Friday, July 18, 2014

Workplace stress is a costly business

Have you ever just had the week from you know what? You know those weeks where nothing goes right at work, where everything goes wrong from the coffee spill on your white shirt on the way to work to the angry phone call to computers dying, workplace demands, and ... on the list goes. Those are the weeks we would rather take a trip to a sandy beach to watch the tide roll in -- and honestly, we would probably be doing ourselves and our employers a favor.

Stress in the workplace is hard to avoid. – but what exactly causes it? According to the American Institute of Stress the most common reasons for workplace stress include workload, people issues, juggling work and personal lives, and job security. Between deadlines, demands, managing/dealing with different personalities, ever-changing workplaces, and constant workplace interruptions, there is no escape from some form of workplace stress.

According to Forbes magazine, the average business professional has 30 to 100 projects on their plate at one time. Additionally, Forbes reported that 40 percent of adults in a recent survey say they lie awake at night plagued by the stressful events of the day.

Workplace stress is a problem that plagues businesses both big and small and has a costly impact on employees and employers. One of the most crucial areas of impact intertwined within every aspect of an employee’s performance is decision making.

“Decision making is critical in the work environment,” says Zakery Warren, assistant executive director and counselor with southeast Idaho’s largest mental health practice Pearl Health Clinic. “The right amount of stress keeps a person alert, challenged, and striving for growth and improvement for their company, product or team. When stress becomes a detriment, when it is too high, anxiety and uncertainty clouds a person's judgment, which clouds decision making and thus prevents the growth and improvement a person seeks.”

The mental impact that workplace stress can impact employees well beyond the workplace leading to depression, substance abuse, problems within the homes, suicide, and violence (both in and out of the workplace) to name a few.

Workplace stress takes a toll on your body too. It can lead to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, fatigue, and decreased immunity to common illnesses (e.g. cold, flu, etc).
On the business side workplace stress is costly. In fact, employers spend upwards o $200 billion for absenteeism, workers’ claims, turnover, and increased insurance rates – all related to stress related issues in the workplace. That doesn’t even touch the hidden costs of lower morale, productivity, efficiency, decrease in customer service.

Stress in the workplace is serious and isn’t solved by a desktop stress ball. Businesses and employees alike need to create and find solutions to eliminating workplace stress. Check out next week’s feature for tips on managing workplace stress from an HR and mental health perspective to help eliminate those workday worries and stressors.
Monica Bitrick is CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, a human resources company in Idaho Falls.