Employers Need to Ensure Workplace Stress Reduction

Article excerpt

Stress happens. And when it does, evidence shows, it influences your physical and mental health.

Stress has been implicated in eating disorders, depression, substance abuse, insomnia, heart disease, accident proneness, cancer, decreased immunity, chronic headaches, colds, diabetes, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue. In fact, estimates are that as much as 90 percent of all visits to the doctor have stress- related origins.

If you're an employer, this is important information. Why? In our fast-changing, highly competitive market, stress is often keenly felt in the workplace. Certainly, there are reasons employees might be anxious: restructuring, downsizing, mergers, short deadlines, overwhelming workloads, not enough control over their jobs, new technology and the need to learn new skills.

Change in organizational structure or direction -- always stressful -- leaves a certain percentage of employees anxious and fearful. And if stress about current goings-on isn't enough to cause problems for your employees, there's always the worrisome future. The plain fact is, a lot of people are working scared and tired, and because of that, perhaps are not working as well as they might.

Clearly, stress is felt by many people in the workplace -- and just as clearly, it is affecting the health of our workforce.

A 1992 study by Northwestern National Life Insurance Co. on stress in the workplace says that workers who report high stress are three times more likely than workers reporting low stress to suffer from frequent illness. That probably has something to do with the findings of another insurance company study that an average of 1 million workers are absent on any given day, largely due to stress disorders.

The Northwestern study breaks it down even further. Their survey found that seven in 10 American workers say that job stress is causing frequent health problems and has made them less productive. Among these same employees, 46 percent reported that their job was very stressful, and 34 percent thought about quitting their jobs because of workplace stress. Another 14 percent didn't just think about quitting because of stress; they actually did.

For any good employer, it's disturbing to realize the effects of stress on employees in the workplace. …