Stress at work affects younger workers – why?

Stress at work affects younger workers – why?

Workers in Switzerland are increasingly suffering from psychological problems, particularly stress. Members of the younger generation are hit the hardest.

According to Health Promotion Switzerland, the greatest stress-related loss of productivity is among 16 to 24-year-olds. Why is this age group subject to more stress? What is it that troubles young employees in their everyday working lives? Are they overstretched – or are the required resources lacking? And how can companies and managers assist them?

Coping with stress

In principle, young employees are exposed to similar stress situations and pressures as their older colleagues. However, the question arises as to how people deal with the stressful and challenging situations in their daily work. The assumption is that people with positive and successful experiences in dealing with difficult and stressful situations can draw on their own personal coping mechanisms. But is this really true?

Physical and social development

A young person’s physical and social development is often not (yet) coordinated. For this reason, any divergence between their physical development and the levels of maturity and independence demanded by their job can lead to considerable stress.

The search for identity – who am I?

Identity is an answer to the question: “Who am I?”. Adolescents and young adults have to first explore and find out who they are, what they want, how they want to maintain social relationships, and what their main life goals and values are: in their profession, ideology (religion, politics), etc. Because this phase of self-discovery is often not factored into daily working life, young people find themselves facing the same demands as their older work colleagues. All this can lead to added stress, on top of that already caused by their daily business.

Self-esteem develops with age

Self-evaluation leads to an assessment of self-esteem. People with high self-esteem essentially feel good and have great hopes for the future. If someone has low self-esteem, they often feel worthless, depressed and hopeless. Young people are still in the process of establishing where their self-esteem lies. Something troubling, like a tough, rude email, can cause a young person to feel hurt and personally attacked, with the result that they see their own performance as poor and lacking.

Advice for managers of young workers

  • Hold regular discussions with young staff members to see how they are feeling.
  • Offer support to young workers in planning their work or draw up a plan together.
  • Introduce the mentor principle whereby experienced, older employees support and / or advise young employees on professional or personal matters.
  • Create a regular communication channel through which peers can exchange ideas.
  • Develop an error-management culture in order to minimise pressure and express appreciation / recognition.
  • Always set an example as a manager: e.g. maintain a work-life balance, adhere to regulated on-offline guidelines, etc.

Further advice for young employees / their managers / HR / job trainers
  • FWS-apprentice.ch: In order to foster the mental health of young workers in the workplace, Health Promotion Switzerland is developing the Friendly Work Space Apprentice service. Digital tools will be used in future to address young employees directly and to promote peer-to-peer exchange. (in german)
  • «The youth of today is the future of tomorrow..» With this in mind, it is our social responsibility to actively support this generation and even, if necessary, protect it.