Stress: How much does it cost your company?

Posted by Mitzi Branvold | Friday, October 25, 2019

Stress: How much does it cost your company?

Posted by Mitzi Branvold | Friday, October 25, 2019

Snappy co-workers, endless to do lists, looming deadlines, absent employees, demanding bosses.

Stress can come from anywhere, but it’s increasing in the workplace and it’s taking a toll on workplace productivity and profitability. Smart managers are looking for ways to do something about it before tempers flare and the bottom line plummets.

The cost to companies

According to an American Institute of Stress compilation of statistics:

  • 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress
  • US businesses lose up to $300 billion per year as a result of workplace stress
  • Stress causes about one million workers to miss work every day

And if your company encourages employees to commit to self care such as regular exercise, healthy eating, quality sleep and personal relaxation, don’t think you’re done. Because if the major source of stress is the job, then this is essentially blaming the victim.

Encouraging stress relief is great, but you should also seek ways to reduce stress within your company.

In psychology terms, stress is defined as the belief that your resources for coping with a problem are not enough for what the situation demands. In the workplace, this means that stress is less about workloads and deadlines, and more about feeling a lack of control or feeling unsure that you’re able to do what’s expected.

How can companies decrease job stress?

Since reducing workplace stress is about helping employees feel in control and confident that they can complete their job, employers can help.

  • Offer flexibility – Give employees a choice whenever possible. Allow them to shift their work hours or break times. Let them choose items for their workspace such as a stand-up desk, working with earbuds and music, a variety of computer and keyboard options. Allow teams to choose community job tasks, pick their partner for an upcoming project, or ask for certain training topics. Anything that allows a sense of control will reduce stress.
  • Communicate clearly – Define goals, responsibilities and job tasks so that everyone knows where their focus should be and why. Make expectations clear, and ask employees if they believe they have everything they need to complete the task. Then, be sure to follow up with recognition for goals achieved and offer constructive feedback if expectations are not met. Specific feedback will be helpful, while feeling uncertain whether they are doing a good job will cause employees stress.
  • Set up a culture of support – Create an environment where employees feel comfortable talking about issues and seeking help when needed. Define a system for conflict resolution with human resources or an outside team so that employees who are having difficulty with a supervisor have a confidential way to discuss issues. Make a clear statement that intimidation, bullying and harassment will not be tolerated and should be reported.
  • Make employees feel valued – Recognize employees for their contributions and show appreciation for their work. Help employees feel they are part of a team and not a cog in the wheel. Benefits such as workplace fitness programs, discounted gym memberships, or employee counseling and resource services can help employees feel valued as well as combat stress.

Broad changes may be needed to create a supportive workplace and reduce stress. But what you gain in productivity by decreasing stress-related workplace problems, such as excessive absenteeism and high turnover, is well worth the effort. Given its impact to the bottom line, companies can’t afford to ignore the effects of stress at work.