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December 14, 2001
'Desk Rage' on the Rise
Mou
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nting layoffs and a slowing economy are feeding a growing phenomenon of "desk rage" in America, with more employees having arguments and breaking down under pressure, according to the second-annual desk rage survey conducted by Integra Realty Resources, Inc., a real-estate advisory and appraisal firm.

One in 10 Americans say they work in an atmosphere where physical violence has occurred because of stress, with 42% saying their workplace is a place where yelling and verbal abuse takes place, according to Integra.

And while only one percent of Americans say workplace stress has caused them personally to strike a co-worker, 29% admit to yelling at co-workers because of stress.

Almost one in four American workers (23%) have been driven to tears because of workplace stress, and 12% work where machinery or equipment has been damaged through workplace rage, the survey found.

"Stress over America's slowing economy is showing up in the workplace though routinely high levels of 'desk rage,'" says Sean Hutchinson, president of New York-based Integra. "As America experiences its highest jobless rate in six years, the strain is making itself felt throughout the employment food chain."

Perhaps the most striking statistics from this year's study, according to Integra, come from Americans who work in high-rise office buildings. According to the survey, 13% of those high-rise workers have considered changing jobs as a result of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, compared to just 3% of workers overall.

Over a third of high-rise workers (37%) say they are more fearful for their personal safety at their workplace as a result of the Sept. 11 attack, compared to 20% for workers overall.

Thirty-six percent of high-rise workers surveyed say they have some fear of a terrorist attack using anthrax delivered by mail, compared to 18% of workers overall who feel this way. And one out of four high-rise workers (25%) expressed some level of fear of an attack by bomb or airplane attack, compared to 10% of the workforce overall.

"Owners of high-rise office buildings across the country are increasing security and re-evaluating their emergency evacuation plans," Hutchinson said. "Over time, these levels of high-rise anxiety should subside."

Despite their anxiety, only 6% of American workers say that they have been traveling less for their job as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Nationwide, nearly one out of every 10 workers (9%) say workplace stress is a major problem for them - making them prime candidates for outbursts of desk rage. And nearly two-thirds of American workers (61%) say workplace stress is a problem for them at least occasionally.

One of ten workers (10%) has called in sick because of workplace stress, and one of five American workers (20%) has quit a job in the past because of stress.

Cramped offices, too much caffeine

Real-estate issues may play a key role in America's stressful workplace, according to the study. "One of 8 American workers (12%) say that overcrowded physical conditions have contributed to their workplace stress," notes Integra's Hutchinson.

Indeed, 11% of all Americans say they now work in a cubicle "like the cartoon character Dilbert," with that figure rising to 15% for white collar workers and 24% for high-rise workers. Among other real estate-related issues, 13% say they have concerns about the safety of their workplace or its parking lot -- and 23% say it's time for their employer to redecorate.

Other causes of stress? Nearly one-third of American workers say unreasonable deadlines added to their stress (27%), with 29% blaming an excessive personal workload. Indeed, 52% of those surveyed say they've had to work more than 12 hours in a day to get their job done, and 50% of American workers say they commonly skip lunch to complete their workload.

The rudeness of co-workers or clients is cited by 32% as a major source of stress. Seven percent say too much caffeine has contributed to their stress, while 9% say excessive e-mail is a factor.

According to the survey, workplace stress has caused 30% of Americans to be unable to sleep; has driven 23% of Americans to consume excessive alcohol; has caused 17% to smoke in excess and has driven 23% to eat chocolate, with 36% of female workers eating chocolate to combat stress, as compared to 13% of male workers.

It hurts to work

At the end of the day, large numbers of American workers say they are a physical wreck, with 58% complaining of workplace-related back or neck pain; 40% complaining of stressed out eyes; and 34% complaining of hurting hands. And one of 12 Americans (8%) say the chair they sit in at work "hurts my butt."

Suggestions? Twenty-four percent say that being allowed to telecommute might ease their stress.

The random telephone survey of 1206 working adults in the continental U.S. has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%, and was conducted with the assistance of Opinion Research Corp. International of Princeton, N.J. The study was conducted Nov. 8 to Nov. 12, 2001.

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