Under pressure:

Stress in the workplace on the rise

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  • EY Job Study: Almost one in two employees report increased workloads
  • More hours at work or a young family – these are the two main reasons people feel they have less of a work-life balance
  • Nevertheless, over 50% of employees are satisfied with their job
  • Four out of five employees are satisfied with their salaries, but would be even more motivated if there were a variable element in their pay package

Zurich, 11 August 2016 –Employees in Switzerland see themselves as under a great amount of pressure and are finding it difficult in many ways to reconcile both professional and family lives. Almost every second person surveyed (48%) reported that the demands on them at work had intensified in recent years. For roughly every seventh worker (13%), the workload has “increased significantly”.

“The demands on employees have clearly magnified,” says Mario Vieli, Head of HR at EY. “And this has been caused by a number of factors. Communication via email, chat and messenger services have intensified, and the pressure on employees to be available all the time is on the rise. Internationalization is also increasing, which means more travel and work outside of the usual hours in order to communicate with business partners in the US, Asia and other parts of the world.”

For 37% of employees, it has become even more difficult to find a good balance between their professional and private lives, a problem due primarily to the increased demands of work: 42% of the respondents who lament a worsening work-life balance blame it on longer hours and more responsibility at work. On the other hand, one in four people see the cause in their private life.

Nevertheless, despite the increased demands and a private life that suffers as a result, job satisfaction among Swiss workers is still high: Almost two-thirds (62%) are ”satisfied” and 32% consider themselves ”very satisfied”. Only 1% is “dissatisfied” with their work situation.

“Even if at first glance the heavy pressure on the one side and the high levels of satisfaction on the other seem to be contradictory, they aren’t. Rather, the two aspects reflect the challenges and opportunities that today’s working world offers. Work has certainly become more interesting overall, for example: international jobs, more responsibility for individuals, more diversity and flatter organizational hierarchies. This means today’s employees have possibilities to further develop themselves that didn’t exist previously, but are also faced with many more challenges,” adds Vieli to his analysis of the results of the “Job Study 2016” by the audit and advisory firm EY.

High demands a challenge for maintaining a healthy work-life balance
Both women and men are reporting increasing demands: 51% of men say their workloads have increased, while the figure was just a bit lower for women at 45%.

For both, however, about one-third of them struggle more now than before with reconciling their private and professional lives. Things get particularly difficult in this regard with parents who have pre-school children (ages 4 to 6): 81% of women indicated things have gotten worse, while 53% of men hold that opinion. However, it isn’t just the children that make it so difficult for young parents to balance life and work: 57% of fathers with pre-school children put the blame for work-life imbalances on increasing demands at work, in addition to the kids, while 43% put it down to an increase in hours spent at work. Full-time male employees work substantially more on average than full-time female employees. Two-thirds of men (66%) work more than 40 hours a week while just 45% of women do the same. For women, it is proportionally inverted: 63% of young employed mothers name their children as the source of their difficulties in balancing life and work, and just 15% say that they have to spend too much time at their jobs. Almost every second woman (45%) works part-time, while only 12% of men can say the same.
“In many households, women still take on the lion’s share of child-raising responsibilities. Men are more inclined to go all out at work instead, not wanting to compromise on work or family. As a result, many career-oriented men end up working more hours and simultaneously taking on more responsibility at home than in the past, the result being that they have an even more difficult time finding the right balance between work and home life,” explains Vieli.

“As a consequence, companies also take on the task of softening the impact from this increased pressure, for example by introducing flexible working hours or day-care services,” adds Vieli. The respondents confirmed this theory as well: 66% of Swiss workers would especially like flexible working hours from a modern employer. Every third employee (33%) would like to be able to work from home more often.

Workers take positive view of their companies’ financial situation
In Switzerland, 87% of the people surveyed said that they viewed the financial situation of their own employer as “good” or “very good”. According to their assessments, the financial situation at their own companies hasn’t changed much in the past three years. This in turn reflects their attitudes toward wage expectations, as one in four workers are banking on a marginal increase in their pay in 2016 (on average, a rise of 0.7%). Employees that are part of some sort of workers’ organization are much more optimistic in this respect than those in the private sector.

“The increasing workloads are also a consequence of the success of the Swiss economy in recent years,” says Vieli. “New sales channels, new business models and innovative technologies are being developed. There is a lot to do in the Swiss business landscape. In order to anticipate all of that in time, companies and their employees need to be working hard. The fact is that, as part of globalization, competition has intensified across all industries, and with that comes mounting pressure to increase productivity and profitability. This leads to more demands being placed on individual workers.”

Every third worker paid according to performance – men more often than women
For 34% of Swiss workers, remuneration contains a success or performance component. This component makes up a larger share of the total for men than for women, and in the private sector it is much more wide-spread than in the public sector and in workers’ organizations. Insurance companies (58%), corporate service providers (53%) and telecommunications and IT firms (47%) have the highest share of employees receiving variable remuneration packages. The larger the company and the higher the hierarchy level, the higher percentage of people who have variable components of their salaries. Nine out of ten workers understand the way in which the success or performance components of their salaries are calculated. Two out of three employees (and here the share of men is higher) are in favor of a performance-based payment component and, according to the information they provided, more than half would increase their commitment at work if there was a (greater) performance incentive in their pay. On average, men who work full time earn 45% more than women when considering the average gross annual salaries of CHF 77,500 for men and CHF 53,600 for women. The people most satisfied with their salaries are those who work in telecommunications and IT, followed by corporate service providers and people in agriculture and forestry. The least satisfied workers are those in the real estate business and in retail. Basically, despite the differences between industries and the gender gap, almost nine out of ten employees (88%) in Switzerland are either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their pay.

These are the results of the “Job Study 2016” conducted by the audit and advisory firm EY, which surveyed more than 1,000 employees in Switzerland.


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EY’s organization is represented in Switzerland by Ernst & Young Ltd, Basel, with ten offices across Switzerland, and in Liechtenstein by Ernst & Young AG, Vaduz. In this publication, «EY» and «we» refer to Ernst & Young Ltd, Basel, a member firm of Ernst & Young Global Limited.