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The Role of Business in Reducing Work-Related Stress

01 Feb 2022

Every year millions of people suffer tremendously from work-related stress. While the individual suffering is immense, businesses lose out too. Luckily there are easy and impactful ways businesses can take to improve the world and help their bottom lines!

In a previous article we outlined how devastating stress can be on an individual level. It ruins health and relationships, leaving a lasting imprint on the person suffering it. 

However, while stress can be a tragic personal issue, the damage it does can have major repercussions on businesses and even societies. Therefore it shouldn’t be solely left to the individual to fend for himself. The big guys should pitch in!

This blog post will show why businesses should join this fight and how they can do that!

Why Should Businesses Care?

Stress is an abstract issue, so it can be difficult to grasp as a concept. It is rarely seen as a reason for employers to lower their demands and expectations. However, push the employees too much and it starts to hit the bottom lines.

What do I mean? Here are some sobering stats provided by The American Institute of Stress:

  • 83% of American workers suffer from work-related stress.
  • Younger cohorts experience more stress than their elders. 65% of 30-49 year olds and 64% of 15-29 year olds report being stressed out. For older cohorts the figure falls to around 40%.
  • US businesses lose up to $300 billion annually as a result of work-related stress.
  • Stress runs up healthcare costs to around $200 billion dollars each year and results in 120 000 deaths.
  • Each day one million men and women miss their jobs due to stress-related ailments in the US alone.
  • While more than a third of all employees feel like they will burn out in the next 12 months, only 40% of employers offer some kind of help.
  • 63% of employees are prepared to quit their jobs due to stress. About 46% of employees considered switching to the gig economy.

Work-Related Stress is a Major Concern

Businesses are losing hundreds of billions of dollars and masses of talented and productive workers to stress related ailments. Even worse – whole societies witness the most youthful, innovative, and productive in their midst being dragged down in the swamp of depression. 

Many businesses and governments are already suffering from the Great Resignation. While it can be good for the individual, it poses challenges to global economic recovery. Of those leaving, many opt for gig-economy jobs which by and large are not the most stable job positions.

The generational trends are also stark. Since an overwhelming majority of employees (76%) report that work-related stress affects their personal relationships, we see a downward spiral of failing marriages, depressed parents, and unhappy kids. 

The good thing is that this is not insurmountable! There are easy and fairly cheap ways that employers can take to encourage employee wellness and thus boost employee productivity and their businesses’ revenue sheets.

What Can Be Done to Ease Work-Related Stress?

1) Pinpoint the problem

Finding a silver bullet to deliver all employees from stress will be a tall order. To devise company scale solutions, appropriate data will be necessary. Surveys are a good way to measure people’s sentiments and the root causes of stress.

In this blog post I’ll primarily focus on what businesses can do to alleviate the problem, but governments should not be complacent. Public opinion surveys can help gauge the general sentiments and worries of people when it comes to work-related stress. Appropriate policies (whether in terms of pay, sick leave, vacations etc.) should be devised and implemented to create conditions for broader change.

Unfortunately governments are tediously slow, especially when it comes to major change. That’s why the private sector should take the initial lead. Internal, anonymized employee surveys will be a great way to narrow down the top causes of work-related stress for most employees.

According to The American Institute of Stress the most common stressors at work are: 

  • Strained employee-management relationships;
  • Workload and deadlines;
  • Pay.

2. Individual approach

Getting to the best solution requires an individual approach, especially in times when worker mobility is high. A team-lead, manager, or even a unit/department head should plan time for one-on-one meetings with each employee to discuss their views, feelings, and worries. HR should also be present. 

This conversation should include the survey results of that particular unit or team, as well as the individual goal assessment and performance measures of that particular employee. These are the main things that have to be considered: 

  • employee concerns (if there are any);
  • the tasks and demands placed on them;
  • their experience and skills;
  • the overall labor market conditions for that type of position.

3. Find a tailored solution

Depending on the insights gleaned from these meetings and the overall trends identified, both individual and company-wide solutions are possible. 

Individual, tailored made solutions are a good way to help those employees already on the brink of burning out or quitting. Showing care and initiative can make the difference. 

The potential solutions will differ, based on the particular circumstances. However, the last few years have shown that employers can be a lot more flexible than they used to think. So see if worker pay or benefits can be spruced up, requirements reexamined, and schedules adapted. 

The newer generations also have different expectations from work. Therefore if a certain position or task is not working out, retraining can be considered. Often the problem is not with the employer, but with employees’ desire to challenge themselves in a different way. Create an environment for them to share and implement their ideas. Creativity and innovation are the keys to success and shouldn’t be stifled!

4. Reevaluate company practices towards work-related stress

Helping the individual is fine, but constantly doing it will cost you a lot of time and resources. Preventing stress in the first place is the way to go. Here are a couple of general steps businesses can take to reduce work-related stress among their employees:

Clear communication

Ensure that communication between all levels of management and their subordinates is clear, timely, and constructive. Employees should be aware of business priorities, management expectations, and any changes that affect them and their duties. The more people are in the know, the less stressed they are.

Good mid-level management

When talking about leadership, I’m often reminded of the Daniel Dafoe quote “It is better to have a lion at the head of an army of sheep, than a sheep at the head of an army of lions.” Businesses should foster good leaders, especially at mid-level positions to ensure that their teams are happy and productive. Trust me – there are few things worse for your mental health than a bad boss.

Encourage workplace wellness

Healthy living is at the core of our wellbeing. Businesses can help their employees relieve stress by offering exercise options during breaks, subsidized gym membership, and free healthy snacks like fruits, veggies, yogurt, nuts, berries etc. The latter is particularly appreciated by employees.

Retain the flexible working arrangement

Workers love the freedom they have gained over the last few years. Most have established a system that allows both for work and play. Forcing them back in office will be counterproductive and anxiety boosting, because it will disrupt the daily routines of the last few years. If the job is done right and in time, there is no need to turn back the clock.

Encourage social activity

We are social creatures. To feel well in our workplaces we need to hang out with our colleagues. Regular conversations and occasional team building events will go a long way in fostering a friendlier, more compassionate work environment in which everyone feels free to express their opinions, feelings, and expectations. To implement this easier, create a particular chill-out space where the aforementioned snacks, coffee, tea etc. are available. Preferably have this place at a central location where more than one team or department can hang out. That way the change will permeate the entire organization.

Author: Lote Steina

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Life doesen't have a do-over.
Commit to it! BePrime!
Life doesen't have a do-over.
Commit to it! BePrime!