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August 16, 2010
Top 10 Strategies for Combating Employee Stress
Workplace stress is a bigger problem than it used to be, and employers have good reason to be more concerned about it than in the past, says Barry Hall, principal at Buck Consultants.

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Eighty-two percent of participants in a recent survey reported that their organization’s healthcare costs are significantly or moderately impacted by worker stress. In addition, respondents said they have seen a significant or moderate impact on absenteeism (79%) and on workplace safety (77%), according to the survey by Buck Consultants (www.buckconsultants.com), a Xerox Company.

Proactive Approach
Worker stress levels have increased within the past few years as a result of economy-related factors, such as layoffs, greater workloads, the need for some employees to work second jobs to make ends meet, and lower household incomes due to family members’ lost wages, Hall explains.

In response, many employers are taking steps to help their employees manage stress. In fact, Buck Consultants found that 66% of participants in its “Stress in the Workplace” survey have implemented four or more programs aimed at reducing stress, and 22% have at least eight programs in place.

According to the survey, the top 10 strategies being used by employers to address stress are:

  1. An employee assistance program (78%)
  2. Flexible work schedules (63%)
  3. Work/life balance support programs (46%)
  4. Leadership training on worker stress (45%)
  5. Online healthy lifestyle programs (45%)
  6. Onsite fitness centers (43%)
  7. Physical activity programs (38%)
  8. Stress awareness campaigns (35%)
  9. Financial management classes (30%)
  10. Personal health/lifestyle management coaching (29%)

Although offering an onsite fitness center requires a substantial investment, Hall notes that other strategies are not necessarily expensive, such as incorporating more flexibility into work scheduling and promoting underutilized employee assistance programs that the company is already paying for.

Significant ROI
Implementing stress management programs makes good business sense because the return on investment (ROI) is high. “It is a business issue for employers,” Hall says.

Employers that help employees manage stress tend to experience greater employee productivity, higher morale, lower absenteeism, reduced healthcare costs, lower turnover, fewer accidents, and lower workers’ compensation costs, reports Hall.

 “Employers increasingly realize they must address the rising tide of employee stress and not just to improve employees’ well-being,” says Hall. “Those who ignore stress will take a hit to their bottom line in higher costs and lower productivity.”

Acknowledge Stress
He says employers should not be “afraid” to acknowledge and address workplace stress. “I think there is still a lot of hesitancy to address it or to bring it up [with employees]. A lot of employers realize that they are a key contributor to it.”

Even if your employees have relatively stress-free jobs, they might still be dealing with stress caused by factors outside of work, he points out.

Although there is no “magic” number of stress management programs to implement, Hall encourages employers to use as many effective programs as possible, because a program or resource “that works for one employee might not work for another.”

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