The COVID-19 pandemic reduced stress for managers

©Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke

In the 26th issue of the series Social Change in Switzerland, Hannah Klaas and her co-authors examine the evolution of stress levels in Switzerland between 2016 and 2021. They show that the perceived stress of the population has decreased significantly during the lockdown in spring 2020, but only for managers and people with a tertiary education. This study draws positive lessons from the pandemic and sustains a more flexible working life in order to promote a lower overall stress level.

Researchers at the FORS Center analysed almost 45,000 responses on subjective stress levels from the Swiss Household Panel. A quarter of the population reports feeling stressed often or very often, while 15% never feel stressed. The level of stress is higher among young adults than among people aged 36-64 and, above all, retired people have the lowest level of stress. In addition, women and people with tertiary education feel stressed more often than men and people with lower levels of education.

Between 2016 and 2019, the proportion of people who report feeling stressed has continuously increased. But the level of stress dropped in the first wave of the COVID in spring 2020. In particular, the arrival of the pandemic reduced the stress of managers and people with tertiary education, while the stress level of people with a low level of education did not change. This disparity can be explained by the increase in teleworking: during the pandemic, 71% of people with a tertiary education benefited from it, compared to only 26% of people with a compulsory education.

The authors show that during the first wave of the pandemic, the reconciliation of work and family also improved for people with a high level of education. Well-educated individuals saw their professional and private lives slow down and they gained flexibility through teleworking. However, this effect was temporary and the level of stress is increasing in 2021. In order to combat stress, the authors argue that the positive aspects of the pandemic - greater work flexibility and a better work-life balance - should be transferred to the post-pandemic period.

>> H. Klaas, U. Kuhn, J.-E. Refle, M. Voorpostel, V.-A. Ryser, N. Dasoki & R. Tillmann (2021). L’évolution du stress en Suisse – la première vague de la pandémie, une pause pour les personnes stressées. Social Change in Switzerland, N°26,

Contact: Hannah Klaas, Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences FORS,
+41 21 692 60


The series Social Change in Switzerland continuously documents the evolution of the social structure in Switzerland. It is published jointly by the Swiss Competence Centre for Social Sciences FORS, the Centre for Research on Life Courses and Inequalities (Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lausanne) LINES and LIVES - The Swiss Competence Centre for Research on Life Courses and Vulnerabilities. The aim is to trace changes in employment, family, income, mobility, voting or gender in Switzerland. Based on state-of-the-art empirical research, it is aimed at a wider audience than just specialists.