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3 steps for confronting the problem of workplace stress

stress3Many companies work tirelessly to ensure corporate health and wellness, but there’s a common problem that often stands in their way: stress. If workers are feeling overworked, emotionally distraught or unable to tackle their agendas for any other reason, it can be tremendously draining for an organization.

Sadly, this is a common problem. According to HR Professionals Magazine, it’s an expensive one for companies everywhere. In the United States, the total expense that companies incur because of worker stress totals an estimated $300 billion per year. This financial burden stems from several specific causes – health care expenditures are greater, productivity dips when employees take time off and, in extreme cases, stress can lead to diseases that seriously impede workers long-term.

There’s also the matter of employee retention. HR Professionals notes that, according to Bureau of National Affairs data, 40 percent of job turnover is caused by stress. This also leads to significant expense, as every time an employee quits, it costs money to recruit, hire and train a replacement. Rather than deal with that burden, companies could instead focus on preventing stress in the first place and avoiding these costs.

According to US News and World Report, stress can have serious consequences, both physically and emotionally. Bob Rosen, CEO of consulting firm Healthy Companies International, cautioned that companies need to avoid letting workplace stress get to them.

“Stress is a condition we experience when our minds and bodies respond to changing conditions,” Rosen told the news source. “Too much stress creates excessive fear and anxiety, conflict and defensiveness, feelings of overwhelm and burnout, and chronic inflammation in the body.”

Effecting positive change isn’t easy, but it can be done.

Recognizing the problem
In order to get a handle on the stress problem, employers first need to recognize that it exists. This means looking out for warning signs. Symptoms of a stressed workforce may vary, but common ones over the years have included moodiness, irregular sleep schedules, upset stomachs, headaches and disturbed relationships with family and friends. If HR leaders recognize these problems with their employees, it may be time to step in.

Managing stress levels
If these symptoms start to become alarmingly common among the workforce, it would behoove companies to do something about it. One significant step is to implement a stress management program. Companies should teach their workers about the nature of stress – what it is, how to recognize it, what to do about it. The first step toward overcoming stress is awareness, and the second is managing the problem in the short term.

Bringing about real change
The most effective fix is a long-term one. For companies that really care about ending work stress, large-scale organizational change is the true answer. Companies can hire more employees, therefore reducing the workload on each individual team member. They can identify stressful elements of each day and eliminate them. To overcome the stress problem once and for all, companies must be willing to take big steps.

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