The economy may be recovering, but that's not keeping workers across the nation from feeling stressed on the job.

Flickr User Jerrybunkers

In fact, a survey by Harris Interactive for Everest College finds that 83 percent of American workers are stressed out by at least one thing at work.

"It doesn't matter how productive a company is or how much money a CEO is making, you're not going to get a raise. The only way you get a raise is to keep you from quitting and if jobs are scarce, no one wants to quit," said Louis Maltby, President of the National Workrights Institute. "So, they can pay you chump change and get away with it."

So, what were the biggest stress factors for workers? Low pay and unreasonable workload tied for the number one spot with 14 percent each. That was followed by annoying co-workers with 11 percent, working outside of a chosen career, poor work-life balance, lack of opportunity for advancement and fear of being fired or laid off.

"Wages have not kept up with inflation. Every year, unless you're a neurosurgeon or a trial lawyer, employees are taking a pay cut. Over the years, the squeeze is terrible. We're the first generation in history that is living less well than our parents," said Maltby. "It's not because we're not productive. The money's there. The average employee just isn't getting it."

Employers also don't staff like they used to.

"If the employer has 100 employees and 12 quit, instead of hiring 12 more, they tell the remaining 88 to suck it up and work harder until the point where people start snapping," said Maltby.

There are ways to protect yourself:

  • Don't assume your company abides by the law. Check to make sure your rights are being protected particularly when it comes to overtime. Federal law requires overtime for most jobs unless they fall in specific categories.
  • Whether you are an employee or an independent contractor is not up to your boss. So, if you're working full time for a company and they're calling you an independent contractor, there's a chance they are breaking the law.
  • Be more scrupulous about where you shop. Don't shop at stores that treat employees poorly.

"If we all were a bit more careful about where we spend our money, workers would be better off," said Maltby.