The statistics are concerning. One in three people reports being chronically stressed on the job, leading to as many as one million employees being absent every day of the year. Beyond this, chronic stress is driving up costs related to lower productivity, increased healthcare costs and dramatically higher turnover rates. In 2015 alone, the average employer saw one out of every six employees voluntarily leave their position before the year was over.
It’s a disturbing trend: Americans seem to be getting less healthy with every passing year. According to the Economist, health premiums in America have more than doubled in the past decade. The proportion of adults who are clinically obese more than doubled between 1980 and 2010, to over 30%. This year, healthcare spending hit historically high levels as a share of GDP, and according to government projections, annual health spending is expected to grow an average of 5.8% during the period of 2014 through 2024.
Is stress really an “epidemic”? Sadly, yes, according to the United Nations International Labor Organization, which recently declared that occupational stress has reached “epidemic” levels with costs estimated at upwards of $200 billion per year. If your business is affected by this “epidemic” like most others out there, then the majority of your employees are suffering from high levels of stress. Not only is this stress probably making them less happy than they could be, it’s costing your company money. Lots of it.
How do highly stressed employees cost businesses money? To name just a few things...
Stress-related health issues at work are too serious—too deadly—to ignore. When we look at the diseases most likely to harm or even kill us (like cancer, heart disease, or diabetes) we find that they are overwhelmingly made worse or even caused by high levels of stress. With the growing body of research showing the harmful effects of stress, HR leaders have been trying many approaches to help their workers.
The bad news? Many of the corporate wellness programs out there don’t directly address stress. Some that do address it don’t really take into account the most effective, proven techniques for managing stress.
The good news is that there are evidence-based approaches to stress reduction that have already been found to work in the field of public health. These techniques can be brought to the corporate workplace world, and be used to help ease the pain of over-stressed employees. That’s where conscientious HR leaders have an opportunity to add incredible value.
Most conscientious HR leaders today understand the importance of wellness programs for employee stress management. Reducing workplace stress contributes to long-term employee happiness, worker retention and productivity, leading to a new trend in more comprehensive mind and body wellness initiatives.
The problem that many HR pros face? Convincing upper management that programs especially focused on stress management are not just “nice to haves” but rather, essential tools to improve both employee health and the health of the business. Stress leads to higher healthcare costs for businesses, lower productivity among employees, and lower employee morale, leading to lower retention and associated hiring costs. In short: Stress in the workplace is a big deal, and it’s worthwhile for the C-suite to take notice.