Published March 29, 2012
Nearly half of all workers suffer from moderate to severe stress while on the job, according to a recent survey. And 66 percent of employees report that they have difficulty focusing on tasks at work because of stress. Stress has been called the “health epidemic of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization and is estimated to cost American businesses up to $300 billion a year.
But there are ways to reduce its impact on human lives and companies' bottom line, even though stress is a daunting, pervasive problem, experts say. A recent survey of 2,500 employees by ComPsych, a provider of employee assistance programs (EAPs), underscores the dimensions of the problem.
In addition to reporting difficulties with focusing on tasks at work, employees also said that stress was responsible for errors and/or missed deadlines (21 percent), trouble getting along with co-workers/superiors (15.5 percent), missed days (14.9 percent) and lateness (14.4 percent).
Due in part to the prevalence of stress in today’s workplace, behavioral disability costs have increased more than 300 percent in the past decade and account for 30 percent of all disability claims. In addition, medical doctors suggest that stress is the causative factor of illness underlying more than 70 percent of all visits to the family doctor.
Though the Great Recession has officially been laid to rest — a major source of workplace stress itself—it is unlikely that the recovery will witness radical reductions in workplace stress, experts say.
High levels of unemployment and job uncertainty remain; organizations are focused on driving productivity with a smaller workforce, and structural changes in the overall economy continue to affect workers across the globe.
But employers do have tools they can leverage to address workplace stress, experts say. Employee assistance programs that include work-life services are proven to help reduce employee stress, decrease absenteeism and turnover, and improve productivity. In addition, research has shown that EAPs have been shown to directly impact disability claims.
"Unchecked stress can result in a number of productivity-sapping outcomes, from diminished work quality to absenteeism to co-worker clashes," said Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz, chairman and CEO of ComPsych.
"Organizations looking to compete in a volatile marketplace are proactively addressing stress — this can enhance employee well-being and therefore engagement. Leveraging the employee assistance program is an important step in dealing with workplace stress. A comprehensive EAP not only provides individual counseling, but organizational consulting on change management, team building and interpersonal skill development."
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