The Causes and Costs of Workplace Stress, and What You Can Do About Them

The Causes and Costs of Workplace Stress

Work-related stress is rising, according to the American Institute of Stress, but that doesn’t mean your organization has to be a victim to it. There are ways to lower your employees’ stress levels—and strengthen your employment brand in the process.

Before we explore your stress-busting options, let’s consider some recent data on workplace stress, courtesy of Korn Ferry’s 2018 survey of 2,000 professionals:

  • 65% said their stress levels at work are higher than they were five years ago; 26% characterized their stress as “much higher.”
  • 76% said stress at work negatively impacted their personal relationships.
  • 16% actually quit a job due to stress.

What’s Causing All This Stress?
Asked about their biggest on-the-job stressors, 35% of the Korn Ferry respondents cited their boss, 20% cited a long commute, 19% cited a low salary, 14% cited their coworkers, and 12% cited too much work.

Obviously, not all of an employee’s stress is work related. Asked about stress at home, 55% of respondents said their job productivity is impacted to “some extent” by home-based stress, while 15% said their job productivity is impacted to a “great extent.”

Other potential stressors that erode employees’ performance include financial worries, family issues, health concerns, keeping pace with changes in technology, the pressure to learn new skills and interpersonal conflicts.

What’s Stress Costing You?
Failing to address workplace stress can lead to a variety of negative consequences—not only for your employees and their physical and emotional wellbeing but also for your organization’s bottom line.

Workplace stress contributes to higher rates of absenteeism, according to a 2017 survey of thousands of U.S. workers across all industries conducted by Mental Health America. Thirty-three percent of respondents said they always, often, or sometimes miss work because of stress; 38% of these individuals missed six days a month or more; 35% missed three to five days a month; and an alarming 14% missed more than 21 days.

Beyond absenteeism, a recent Forbes article highlighted what it called “the two primary costs of stress” that often escape employers’ notice: productivity costs and financial costs.

  1. Productivity costs—The article cites a study of 18 U.S. industries, which found that working long hours increases stress levels and lowers average output per hour worked. It also revealed that productivity declines much sooner than expected. “Once workers clocked … more than 48 hours, output started to fall,” the study stated.
  2. Financial costs—The Forbes article also noted that the financial cost of unhealthy workplace environments, including those with high levels of stress, account for about $180 billion in additional healthcare expenditures, which is about 8% of total healthcare spending. These additional expenditures relate to an increased risk of stressed employees developing heart disease, diabetes, cancers and other chronic, costly diseases.

And the costs of workplace stress don’t end there. A special report from the Korn Ferry Institute suggests that stress depresses motivation, which in turn curtails innovation.

So What Can You Do

So What Can You Do?
One of the best ways to combat stress at your organization is to give employees the tools they need to help themselves. High-quality work-life and employee assistance programs are an easy and effective way to deliver these tools.

LifeCare’s integrated work-life and EAP services, for example, provide telephonic and in-person counseling to address the specific work-related, family-related and personal issues that are creating stress and eroding their performance and productivity. Employees have 24/7 access to a nationwide network of providers along with bachelor and master-level specialists who are trained to assist them with child and elder care challenges, substance abuse, financial and legal issues, health concerns and other pervasive causes of stress. We even help companies overcome catastrophic workplace incidents and assist managers in addressing organizational issues that give rise to stress.

You can also take ongoing measures to identify the causes and impacts of stress in your workplace:

  • Conduct employee surveys to evaluate how stress is affecting your workers and to what degree … whether particular teams, departments or functional areas are experiencing more stress than others … and what specific stressors your people are facing.
  • Monitor absenteeism, presenteeism, stress-related illnesses and turnover. As noted above, these are some of the key outcomes of high-stress environments. Tracking these items can help you determine when fluctuations in employee stress occur, why and what specifically you can do to offset them.
  • Conduct exit interviews asking departing employees about job-related stress. They can offer useful insights into causes of stress and what could have been done better to help them.

As employees’ stress levels continue to rise, companies that act now to create less stressful workplaces will surely have an advantage in attracting and retaining talent.

April is National Stress Awareness Month, which makes this the perfect time to give your organization’s stress levels a closer look. Let us know if we can help by contacting us here or call us at 866-675-3751.