by Gloria Dunn, President

Wiser Ways to Work®

Workplace stress is costly. Stress reduces productivity, attracts lawsuits, and encourages turnover. It wastes budgets, disturbs work plans, and breaks down communication. Stress is also a precursor to many diseases and accidents draining financial coffers through Workman’s Comp claims and the cost of health insurance.

If you observe your workplace, you’’ll notice that stress is widespread. Every negative human interaction, every disappointment and unmet expectation, every push to do more with less are undermining both your business and your employees.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have studied workplace stress. Their research tells us that:

  • Job burnout experienced by 25% to 40% of U.S. workers is attributed to stress.
  • Depression, a reaction to stress, is the leading occupational disease of the 21st century, responsible for more days lost than any other single factor.
  • $300 billion ($7,500 per employee) is spent annually in the U.S. on stress related compensation claims, reduced productivity, absenteeism, health insurance costs, employee turnover and direct medical expenses (nearly 50% higher for workers who report stress).

Stress also bears a high human cost. In addition to stimulating a host of diseases— everything–from heart disease and cancer to the common cold–stress destroys lives. When we are “stressed out”, we say and do things we would not normally do. This behavior can hurt us and the people around us.

We must recognize the effects of stress in the workplace and our lives, and make a concerted effort to minimize our stressors. We cannot continue on this path of perpetual destruction.

Here are five steps to start minimizing personal and workplace stress:

  1. Take time to become aware that you are stressed, and make a commitment to yourself to reduce or eliminate the stressors. Buddy up with a coworker, get a coach, a counselor in stress management, or brainstorm with your family on effective methods. Then make a plan, and implement it. If you have several stressors, do one at a time.
  2. Develop healthy work and personal relationships. Be accepting and collaborative. Avoid gossip, anger, and negativity.
  3. Be realistic about work assignments. Don’t expect the impossible from yourself or, if you are a manager, from your staff. Time used to push people beyond their limits is lost when they stay at home ill because of stress.
  4. Develop good communication skills. Ensure you approach a communication clearly, positively, and respectfully. Use conflict resolution techniques. Get trained in both.
  5. Acquire new stress buster and coping skills.