CoAdvantage- It’s well established that workplace stress leads to lower productivity.
That’s bad news because even before the COVID-19 pandemic, workplace stress was already on the rise, and COVID-19 has just worsened it even further. The MetLife 2020 Employee Benefit Trends survey found that two out of every three employees are experiencing greater stress now than before the pandemic.
Stress definitely affects employee experience. The Global Benefits Attitudes survey, for example, found that over half of workers claiming to experience high stress levels reported they were disengaged versus around 10% of those reporting low stress levels.
How does that translate into lost productivity? A recent Colonial Life study found that half of employees lose up to five work hours every week due to stress, with work-related stress driving 15% of employees to look for new jobs. In aggregate, Colonial Life estimates employers are losing billions of dollars due to worker stress and stress-related disengagement.
Such disengagement, in turn, leads to negative consequences like absenteeism (highly stressed employees missed 4.6 days due to illness versus 2.6 days for others) and presenteeism (working while unwell and unproductive; 16 days per year for highly stressed workers versus 10 days for others).
So, what can employers do to reduce workplace stress and regain some of that lost productivity?
1: Realize that crisis events, especially long-running ones, have psychological impacts that must be addressed and mitigated.
2: Take a risk management approach to workplace stress. That means identifying and assessing hazards that create or increase stress, implementing controls against those hazards, and monitoring overtime to ensure the controls are working.
3: Directly related to the above, identify ways in which work is unnecessarily creating stress. Some of it is obviously unavoidable, but there may also be work-related stressors that employers can control or adjust.
4: Encourage work-life balance, which is the leading cause of workplace stress right now. It is key for employees to be able to unplug from work to prevent stress and burnout.
5: Leverage Employee Assistance Programs. These are usually available from benefits providers. Generally speaking, EAP benefits make counseling and support services available to employees and can include dedicated wellness and stress reduction programs.
One note: the employer or manager should not play therapist or adjudicator. You don’t need to know the details of an employee’s personal troubles, and you might risk non-compliance with employment laws if you pry. When stress affects work, employers have every right to take action, but involving yourself directly in a personal matter is not one of them.
CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about CoAdvantage’s ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.