The High Cost of Stress
According to Psychology Today:
“Stress generally refers to two things: the psychological perception of pressure, on the one hand, and the body’s response to it, on the other, which involves multiple systems, from metabolism to muscles to memory. Through hormonal signaling, the perception of danger sets off an automatic response system, known as the fight-or-flight response, that prepares all animals to meet a challenge or flee from it.”
Stress response was meant to be a temporary reaction to a life-threating situation, but unfortunately, more and more employees are finding that the stress of everyday living combined with on-the-job stress is having an impact on their lives.
Owner-managers may not be able to control an employee’s personal life stress. However, they must be sensitive to stress points that trigger employees’ unhappiness, both within and outside the workplace environment and work towards assuaging the stress points.
Stress within the workplace is an expensive hidden cost to the employer:
- Absenteeism increases create higher payroll cost.
- Productivity is reduced when employees are absent.
- Illness, both physical and mental in nature, drive up the cost of health premiums.
- Employee turnover results in higher training cost and lost productivity.
- Costly litigation may result if employees challenge the dismissal.
- Individuals under stress may have reduced ability to make critical decisions, as their thought process
is clouded with personal issues that lead to errors.
- Interpersonal skills may deteriorate, as individuals under stress may not filter comments, thereby offending co-workers or clients.
- Other workers are negatively impacted thereby reducing effectiveness and creating job dissatisfaction.
Reducing Employee On-The-Job Stress
Identifying and counteracting on-the-job stress is not an easy task for the owner-manager. Perhaps the best approach is for the owner-manager to put themselves in the worker’s position to try to understand the stress points of the job. It is not suggested that management needs to become an “Undercover Boss” as depicted on the television series, but adopting the concept certainly would help management identify stress points within a job classification and better enable them to address the areas that require attention.
Consider these practices to help your employees reduce their stress on the job:
- Have an open-door policy with the assurance of confidentiality that allows employees to discuss workplace-related issues as well as personal issues that are causing anxiety. (Only 23% of Canadian workers had enough confidence to approach management and seek help with stress issues.)
- Address job-related problems and or employee concerns (bereavement, divorce, illness, moving home and financial) in a timely fashion. An individual’s stress is an overlay of personal and work-related problems and not understanding and working with the employee to address issues amplifies their stress level.
- Ensure that managers know how to reprimand and provide constructive criticism without humiliating or degrading employees.
- Never tolerate aggressive physical, emotional or vocal bullying tactics.
- Institute empathy and interpersonal skills training for all employees.
- Prepare employees for changes in the work environment or upcoming projects through dialogue. Management receives feedback and thus a means of judging the demands that will be placed upon employees, available employee skills, project hours and timeline required. This, in turn, will assist in normalizing the project into a manageable process and thereby reduce stress.
- Owner-managers want employees that work as hard for the company as they do. Ensure that employees do not take on more than they can handle. Encourage employees to take coffee breaks, lunch breaks, full vacation and statutory holidays to allow time to let go of workplace responsibilities.
- Provide training in time management that educates employees not only to manage their time but also to recognize that taking on multiple projects that cannot be completed within given time frames leads to poor job performance, anxiety and stress.
- Monitor employees and management to make more effective use of time. Spending time on non-essentials tasks when a major project is underway creates anxiety and stress. Focusing on what is important directs employees to what is the priority.
- Ensure that upper management and team leaders can vent their concerns by having regular meetings to discuss concerns about projects, employees or management issues. Second-in-command individuals are unable to discuss issues with employees and thus need a means to express frustration and anxiety that they may be feeling about the job.
- Reward employees by letting them know their work is valued and appreciated. Regular reviews, and not just for raises, are required to let employees know when they are doing well and when there is need to modify their approach, or to gain more experience, additional training or education.
- Involve employees’ spouses and children so they have an appreciation of job functions, environment, and co-workers and thereby have a better understanding of what goes on during the workday. Consider family days, bring your child to work days or company events to create a family environment.
Canadian statistics indicate that 500,000 Canadians miss work each week from stress-related issues. Forty-seven percent of individuals indicate that work is the most stressful part of their life.
Consider that work-related stress costs the Canadian workplace approximately $20 billion per year – isn’t it time that your business made every effort to reduce stress within the workplace and positively enhance the bottom line?