Understanding stress in the workplace [Part 1]
The workplace looks a lot different today than it did only a few years ago. In many ways, it is much better – and healthier. Companies continue to adopt a more lenient and accommodating approach to corporate culture. The wave of tech start-ups has inspired a more lax dress code, workforce-related inequality issues are finally being addressed and the rapid proliferation of mobile devices makes telecommuting easier.
But there is still much room for improvement. According to The Society for Human Resource Management, 40 percent of workers indicated their jobs are either very or extremely stressful and 26 percent said they are regularly burnt out. A quarter cited work as their top stressor. Even more alarming, though, are the symptoms that the majority of workers experience as a result of workplace stress: 73 percent reported that they are plagued by physiological symptoms on a regular basis and a whopping 77 percent said the same for physical ones.
Physically, emotionally and financially exhausting
These statistics are incredibly important for human capital management professionals to take notice of. It is not just about the personal happiness and well-being of individuals, though that is certainly a priority. Having workers who are overly stressed can actually hurt the financial performance of organizations. Below are some of the jarring data points SHRM highlighted that help shed light on the severity of the situation:
- $300 billion: the annual amount of money employers spend on health-related costs that are a direct result of stress at work.
- $150 billion: the annual cost in productivity loss attributed to workers not performing at peak capacity.
- $1 million: the daily number of employees who miss work for stress-related reasons.
- $602: the amount companies have to pay per employee every year due to workplace stress.
It is clear that this an issue taking a toll on both organizations and the people that occupy them. But before it can be fixed, it must first be understood what the main factors driving workplace stress are. SHRM revealed that the leading cause of stress in the workplace is the amount of work (46%), followed by problems with other people (28%), maintaining a balance between personal and professional lives (20%) and concerns about job security (6%).
The power of perception
One important note to make is that stress is experienced personally and subjectively. As The American Institute of Stress pointed out, different things stress out different workers; what bores someone may overwhelm another. The organization also referenced one study that found, for many police offers, it is more stressful to have to fill out documents and paper work than it is to face dangerous and criminal activity on the job. The AIS went on to explain that, “[t]he severity of job stress depends on the magnitude of the demands that are being made and the individual’s sense of control or decision-making latitude he or she has in dealing with them.”
Simply acknowledging this can help employers and HCM professionals be more compassionate, understanding and realistic while attempting to address – and fix – stress in the workplace. But there are also a number of actionable steps that can be taken to significantly enhance the health and well-being of employees and reduce the risk of them suffering from burn out – which will be covered in the next blog post.