November 4th is national stress awareness day. I will detour from my series of posts addressing each of the pillars of psychological health and safety to highlight the impact to the organization’s bottom line when employees are faced with too much stress.
The pandemic we are facing has increased our stress levels in all areas of our lives. Words like stress, resilience, and mental health are part of our daily vocabulary, but what does this really mean for business owners and leaders? As a boss, does it really matter how well your staff are managing their stress? As you will see from the list I have pulled together, it really does matter.
So, in no particular order, here are my top 10 reasons why employers need to monitor employees stress levels and put in place effective methods to keep excessive stress at a minimum.
- Physical Illness: excessive stress causes people to be more susceptible to other physical illnesses such as colds and flu among others. These can travel through a workplace, even with COVID-19 protocols in place. The cost of replacing ill staff and/or loss of productivity adds up.
- Mental Health problems: excessive stress can cause anxiety and depression, along with other mental health challenges. Fear and anxiety can spread through an organization, especially when there is poor communication from supervisors. These milder mental health problems can escalate to more serious problems if not adequately addressed. Again, the cost of replacing staff and loss of productivity from taking sick days or mental health days can be costly.
- Communication breakdown: When people are stressed their communication suffers on the giving and receiving end. Due to the chemical changes in our brains when we are stressed, it is harder to process information. Misunderstandings become more common and errors more frequent. This can be within the business, and even worse with stakeholders and customers. We are all familiar with how errors can impact the bottom line.
- Lack of focus: This is similar to communication breakdown described above, in that it results in mistakes and errors. The difference is focus is an internal problem, while communication involves more than one person. If you are unable to focus due to extreme stress and competing priorities, you are far more likely to miss critical details, show poor judgement, and take longer to complete tasks. To reiterate, mistakes are costly and impact the bottom line.
- Reduced productivity: When we are stressed, we work slower, process information sluggishly, get sidetracked easily, and have difficulty prioritizing tasks. As a team, we take longer to come to decisions and get caught in downward spirals. It is not that individuals or groups are intentionally wasting time; they simply are not able to function effectively. Let’s not forget the adage that time is money.
- EAP costs rise: In organizations where there is undue stress, there are more long and short term disability claims , resulting increased benefit plan costs .
- Talent drain: Organizations with high stress levels experience challenges hiring and keeping good employees. Good staff will move to your competitors if they have better supports for work stress. The cost of replacing an employee is around 1 year’s salary for entry level positions and up to 3 year’s salary for more senior positions. These are unnecessary, not to mention large, costs that could be substantially reduced with a plan to managing excessive stress.
- Catastrophic errors: We touched earlier on the idea that underlying some mistakes and errors may be costly, but not disastrous, in a high stress environment. Here, we need to consider that high stress workplaces can give rise to business crippling mistakes and errors. Missing small details can happen from time to time, but when stress is out of control bigger problems are missed. An over stressed brain prevents us from processing information properly. Gross errors that would normally be picked up easily go unnoticed. Mistakes of this magnitude could be so costly that they impact the viability of the business.
- Lower motivation: When we are stressed we have less energy, we are easily irritated, and our motivation is decreased. Everything feels like an uphill battle. It is difficult to maintain positive team and company morale when our internal resources are running near empty. Staff are less likely to volunteer for additional projects or hours or events. Engagement decreases and company culture suffers. You may think it is invisible, but it will impact the ability to recruit new staff or take on new projects.
- Poor customer service: Employees are ambassadors for their company, even if they don’t have a direct role with the customer. Every employee puts their mark on the product or service in some way that impacts the customer’s experience. The sum of these impacts the quality of the product or service delivered to the customer. This in turn impacts repeat business, complaints, return items, refund requests, repairs or revisions of work done, etc. If your employees are overly stressed, your customer will not be getting the best you can deliver and that customer, especially your long term ones, will know something has gone wrong, but they may not know what. These problems will eventually lead to the loss of current customers and potential future customers unless they are addressed.
I hope this helps you see the importance of adequately addressing the stress levels in employees. Fortunately, there are a number of resources employers can access to assist with them, with some resources available for free or low cost.
Community Healthcare Consulting is providing no cost 30 minute consultations to help you get started with tools and resources for your organization. Email us to book your session. To learn more about addressing workplace stress and building resilient staff teams, contact us at [email protected] or visit our website We can help improve your bottom line by addressing workplace stress and building the skills your team needs to be resilient.
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