Now more than ever, employees are being asked to do more with less – and it’s taking its toll. In 2013, a study by Harris Interactive found that 83 percent of Americans are stressed out at work, up from 73 percent in 2012. Couple that with raising a family, financial concerns and health issues, and you can understand why the Limeade Insights Team reported feeling less stressed as the #5 well-being goal.
Why Employers Should Care (and Help!)
It’s not surprising that prolonged stress affects employee engagement, morale and output. But the well-documented impact of stress on a company’s bottom line is multi-fold:
- Increased absenteeism: Over half of the 550 million working days lost each year in the U.S. are stress-related. Unanticipated absenteeism is also estimated to cost American companies $602 per worker per year – as much as $3.5 million a year for large employers.
- Increased health care costs: Medical expenses are 46 percent higher for employees who say they’re under uncontrolled stress. Research shows that high stress also leads to depression, substance abuse, fatigue, hypertension and high blood pressure.
- Increased turnover: Stress has caused 52 percent of Americans to quit a job, look for a new job or turn down a promotion.
- Decreased productivity: 55 percent of American workers admit to being less productive as a result of stress.
So what’s an employer to do, especially at a time when productivity needs to be high, but resources are low? Try these five strategies:
1. Allow – and encourage – flexible work arrangements.
Any employee will tell you that trying to “do it all” is a big contributor to their stress. So let employees work from home when they need to or allow them to flex their hours in a way that makes it easier to juggle their responsibilities and still get results.
2. Take walking meetings.
It can be tough to book a conference room, but the outdoors is always available. There’s nothing like fresh air, daylight and a burst of cardio to reduce stress and clear the mind. Plus you’re able to re-energize while accomplishing something – now that’s smart multi-tasking!
3. Use an Employee Assistance Program to increase work/life balance.
An EAP is more than just access to counseling services – many companies ask employees to call on the program for childcare needs, help with running errands or even researching colleges for their soon-to-graduate teens. Ernst & Young has seen great success implementing these services into their EAP; employees cited a 50 percent decrease in stress level after using the program, and 61 percent said they were more productive on the job.
4. Make time for fun and humor at work.
Studies show that having a good time at the office is not counterproductive – in fact, just the opposite. Not surprisingly, it boosts morale, increases productivity, builds trust and is a potent stress-buster.
5. Start a mentoring program.
Mentoring is a great way to foster collaboration – and also a great stress reliever. When people are encouraged to confide in and learn from someone on a similar path, it provides a safe place to air fears and frustrations. Most importantly, they’re coached on how to constructively resolve those issues, as well as learn new skills and techniques, rather than just venting to coworkers.