These are tense times for American workers. People are stressed about politics, personal finances, and family responsibilities, and it’s near-impossible to completely compartmentalize those things so they don’t interfere with your work productivity.
My company recently conducted a survey of full-time employees in the U.S., and what really caught my eye were the sources of stress originating inside the workplace itself and how much more stressed millennials feel compared to their older colleagues.
While workers of every generation report feeling more stressed today than they were a year ago (52%), two-thirds of millennials told us they’re stressed at work most or all of the time. I suspect that’s because they have a longer career runway ahead and will be the ones on the front lines as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation become even greater threats to traditional employment.
Across all age groups more than half of people agreed with the statement, “I’m worried that new technology and automation will replace American jobs during my career.” In response to this threat, people are upskilling in droves. More than half participated in company-provided skills training, but employees are also pursuing learning opportunities independently (42%), paying out of their own pockets for things like online skills courses, coding bootcamps, and workshops.
Millennials are taking advantage of their employers’ training programs more than other generations at work (64%), but the constant upskilling isn’t relieving their stress. Among the top stressors they continue to feel at work are “how quickly skills requirements at work are changing” and “feeling under-skilled for my job.”
Millennials, in particular, understand this could very well be how the rest of their careers will feel: a constant pressure to keep up with rapid change if they want to keep their jobs.
When confronted with disruption and uncertainty in our work, culture, and society, it’s easy to feel helpless and hopeless. In looking at the survey results, you can picture these people running on a treadmill that keeps speeding up, gamely trying to keep pace but never really getting ahead. No wonder they’re stressed.
Here are a few strategies that might help ease your anxieties.
1. Our survey found both employers and employees focus most on technical skills. Less than half of millennials (43%) believe they need to strengthen their soft skills (e.g., team-building, problem-solving, communication, etc.) or management/leadership skills, and even fewer say their companies value those skills. Not only are these the very skills younger employees will actually need to move into those senior roles, they are also widely thought to be the areas that won’t be easily automated or outsourced. Don’t lose sight of soft skills that will set you apart or it’ll be even harder to get off the tech skills treadmill.
2. Lobby your employer to support you (more) in this endeavor. According to 63 percent of survey respondents, the #1 thing companies could offer to help offset worker stress is wellness initiatives. Among millennials, a whopping 72% said health and wellness programs would help them cope better, and we see this reflected in the courses our Udemy for Business customers are enrolling in. Along with the many popular business, tech, and productivity courses, we deliberately chose to offer topics like mindfulness, yoga, and stress management taught by experts such as Deepak Chopra and Tara Branch.
3. No one knows for sure what the jobs of tomorrow will be or exactly what skills they will require. You can’t 100% future-proof your resume so quit pressuring yourself to find a way to do that. Setting impossible goals is a recipe for burnout. Instead, be realistic about what’s attainable and credit yourself for making the effort. Adopt a growth mindset so you’re prepared for setbacks and understand they’re part of the journey, not proof that you’re destined for failure.
Taking more control of your career can be very empowering. Step off the hard-skills treadmill, take a deep breath, and understand that what you’re feeling is the new normal. Rather than try to fight it, shift your attitude to embrace lifelong learning and look for opportunities to develop your soft skills.
For the entire survey report, download the 2017 Workplace Stress Study here.
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