Work is hard, that’s why they pay you to do it.
Most of us have heard this idea, or some variation of it, throughout our working lives. But what happens when work is more than just hard?
In 2017, in partnership with the Faas Foundation, Mental Health America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all Americans conducted a survey to better understand how work-related stress is impacting both individuals and organizations.
We know that not all stress is bad. It’s the underlying motivation for some of our best work. If students weren’t at all worried about getting bad grades, would they study? If working adults didn’t feel a desire to create a happy, healthy life for their families, would they work? Stress is what holds us accountable to our hopes and dreams of a better life.
But too much stress is not a good thing. The Mayo Clinic has a long list of health problems that can be caused by stress, ranging from headaches to heart disease.
What MHA and the Faas Foundation found in their study is that workplace stress is, for many of us, progressing far beyond the range of healthy and motivational, and falling squarely in the realm of the negative.
81% of respondents to their survey agreed that job-related stress impacts relationships with friends and family.
Should companies be worried about these stress levels, or does this simply fall into the category of “personal issues”? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), workplace stress costs businesses $300 billion each year in the form of reduced productivity, turnover, and absenteeism.
The MHA and Faas Foundation study illustrates this clearly, showing an alarming correlation between individuals who reported “always” feeling stressed at work, and an average absenteeism of over 6 days per month. It's possible that for many, stress is rising to a level that induces physical illness, causing employees to loose focus or miss work. And when stress impacts the ability of an organization to achieve its goals, connect with customers, and compete in a global marketplace, employee stress becomes a business problem.
But solving that problem is not so simple. According to the APA, work stress comes from a variety of factors, including:
- Low pay
- Excessive workloads
- Lack of opportunity for growth
- Lack of control
- Poor management (conflicting demands, unclear expectations)
Stress is a component of work, but when it rises to a level that impacts health and productivity, it goes from being something that pushes us forward to something that drags us down. As it becomes clear that stress impacts the bottom line, forward thinking organizations are finding creative solutions to help their employees manage stress, both at work and in their personal lives. In many cases, the resolution needs to include both on-the-job support and solutions for issues outside of the workplace. Resource Navigators in the Sustainable Workforce Model work collaboratively with each employee to resolve immediate issues, plan for the long term, put a plan into action and follow the employee to support their success.