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Support your seriously stressed-out employees

The impact of stress on your workplace.

It’s a tale as old as time: everyone gets stressed. It’s inevitable — whether minor or extreme, everyone experiences it at some point in their lifetime.

When we hear the word stress, we typically classify it as negative, but it’s not always the case — especially when it comes to the workplace. For example, stress can be good in helping employees meet a tight deadline or avoid a mistake.

Stress becomes detrimental to the overall health and well-being of your employees — and your company’s bottom line — when it becomes chronic and over long periods of time.

Enter the pandemic: a stress curveball

According to John Hopkins, before the pandemic even hit, 42 percent of employees were struggling at one time or another with some level of stress caused by pressures at work.

Right now, the American Psychological Association External Site found that 78 percent of adults say the coronavirus pandemic is a significant source of stress in their life. And, 2 in 3 adults have experienced increased stress throughout the pandemic.

The three types of stress

According to Healthline External Site, there are several types of stress out there. We break down the most common types of stress and examples of how they can affect your employee population.

  1. Acute stress.

    This is the type of stress that happens to everybody. It's the pressure of a challenging, new work project or juggling multiple commitments in one day. Acute stress doesn’t normally do much harm. In fact, it could help in developing the best response to future stressful situations.
  2. Episodic acute stress.

    When someone has frequent periods of stress caused by many factors, that leads to episodic acute stress. Health care workers, especially in today's climate experience this type of stress.
  3. Chronic stress.

    This is the stress that lingers around for sustained time periods. Chronic stress can cause anxiety, high blood pressure, impact cardiovascular disease, increase the risk of depression, and weaken the immune system.

According to the American Institute of Stress, work-related stress causes 120,000 deaths and results in $190 billion in health care costs yearly.

Stress impacts the workplace

A small amount of stress can be motivating to an employee to accomplish tasks and goals. But, there's a fine line between healthy and chronic stress. With the health complications that arise from too much stress — both physical and mental — it could lead to absences and illnesses for your employees.

With these complications, not only is employee health impacted, so is their work performance. According to the Global Benefit Attitudes Survey published yearly by Wills Towers Watson, the more stressed External Site an employee was, the more days they missed from work. Low levels of stress led to an average of 2.6 days absent per year, and high stress levels rose to 4.1 absent days per year.

What does a stressed employee look like?

Each of your employees have unique coping mechanisms for whatever battles they are facing. Check out our breakdown of common characteristics you may see among a seriously stressed-out employee.

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  • Weight gain or loss
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Irritability
  • Creating conflict
  • Frequent sickness
  • Chronic aches and pains
  • Overcommitting and procrastination
  • Uncertainty and directionless

How to support your stressed-out employees

Whether an employee is struggling with personal issues at home, being asked to work beyond their skill set with unrealistic expectations, or uncertain of their own future, there are ways to help them cope.

Check out these tips to support and ease stress among your employees.

  1. Reduce the stigma.

    Provide a safe space for your employees to share their concerns, worries and feelings. Foster a culture that allows employees to feel comfortable speaking up to their leaders and peers regarding the stressors they are facing. Not to mention, normalize seeking out counseling or mental health support. Some ways you can support right away? Consider bringing in a mental health coach, or encouraging your employees to take mental health days.
  2. Recognition, reward and kindness.

    Notice that an employee is putting in a lot of work during a busy time, or taking on extra workloads? Recognize, reward and appreciate the employee. Show and tell them you care, otherwise you can expect high turnover rates in your business.
  3. Lighten the load.

    There are only so many hours in a day for your employees to get everything done. Make sure you are evenly distributing the work and communicating about employee workload. Open and clear communication about people's projects and tasks will help everyone understand and appreciate each other's work. Take time to check in to see if your employees are struggling with their projects or if you can offer support.
  4. Allow for flexible work schedules.

    With the pandemic, several employees have shifted to working from home. If this is the case for your workplace, trust in your employees to get their work done. And for your employee base that is still in the office, give them the freedom to take breaks throughout the day for movement, lunch, brain breaks, or small errands. Mental breaks lead to greater productivity and creativity External Site.

You want what's best for the health and well-being of your employees. By checking in, communicating and providing resources to cope, you are fostering a healthy and productive environment where people can thrive under the right amount of pressure.

There's more to learn about millennials in your workplace

Millennials currently make up 50 percent of your workforce, and by 2025, they will make up 75 percent of your employee population. This generation comes into the workplace with a desire to succeed and make a lasting impact, but they are plagued with several health conditions.

Notably, millennials with a behavioral health condition (depression, anxiety, hyperactivity) are twice as likely to be diagnosed with a chronic physical condition such as hypertension, type II diabetes and coronary artery disease.

Bottom line, when your employees aren’t healthy, health care costs will continue to rise, and productivity will decrease.

When you download your free copy of the Millennials In Your Workplace e-book Opens in a new window, you can take advantage of extensive research, in-house data and subject matter expertise to help create sustainable, long-term changes in your workplace today.

Questions? Contact your authorized Wellmark account representative, or email us at Send Email.