The to-do list is getting longer and longer, you can already play Jenga with the tasks to be completed on your desk and nobody far and wide who can relieve you of at least part of the workload? In the long run, a lack of staff not only drains you, it can also make you ill. A current DAK health report shows how serious the problem of staff shortages is for the health of those affected.
What does chronic working beyond the stress limit do to those affected? A current stress study by Techniker Krankenkasse came to the conclusion that for almost two out of three people in Germany, stress is nothing unknown. They experience it at least occasionally, more than one in four even frequently. Respondents named professional life as the number one stress factor, above all too much work.
Too much work for too few people is not a rare phenomenon, as the results of the new DAK health report confirm. The data of 2.4 million employed DAK insured persons was analyzed and 7,000 employed women and men were interviewed. According to the health insurance company, almost half of those surveyed (45 percent) reported that they were regularly affected by staff shortages. In many areas the situation is even more precarious. According to this, three quarters of the nurses stated that they could only do their job with the existing staff with great effort, 65 percent of the geriatric nurses confirmed this.
The more life time is spent on work, the less is left for private life, for family, hobbies, sport. The work-life balance is out of whack. Working at or even beyond the stress limit plus a lack of recovery in the long term is poison for your health. The body is on alert. If it is constant, it can lead to mental and physical illnesses. Stress is not an exceptional phenomenon, for many it is the rule.
In 2022, the Federal Statistical Office wanted to know more precisely why people are most likely to feel exhausted at work. More than half of those surveyed at the time named increased pressure to perform as the main reason, followed by time pressure and too much work. Results that the DAK report now underpins. The respondents also reported strong deadline and performance pressure. As a result, many do not even allow themselves to take breaks and continue to work even after they have long since finished work.
The result: every second person affected complained of being tired and exhausted frequently or very frequently. About one in three suffers from sleep disorders, and about one in four reports pain such as headaches. The bottom line is that the overload in occupational groups with the largest gaps in skilled workers leads to an increase in sick leave of up to 1.5 percentage points compared to the average for the occupation and is above average at up to seven percent. Respiratory diseases, musculoskeletal disorders and mental illnesses were the three most common reasons for absenteeism from work.
And this despite the fact that the tendency to presenteeism is particularly pronounced among those who experience extreme staff shortages. For example, 70 percent of employees in sectors with regular staff shortages have worked in the past twelve months even when they were sick. For comparison: in areas without staff shortages it was 41 percent.
If there is a high level of sick leave in addition to the existing staff shortage, the situation worsens. "One can speak of a vicious circle. A high level of absenteeism and staff shortages are mutually dependent and the effects are amplified," says Professor Volker Nürnberg, who accompanied the creation of the DAK health report. According to the report, the highest level of sick leave was in 2022 employed in geriatric care (7 percent). The figure was 6.8 percent for those employed in vehicle driving, childcare and mechanical engineering, and 6.1 percent in nursing.
The stressful work situation means that almost every fifth respondent is thinking about reducing working hours. About one in six has already done so. A striking number of employees in the fields of nursing, elderly care and childcare have already reduced hours or are considering it. With that, the cat bites its own tail. Because if there is a reduction where there is hardly anything left to reduce, the shortage of personnel increases - and with it the pressure in these professional fields continues to grow.
Source: DAK health report, Techniker Krankenkasse, Statista