognize the importance of connecting with the community through events like Startup Grind because they provide leaders and future leaders with the confidence and inspiration that they need to build their companies.
  • Charity and Community Events: CTO Boost is always trying to get involved in the community by attending events and engaging in charitable efforts, such as Ride for Heart on June 2.

Unfortunately, stress will always be a part of life. However, business leaders can help their employees better navigate stress and mental illness by cultivating a positive work environment, and by helping give their employees the tools that they need to thrive.