Stressed Employees are Bad for Business

Anyone who's ever had a job will tell you that stress and work go hand in hand. And you know what? They're right.

The job-stress connection isn't new. It's been around as long as the concept of employment. So why should businesses worry about it? And why now?

There's a simple answer: Employee stress costs every company money. Sometimes, a lot of money. And it's a bigger problem now than ever before.

According to the latest stats, stress is one of the biggest culprits in the country behind lost productivity. The American Psychological Association puts the total figure for lost revenue due to employee stress at $300 million annually, which includes absenteeism, lost productivity, and employee turnover.

Like cold weather, rain, and traffic, some amount of stress is a fact of life. It's not a problem any business, or any person, can eliminate completely because it's a basic physiological phenomenon -- a response we're all wired for when facing a challenging situation. But when a little becomes a lot, bad things start to happen.

On a very basic level, high levels of stress hurt a person's ability to function, both personally and professionally. If left unchecked, stress can fester and evolve into debilitating long-term emotional issues. It's these issues that can cost an employer thousands of dollars per year for each affected employee.

But there's a silver lining to the employee stress problem. While it can't be eliminated, it can be reduced. And most businesses already have the programs in place to do it. The problem is that they simply aren't being used.

Here's the situation:

  • Employers have employee assistance programs (EAPs) to help with stress. Some 97 percent of companies with more than 5,000 employees have EAPs, 80 percent of companies with 1,001-5,000 employees have one, and 75 percent of companies with 251-1,000 employees provide the service.
  • But on average, utilization of EAPs is less than 5 percent.
  • So what's the disconnect? Companies invest in tools like EAPs, wellness programs, and work-life services for a reason -- they want employees to have the support they need to be happy, healthy, and productive. But all too often, employees see these resources as things to try as a last resort, something to try when the situation becomes severe. This couldn't be further from the truth.

    Businesses need to promote, discuss and communicate exactly why they pay to provide these services. If people don't understand the tools at their disposal and how to use them to help manage stress, depression, anxiety, and similar issues, they won't do it. Often, it's that simple.

    The more you talk about it, the more people will get it -- and do something about it.

    So yes, employees are stressed. And true, businesses are never going to be able to entirely remove stress from their workplace. But you can address employee stress problems and make more money while you're at it simply by telling people about the resources you're already providing.

    Remind employees of what they have at their disposal. It will do a world of good -- for you, them, and your bottom line.