Stress at Work: The Implications & What You Can Do About It
Updated: Jul 31, 2019
Research in US, UK and in Australia are all reporting increasing levels of stress among employees and this is leading to a variety of problems including work dissatisfaction, loss of productivity and mental health issues including anxiety and depression.
Workscore recently surveyed over 12,500 Australian employees and 78% of respondents reported ‘frequently’ experiencing stress at work.
Why is this important?
We all need a certain amount of stress to be motivated and to perform at our best; however, if the level of stress in too high, if it lasts too long, and if it is frequent and relentless, employees are at risk of burning out and becoming unmotivated or overwhelmed. They are also at risk of developing more severe problems and disorders including anxiety disorders and depression. And that is what this research is showing.
Workscore found that people who experience stress everyday are 40% more anxious and 30% more depressed. A study conducted by the University of Melbourne and VicHealth found the same thing: ‘Job strain’ accounted for 17 per cent of depression in working women and 13 per cent in working men.
What does this mean for businesses?
In short, it means less productivity, more sick days, and higher staff turnover rates.
Depression alone accounts for six million full work days lost per year according to the Mental Health Council of Australia and job-related depression is costing Australia’s economy and estimated 730 million dollars a year.
These statistics are in line with studies' findings in the UK and the US.
More than 13 million working days are lost every year because of stress-related illnesses (UK)
And in the US, the cost of stress to businesses is as high as $300 billion (US, WHO)
What do you need to do about it?
First, Invest in employee well-being by integrating wellness programs within your company and identifying employee health and wellbeing as a value within the culture of your organisation.
Leaders have to have be genuinely invested in their employees wellbeing and have to lead by example. In other words, employers and the leaders in the organisation have to actually care, not just pay lip-service otherwise wellness initiatives won't work. One of the most robust findings in research in this area is that if employees perceive that the leaders in the organisation care about their well-being they have greater job satisfaction and are more engaged. But this plummets it they perceive their leaders as not really caring.
Engage in well-being programs that are led by professionals with expertise in mental health and who can deliver tailor-made programs that are relevant to your organisations' needs and culture. Most wellness programs cover the basics of well-being: nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress management--this is a good foundation but often you will need to go beyond the basics to achieve significant changes to your employees health and mental health as well as in their engagement and productivity.
Take regular breaks: “Taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity—and…skipping breaks can lead to stress and exhaustion.” Phyllis Korikki, New York Times
Have Healthy Boundaries between work life and home life: For instance, flexible hours should not mean you are on call 24/7
Look after yourself: Self-care and a healthy lifestyle will give you a solid foundation to build on. Ensure you have time for fun and social interaction. Set yourself small and sustainable goals that promote physical and mental health and well-being.
Promote and foster a positive working environment:
Have open lines of communication, listen more
Show respect among employees at all levels
Be Aware of your own short-comings
Be willing to develop and improve skills in areas that need attention
Be involved in workplace mental health and well-being programs.
Remember that the process of change is often complex and challenging but with a genuine interest in creating a work environment that enhances well-being rather than detracts from it, everyone stands to benefit.