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Refreshing Insights

The relationship between workplace stress and the mental and physical health and well-being of employees is well documented, as is the inverse—the mental and physical health of employees directly contributes to stress (and reduced performance) in the workplace.

And perhaps at no time in our history has this truth been more evident than February 2020 to now—during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can’t consume media on any platform without seeing articles about employee stress levels, burnout and the personal and business ramifications of both.

You also can’t ignore the staggering financial impact of workplace stress, accounting for a total of $46 billion in annual excess health-care costs. Not to mention the costs related to declining performance, absenteeism and paid time off.

Nearly 83 percent of employees report feeling emotionally exhausted from their work, according to data published in the Mind the Workplace 2021 Survey conducted by Mental Health America (MHA). And 59 percent say they don’t receive support from their employer to help them manage their stress.

So, we know that employee stress is a big problem for companies—especially now. But what can you do about it? How can you make sure employees are receiving the support they need to reduce stress and avoid exhaustion and burnout?

Identify Workplace Stressors

Unsurprising to HR professionals, the MHA survey confirms that workplace benefits are factors that influence working conditions and are predictors of workplace stress levels.

But did you know that “talking to a supervisor to change stressful things about work” was most strongly correlated with the best overall workplace health scores in the survey?

So, before you launch a stress “management” program as part of your benefits package, it might pay to initiate a stress “identification” program to see if there are workplace stressors that can be reduced by changing the work environment or how the work is done.

Five Considerations for Finding the Causes of Stress

1. Recognize stressors are not the same for every department in your company. Uncovering the scope and causes of stress will vary based on the size of your organization and the different functions employees perform. In some departments, the cause might be increased workloads because of understaffing, in another department it could be an increase in product demand and the struggle to meet deadlines. Other departments might struggle with coworker conflicts or a toxic atmosphere. Investigate each area as its own entity as well as a piece of the whole.

2. Go directly to the source. Organize group discussions with managers, safety committee members, labor representatives and employees to help identify the root causes of stress. Capture data including employee perceptions of job conditions and levels of stress, mental and physical health conditions and job satisfaction.

3. Examine objective metrics. The qualitative data you get from discussions and surveys is important, but it is a matter of perception. To get a more complete picture of how stress might be impacting departments, look at data related to absenteeism, illness, turnover rates and performance problems, then factor it into your evaluation.

4. Consider leaders separately. In a 2020 study by ZenBusiness, nearly one in four managers says it’s extremely stressful to be a manager and the more subordinates a manager has, the more stressful it is. Managers identified the most stressful aspects of their job as maintaining work-life balance (45 percent), time management (44 percent) and managing an increased workload (37 percent).

It will be important to give managers additional resources and tools so they can address their own stress and help employees. Plus, when leaders set the example and demonstrate a healthy work/life balance (and encourage others to do so), employees are more likely to feel like they have “permission” to reduce some stress triggers. If leadership continually burns the midnight oil, however, others will feel pressured to do likewise.

5. Remain Curious. As you identify stressors and take steps to reduce and manage them, conduct short- and long-term evaluations. Solutions will often show initial progress leading toward lower stress levels, but they may not persist over time. Take the information you gather and seek to continually improve your work environment to enhance employee job satisfaction.

McCloneHR Can Help!

Looking for an objective evaluation of your workplace stressors? Our complimentary Employee Engagement Assessment offers specific business recommendations based on evaluation of current benefits, internal communication and employee relations. Contact us to learn more.

And checkout our Guide to Building a Positive Workplace Culture. A strong company culture and high employee engagement are linked to overall job satisfaction and lower stress levels among employees.


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A collection of articles from the McClone team with the helpful knowledge and insights to ensure your organization is well protected.