Empty Seat Syndrome

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The Cost of Stress in Your Organisation & What To Do About It 

Notwithstanding the recent global pandemic, Stress has been dubbed “the health crisis of the twenty-first century” by the World Health Organisation. The emphasis on this is even greater, because of the pandemic, for all the reasons we can imagine and some we cannot. 

There are several global economic, environmental, and safety problems, as well as daily financial, job, career, relationship, and health concerns. Add in today’s “always on” culture, which increasingly mixes work and leisure time, and you have the makings of a stress epidemic affecting people from all walks of life.

At the very least, the bulk of us are subjected to chronic, low-level stress, with occasional bursts of high-level stress.

Constant stress can eventually cause issues with your mental, emotional, and physical health.

Stress Takes a toll in the workplace

This level and frequency of high stress levels, otherwise known as chronic stress, is a driver of many debilitating diseases.

However, workplace stress isn’t all negative. It has the potential to assist us in completing tasks. In truth, a certain level of stress is required for effective performance. However, too much stress has a negative impact. Chronic stress makes people loss focus, become unproductive, unable to control emotions, and ultimately ill, in the same way that one cup of coffee can make you productive and focused, but five or six cups can spin you out of control.

The biggest hurdle to behaviour change occurs when the equilibrium shifts from just enough stress to too much stress. This creates a significant lose-lose situation: the more stressed your employees are, the less likely they are to make lifestyle changes and participate in the very health initiatives that you want them to.

Working days lost in Great Britain

The Health and Safety Executive reports that in 2019/2020  an average of 20.0 days were lost as a result of ill health cases and  21.6 days for Stress, depression or anxiety, equivalent to unit cost of £19,000 per case.

Mental ill health remains the most common cause of long-term worker absence, with 59% of UK organisations placing it in their top 3 causes.

Unhealthy Behaviour Is Caused by Stress

Many of the poor lifestyle decisions people make on a daily basis are caused by stress. Stress also prevents people from making the healthy lifestyle choices that wellness programmes are intended to encourage. When your employees are unable to make the advised changes, it adds to their stress and forces them to cope in harmful ways.

It’s extremely tough to break bad habits, and it’s even more difficult when employees are anxious and stressed. Despite this, businesses are increasingly investing in wellness programmes based on the needs of their employees.

In 2019/20, stress, depression or anxiety were responsible for 51% of all work-related ill health and 55% of all working days lost due to health issues in Great Britain

Every week stress affects over 75% of the British adult population who report that they suffer at a level that inhibits their ability to cope.

This means that one-half of your employees are stressed and doesn’t know how to properly deal with it at any given time.

Starting a weight-loss, exercise, or sleep and relaxation programme without first treating underlying stress is akin to taking a road trip without gas in the tank: you’ll never get there. Even the best-intentioned employees are prone to failing to make long-term behavioural adjustments. It’s like sending them out to run a marathon without any preparation; in today’s high-pressure health-conscious culture, endurance training is essential.

People who are under chronic stress are more likely to smoke, drink, take drugs, or overeat in order to cope. These actions set off a hormonal chain reaction that helps to prevent sadness, but they also cause a slew of medical problems.

Many companies are aware of the convincing research that suggests that 75% of healthcare costs can be avoided by making lifestyle modifications. With the cost of healthcare continuing to rise dramatically, it’s more important than ever to make the link between encouraging employees to practise positive self-care and the benefits of fewer doctor visits and hospitalisations, fewer sick days and mental health absences, and less frazzled and harried employees.

Many companies are unaware that perceived stress is by far the most significant hindrance to employee performance, happiness, and productivity. When people report feeling overwhelmed and out of control as a result of work/life conflict, job and home stress, and persistent concern, their job performance suffers, and absenteeism, presenteeism, and stress-related physical and psychological diseases rise, resulting in higher healthcare expenditures and less turnover and profits.

