December 11th, 2013
Dubbed the “health epidemic of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization, stress at work is increasingly being seen as a costly issue, thus stress management is becoming one of the most important challenges for employers across the globe. And employees, from all generations, are struggling due to stress. In the U.S. alone, 3 out of 4 workers describe their work as stressful!
A few of the key factors that cause stress for employees include: Firings, cost-cutting, business readjustments, working in an uncomfortable environment, unclear supervision, trouble with the boss, changes in financial status, altered responsibilities, variations in work hours, changed work conditions and office procedures, and transitioning to a different line of work.
However, work-family conflicts are increasingly common, especially with the growing issue of Baby Boomers being “caught in the middle” as The Sandwich Generation. They are now not only caring for their own Gen Y (aka: Millennial) children but also having to be caregivers for their elderly Veteran Generation parents…all while having to maintain a full-time job in the workforce!
The financial, emotional, and physical stress of this dilemma on the Boomers is staggering, and it’s going to continue to grow in severity. So employers are going to have to manage and support it…quickly.
Smart companies are addressing stress in the workplace because it makes good business sense; employee stress-related issues are costing employers around the globe a fortune. Here’s just a few fast facts (out of many on this topic) to illustrate this:
- According to a study in the UK, 20% of employees experience work-related distress on an average day, which amounts to 40% of sick days.
- On average, American businesses suffer annual losses worth $300 billion, with each employee contributing $2,000 to the losses, in lower productivity, absenteeism, staff turnover, medical insurance, workers compensation, among other stress-related expenses.
- 60% of lost workdays each year are attributed to stress.
- Only 29% of employees are able to operate at peak productivity levels due to stress.
Based on those stats, it is crucial for employers to take earnest steps to deal with the problem and help employees cope with occupational stress.
Organizations looking to compete in a volatile marketplace are proactively making efforts to address the issue seriously. Examples include:
- Analyzing the situation to find the root cause of the workforce stress and developing solutions to reduce the issue, such as: educating employees on work life balance, offering telecommuting opportunities, and providing flexible work weeks.
- Leveraging employee assistance programs, which may include individual counseling, interpersonal skill development, team building, and organizational consulting on change management.
- Encouraging employees to take responsibility for their health and motivating and supporting them to do so.
- Requiring staff to do self-assessments in order to find out how they are feeling and asking them to identify factors they think might be contributing to pressure or stress. By getting feedback from staff and responding with a customized plan for each person can be very effective.
- Taking steps to improve the company’s marketing approach to raise managers’ awareness of the employee benefit programs, such as: online wellness workshops, employee assistance programs, online seminars on issues of workplace stress, and mindfulness training.
- Communicating regularly with employees to reduce uncertainty in their minds about job security. An employer, and its Leadership and Management Team, should ensure that communication with employees is friendly, motivating, and supportive, giving an equal opportunity to the latter to make themselves heard. It is the employer’s responsibility to show employees that they are valued to the organization. Rewarding workers is a good way to recognize their performance and reinforces their sense of worth to the company.
- Reducing environmental stress, such as uplifting the workplace by improving air flow, natural lighting, reducing noise pollution, and providing quiet rooms for rejuvenation, can also help improve employee focus and attention, thus reducing their occupational stress.
By focusing on individual stress management and organizational change, businesses can produce more productive, healthier, happier, and motivated employees. But employers have to make it a priority and foster a corporate culture that truly embraces health and wellness in their workplace…not just “say” they do!