Personal relations at work no. 1 cause of stress

Levels of work-related stress are high among Czech workers, according to an online survey by market research company GfK. The 2013 research revealed stress had increased particularly among managers and highly-qualified workers. Despite these increases, those surveyed said employers had not introduced measures to prevent stress in the workplace. Almost half of the interviewees said worries about ‘interpersonal relationships’ were a major cause of work-related stress.


A survey on work-related stress was carried out in the Czech Republic in June 2013 by market research agency GfK. A representative sample of 800 interviewees aged 18–65 was interviewed using the computer assisted web interviewing (CAWI) method. The survey focused on the incidence of work-related stress, its frequency, and its development and sources. It also looked at ways people try to prevent and alleviate stress at work as well as asking for opinions on how employers deal with stress and its prevention.

Incidence of stress at work

The study found that 42% of interviewees said they had suffered from stress at work. Of those, 53.2% said they felt stressed several times a week. Men suffered from stress more often (46.1%) than women (37.8%).

Incidence of stress at work increased with the educational attainment of respondents (Figure 1). Among interviewees holding a university degree, 57.2% said they were subject to stress at work. Of those with the lowest level of educational attainment, 27.3% reported work-related stress.

Further investigation revealed that more highly-educated workers tended to suffer from irregularly occurring stress. Less educated interviewees who reported stress at work were more likely to say that stress was a permanent feature of their working life.

Figure 1: Frequency of stress at work by educational attainment

Figure 1: Frequency of stress at work by educational attainment

Note: SLE = school leaving examination

Source: GfK 2013

Employees appear to be more stressed than the self-employed – this is particularly the case for managerial personnel. An alarming 60.7% of managers indicated they were stressed at work.

Stress and relationships

Almost half of the interviewees said ‘interpersonal relationships in the workplace’ were one of the main causes of work-related stress, as shown in Figure 2. The second most important factor in terms of stress, according to respondents, was ‘an inappropriate workload and long working hours’. Other factors were found to include insufficient pay for work performed and job insecurity.

Figure 2: Principal causes of work-related stress

Figure 2: Principal causes of work-related stress

Note: The question ‘What causes the highest level of stress at work for you?’ was multiple choice

Source: GfK 2013

Data showed 58% of women were worried about their interpersonal relationships in the workplace. This figure was considerably higher than among men (42.3%).

Men are, on the other hand, more concerned than women about poorly defined tasks and responsibilities – 29.2% compared to 17.7%. Interpersonal relationships were more relevant for interviewees with a lower educational attainment.

Employees in managerial positions were not particularly concerned about being poorly paid for work or about job insecurity. Other workers mentioned insufficient pay relatively often as a significant source of stress (45.9%).

Evolution of stress

The study compared the current situation to that of previous years. Of those interviewees who had ever experienced stress at work, 72.7% said stress at work had increased, as did 85.2% of those who described themselves as being under permanent stress.

Only 13.5% of respondents said that levels of stress had not increased. Around the same percentage gave a neutral answer.

More radical in their responses were women, 45.7% of whom definitely agreed there had been an increase in the levels of stress – significantly above men (34.9%).

The perception of the development of work-related stress appears to depend on employment position. Employees felt the increase considerably more than did their managers, and particularly, the self-employed.

Figure 3: Increase in stress at work in recent years, by employment status

Figure 3: Increase in stress at work in recent years, by employment status

Source: GfK 2013

Stress prevention

Almost 59% of respondents did not believe that employers provided conditions which would result in a decrease in the level of stress in the workplace. Only 16.7% of interviewees believed they did.

The survey revealed that some workers had adopted their own measures to prevent work-related stress. For example, one third of respondents, in particular younger and more highly-qualified workers, tackled work-related stress by doing some sort of physical activity.

On the other hand, alarmingly perhaps, 6.8% of those under permanent stress said they used alcohol and 9.6% medication in order to reduce the level of stress in the workplace.


GfK press release (2013), Four out of ten Czechs suffer from stress at work. Today there is more stress in the workplace than in the past.

Štěpánka Lehmann, Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs (RILSA)

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