It hasn’t been easy to get to the bottom of these problems. In truth, only 11% of companies offer stress management or resilience training to their workers.

Long hours, insufficient personnel, fears of benefit loss, concerns about health, family, and money are all examples of complicated anxiety and stress-inducing challenges.

The traditional stress relievers do not work; they are outmoded and have been shown to be ineffective for persons who are stressed. We live in the twenty-first century, where being connected and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week is expected. Despite this, most “solutions” to stress management have been around for decades.

Patients who are prescribed lifestyle change therapies by their doctors say they can’t keep with it. Willpower, confidence, time, and stress are all cited as causes for this failure!

Employee well-being, engagement, productivity, and revenues are all linked in the minds of forward-thinking businesses. They’re also recognising that addressing stress, which is at the root of a lot of bad behaviour, leads to more productive and happy employees, as well as more effective wellness programmes.

The results of the survey demonstrate a strong correlation between high-performing health and productivity strategies and good human capital and financial outcomes.

Despite the difficulties of creating and implementing an employee wellness strategy, more companies are doing it. Despite the significant hurdles of behaviour change, there is a wealth of research on what makes programmes work.

Three Pillars of a Performance, Productivity and Profitability Programme

1 | Senior managers must be on board and willing to mingle and participate.

The greater the importance of health and well-being is engrained in an organisation’s culture, the more likely initiatives will work. To develop widespread faith in the program’s intentions, it’s vital to link employee well-being to the company’s financial goals.

2 | Programmes that are comprehensive, integrated, and diversified are more successful than programmes that focus on one particular issue.

Employees who participate in smoking cessation or weight loss programmes may see some initial progress, but willpower alone will not be enough to modify established and regular lifestyle choices.

3 | Employee needs must be addressed in the programme.

Stress is well-known as a significant source of unhealthy behaviour, which contributes to the failure of many wellness programmes. Even if they succeed in modifying behaviour initially, if the underlying stress is not addressed, the effects on employee well-being will be short-lived.

The Bottom Line

Organisations are losing a lot of money because of stress.

The New Economics Foundation examined hospital admission data from 2016/17 and discovered that stress or anxiety was the primary reason for hospitalisation in 17,500 cases. This resulted in 165,800 days of bed occupancy owing to stress or anxiety, at a cost of £71 million to the taxpayer. There were a whopping 203,700 cases when stress or anxiety was a secondary factor.

In 2016/17, 526,000 workers were affected by work-related stress, depression, or anxiety, resulting in 12.5 million lost working days. This results in £33.4 – £43.0 billion in lost productivity for employers and the self-employed each year, as well as £10.8 – £14.4 billion in missed tax/national insurance revenue for the government. Workload is the leading cause of job stress in 44 percent of instances. 

Insecurity is another major source of working stress. Those who have a tenuous relationship with the labour market, such as shift workers and those on zero-hour contracts, are more likely to suffer from mental illness. Apparently having a terrible job is even worse for your health than being unemployed.

In the labour market, the influence of mental health on workers is not uniformly distributed. Women’s stated levels of working stress have been roughly a third greater than men’s during the last three years. Overworked public sector employees (particularly those in the NHS) are more prone to experience negative consequences. Employees who are stressed are more tired, make more mistakes, and are more likely to be absent than those who are not.

There are numerous chances for businesses to help their employees better manage their stress and personal well-being, but organisations must also address a cultural issue. They must reassure employees that discussing stress is not a sign of weakness, and they must assist them in resolving it. One important approach is to help employees better understand how to manage their own wellbeing and to provide workshops, webinars and coaching as needed.

One thing is certain: assisting employees in becoming healthier is a wise business decision. To thrive, you must confront the epidemic of stress, whether you’re trying to manage the high expenses of health care or the problems of raising staff engagement and productivity.

For additional information and to learn how Ches can help you lower the level of stress in your organisation, reach out to ches@thestressmaster.com

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