Limiting workplace stress

According to a study by investigators at Harvard and Stanford, workplace stress could be costing US organizations up to $190 billion in annual health care costs. The figure may seem surprisingly high, but, as the authors explain, “the observed associations make intuitive sense: stress has both a direct effect on health and it also induces unhealthy choices and behaviors, ranging from alcohol abuse, smoking, and drug consumption to suicide.”

Health problems are not the only costly consequence that workplace stress poses to businesses. Anxious employees will naturally be more likely to miss deadlines, lose focus, and quarrel with co-workers, which is why the American Institute of Stress suggests that the total cost to US business may be as high as $300 billion a year.

Faced with such potential liabilities, organizations are taking a greater interest in providing stress management training to their employees as part of a larger program of wellness initiatives. Such programs, however, are not a cure-all for anxiety. “It’s not about eliminating stress,” explains Manendra Bhugra, CCA’s Manager of Training & Development. “It’s about helping employees to become more self-aware about how it affects them and about how they can develop coping strategies.”

Next week, Part 2 will detail some of the best practices for providing employees with help in these areas.