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Support your stressed-out employees

The impact of stress on your workplace.

This article was last updated June 16, 2023.

Everyone gets stressed — it’s inevitable. Whether minor or extreme, everyone experiences stress at some point in their lifetime.

When we hear the word stress, we typically think of negative circumstances but that's not always the case, especially when it comes to the workplace. For example, stress can help you meet a tight deadline or avoid making a mistake.

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

The three types of stress

According to Healthline External Site, there are three primary types of stress. Each type of stress impacts your employees differently.

  1. Acute stress.

    This is the most common type of stress people experience. It's the pressure of a challenging, new project or the energy associated with juggling multiple commitments in one day. Acute stress doesn’t normally do much harm. In fact, it can help employees stay alert to important matters and create good habits for future workplace challenges.
  2. Episodic acute stress.

    When someone experiences frequent periods of high stress, it is considered episodic acute stress. Some professions, such as health care, can lead to higher rates of episodic acute stress and can have a great impact on an employees' health and well-being.
  3. Chronic stress.

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

According to the National Institutes of Health External Site, higher workplace stress levels are significantly associated with lower employee productivity.

Stress impacts the workplace

A small amount of stress can motivate employees to accomplish their tasks and goals on time. But, when high levels of stress continue for a long period of time, it can be damaging to employee health. According to the American Institute of Stress External Site, work-related stress results in $190 billion in health care costs yearly, due to physical health issues like back pain and mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

These health complications, coupled with the pressure of work stress, could lead to more frequent absences. One survey External Site showed that approximately one million employees are absent from work each day due to stress, resulting in a loss of $3.5 million annually for U.S. large employers.

Not only is employee health impacted, but so is their work performance.

What does a stressed employee look like?

Each of your employees has unique coping mechanisms for whatever battles they are facing. Some of the common characteristics you may see among seriously stressed-out employees include:

  • 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
See image description

Characteristics you may notice in chronically stressed employees.

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 feeling uncertain about their 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 to their leaders and peers about the stressors they are facing. Normalize seeking out counseling or mental health support. And, consider bringing in a mental health coach, or encouraging your employees to take mental health days.

  2. Help your employees know they're not alone

    It can be hard to talk about mental health. But virtual visits make it easier. With Doctor On Demand®, your employees can connect with a licensed therapist or psychiatrist to listen and find solutions. Download the mental health and virtual visits flyer and share it with your employees so they know help is always available. Find the flyer by searching M-2020299 in the Marketing Toolkit.

  3. Recognition, reward and kindness.

    Take time to notice when an employee is putting in a lot of work during a busy time, or taking on extra work. Recognize, reward and appreciate them for their hard work. When you show employees you care, it can help them feel valued and increases the likelihood that they will stay with the company during tough times. Over time, you will see lower turnover rates in your business.
  4. 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 work and communicating about employee workload. Open and clear communication about 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.
  5. Allow for flexible work schedules.

    Many businesses have shifted to remote or hybrid working environments as a result of the 2020 pandemic. If this is the case for your workplace, trust your employees to get their work done. For your employees who are is still in the office, give them the freedom to take breaks throughout the day to move, eat, rest or run 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.

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

Doctor On Demand by Included Health physicians do not prescribe Drug Enforcement Administration-controlled substances, and may elect not to treat conditions or prescribe other medications based on what is clinically appropriate.

For plans that include benefits for mental health treatment, Doctor On Demand by Included Health benefits may include treatment for certain psychological conditions, emotional issues and chemical dependency. Services performed by Doctor On Demand by Included Health psychologists are covered. For more information, call Wellmark at the number on your ID card.

Doctor On Demand by Included Health is a separate company providing an online telehealth solution for Wellmark members. Doctor On Demand® is a registered mark of Included Health, Inc.