As a student and advocate for positive change, I’ve reviewed a great deal of research that points to the fallout and heavy toll that change can bring. The one word that most often gets blamed for the negative impact is stress. More specifically, work related stress. Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) has compiled an article that can attest to the widespread challenges that stress creates in the workplace. From their website they quote the CDC:
"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), work-related stress is the physical and emotional damage that occurs due to a mismatch between work requirements and the resources, needs, and capabilities of workers. Currently, 40% of American workers say that their jobs are very or extremely stressful. At the same time, 26% of employees say they are very often burned out, or stressed at the workplace. A further 29% of workers say that their jobs are a bit or extremely stressful, whereas 25% report that their jobs are the leading causes of stress. Meanwhile, 73% of workers say they experience stress related psychological symptoms regularly. Moreover, 77% of employees regularly encounter physical symptoms associated with stress. As a result, work-related stress has been the cause of fights between workers and people close to them. To avoid workplace stress, 60% of 26,000 workers surveyed in the US say that they would opt for a fresh career start. American employers have also been sucked into this storm spending $300 billion annually on employee healthcare and employee absence costs. It is important to note that all these costs are related to workplace stress."
It’s not just here in the United States where stress in the workplace is taking hold. Deloitte reports: “In some countries, individuals are working more hours and taking fewer vacations than ever. And, according to Deloitte’s millennial survey, a majority of surveyed millennials in 19 out of 30 countries report that they do not expect to be “happier” than their parents. When you consider that millennials represent the largest population cohort ever, it portends that workplace stress could reach global epidemic proportions.
Stress is Not Free
As the graphic below indicates, the cost is not only born by the individual but that loss of work time, health care costs etc. roll up to the balance sheet and is costing $150 billion per year in lost productivity.
“Every year, an estimated one million workers miss work due to stress. This translates to financial losses of $602 per employee per year for every missed workday. In addition, the healthcare costs of stressed employees tend to be higher than for non-stressed workers. Stressed staff who go to work fare badly on the productivity front leading to productivity losses totaling $10 billion annually. It is worth noting that absenteeism from work is responsible for 26% of health related productivity losses,” (EKU).
Restating the Wellness Formula
In an article published in March of this year on Deloitte Insights, six Deloitte experts tackled the issue of what’s next for wellness management and how companies are beginning to address the issues of not only employee health and safety but also social and emotional well being, while striving to improve performance. The authors point to examples where companies now are using new technologies and innovation created by the burgeoning $8 billion per year wellness industry. Programs and tools now include the following: “financial wellness, mental health, healthy diet and exercise, mindfulness, sleep, and stress management, as well as changes to culture and leadership behaviors to support these efforts. As the chart below illustrates, substantial gaps remain in many areas between what employees value and what companies offer to their employees.”
A Healthy Schedule
There are so many variables to consider that it may be a good idea to conduct one’s own survey and ask the team what they think they need. And the default answer might be more time off, but that’s not the whole story. In a survey of 403 people in the Journal of Happiness Studies and reported by author Eric Barker in his best selling book Barking up the Wrong Tree, he says: “What was fascinating was that increasing people’s free time had no effect on their happiness, but scheduling that time in advance made all of the difference.” In his book he also makes the great point that many of our calendars are filled with appointments that take away from the work we’re supposed to be doing. We’re routinely scheduling interruptions, all of which add to the stress build-up because finishing our work is extended and new work gets piled on top. There is no time to transition to signal a break in the action for our psyche to shut down and relax. So scheduling time to reflect, take a walk, and slow down somehow allows us to replenish and rejuvenate. And when we plan to take an extended break, the planning alone can make an immediate difference on our stress levels.
More to come on this subject on workplace well being. Your comments are welcome.