Nearly all South African employees experience stress at work – study

A survey shows that most people want to be able to manage their well-being better. Picture: Unsplash krakenimages.

A survey shows that most people want to be able to manage their well-being better. Picture: Unsplash krakenimages.

Published Nov 21, 2023


A staggering 85% of South African employees struggle with stress in their jobs, a recent study has found. The survey, conducted by insur-tech start-up YuLife in collaboration with Ipsos also revealed that only 39% of respondents found their workplace well-being programmes to be “fairly effective”, while 32% considered them ‘ineffective.’

These startling findings form part of a groundbreaking e-book titled “How to Build a Winning South African Workforce,” which was released on Wednesday.

The e-book takes an in-depth look at employee well-being management within organisations and explores how employers can create engaging and impactful well-being solutions.

It also aims to become the go-to resource for local companies seeking to build high-performing teams and prioritise the health and happiness of their employees.

Meanwhile, the 2018 Global Competitiveness Index report discovered that out of 137 countries, South Africa ranked bottom for co-operation in labour-employer relations. The nation was also 132nd position for flexibility of wage determination, and 125th position for hiring and firing practices.

These rankings paint a concerning picture of the country’s quest for labour peace and stability and co-founder and managing director of YuLife South Africa Jaco Oosthuizen, believes that the survey indicates the urgent need for improved employee mental health in the country.

“Unfortunately, South African employees have some of the worst mental health in the world and are desperately looking for ways to improve that.” He added that while employers and HR leaders might be working hard to support their employees, they don’t have a lot of concrete data at hand. “We gathered the research to assist, inform, and empower employers in understanding what employees in SA value at work.”

Meanwhile, The Mental State of the World 2022 report also found that only 28% of respondents felt cared for by their employers. And contrary to popular belief, this survey found that money is not the sole motivator for employees. In fact, only 51% of respondents stated that additional workplace benefits, such as improved health care or enhanced pension plans, would be enough to make them stay with their current employer.

“While we often think money is many employees’ only motivation, the survey shows that most people want to be able to manage their well-being better and are likely to choose organisations that help them do that,” Oosthuizen said.

He added that the survey not only coincided with Mental Health Awareness Month, but also reflects the growing focus on holistic well-being and mental health support in the workplace. “It brings to light the challenges faced by South Africans in managing their mental health while juggling work responsibilities.”

He said that creating a happy and engaged workforce requires attention to various factors. This is as the study highlighted that company culture, flexible working conditions, and training opportunities are among the most significant factors that individuals consider when choosing an employer. Employers are also encouraged to use well-being data to build winning teams and maximise the potential of hybrid workforces.

Other notable findings from the survey was that 36% of employees would be persuaded to stay at their workplace if they received a greater allowance for leave days or more training opportunities. In addition, a lack of recognition was cited by 179 out of 500 respondents as a reason to consider leaving their current job.

“Companies need to rethink how to engage employees’ well-being and get meaningful buy-in from their staff, which in turn will drive productivity,” said Oosthuizen.

Not all hope is lost because, amid these findings, about 56% of employees stated that their employers collect feedback on employee satisfaction, and just over half of employers gather information about their workforce’s physical and mental well-being.

Encouragingly, 72% of employees believe that their feedback regarding improvements to employee well-being programmes would likely be taken into consideration.

This demonstrates that caring employers are already working to bridge the gap between themselves and their employees’ expectations, explained the co-founder of YuLife.

“Putting employee well-being at the forefront not only benefits businesses but also contributes to the overall economy. In the current economic climate, neglecting employee well-being can come at a significant cost.”