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Workplace stress costs $500 billion annually - here are three ways to help employees

By: Joe Goolsby, Regional Sales Director, Midwest Region

There are plenty of ways employees can feel anxiety at work; tight deadlines, loads of work, budgeting constraints or just long hours. This, of course, doesn’t even take into account an employee’s personal life which can come with its own set of challenges. From work, to finances, to their personal lives, there is a lot that can cause stress for employees. And, as recently discussed in an article on BenefitsPRO, stress doesn’t take just an emotional toll, it also affects workplace performance and attendance. In fact, estimates have put the cost of stress to employers at $500 billion in lost productivity annually.1

A closer look at how stress impacts the workplace

The $500 billion number is staggering, but where does it come from? Stress can impact employees in a number of ways. The most obvious is when employees take time off due to the stress of their job and, with one in three employees indicating they do so, it’s a serious issue. For many, they’re not just taking a day or two for personal recuperation, 38 percent of people who took time off due to stress indicated they missed six days or more a month. Even more incredibly, 14 percent indicate that they stay away from work for more than 21 days.1

Employees who are stressed miss work, but even when they are present, they are often less productive and can negatively impact the workplace environment. The negative atmosphere can have a ripple effect on the whole team’s efficiency. On top of that, stressed employees are more likely to seek new employment, adding to the costs of stress through employee turnover. 

In many places, a tense environment is evident in the way employees talk and think about work. Two-thirds of employees say they work in an environment that is hostile, they don’t trust their coworkers to support them and that their managers would not be supporting if they were having trouble at work.1 In this kind of setting, it’s easy to see how there are problems with absenteeism, engagement and turnover.

How employers can help

Many workplaces could, and should, provide a better environment for employees. Here are a couple ways you can help curb workplace stress to create a more productive, happy atmosphere for employers and employees:
  • Financial protection – 72 percent of Americans feel stressed about money at least once a month.2 Offering a comprehensive benefits package that includes voluntary benefits can help protect employees from financial stresses and increase workplace satisfaction. It also opens the door for one-on-one communication during enrollment where employers can engage employees for buy-in and to emphasize the value of their compensation package.
  • Financial education – Voluntary benefits are a great start to help tackle this important issue. Employers can also take it a step further by providing financial education programs to help show employees the best way to manage their money and reduce financial stress.
  • Workplace wellness – Aside from the well-documented stress-reducing effects of exercise and improved diet, many wellness programs offer resources for managing stress. Not only will employees be healthier, which reduces healthcare costs for the employer, not being in a constant state of worry will boost their productivity and reduce absenteeism.
In today’s fast-paced world, it’s not surprising that stress is ever-present. The astronomical costs of stress to employers is proof enough of that fact. To combat this and create a win-win solution for themselves and their employees, employers can make use of tools that reduce financial anxiety, help improve employees’ health and boost workplace appreciation.

1 “Workplace stress costing employers $500 billion annually”. BenefitsPRO. October 20, 2017.
2 “American Psychological Survey Shows Money Stress Weinging on Americans’ Health Nationwide”. American Psychological Association. 2015.