The Overwhelming Cost of Stress in the Workplace

Stress in the Workplace

According to a telephone survey conducted by Harris Interactive showed that the vast majority of American workers say they are stressed with more than one-third saying that their job is harming their physical or emotional well-being.  42% said that job pressures are interfering with their family or personal lives, and half reported more demanding workloads than they had the previous year.

The survey also showed that roughly half of workers (48%) said that they at least sometimes had too many unreasonable deadlines and/or too much work to do and that 42% felt they sometimes, rarely or never have adequate control or input over their work duties.

What is workplace stress and what does this mean for you � the business owner, manager or supervisor?

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Job stress can be defined as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury.

Occasional episodes of stress are normal and most workers appreciate and are motivated by a good challenge.  When stressful situations persist however, the risk of illness and injury escalates.  Health care expenditures and absences are nearly 50% greater for employees who work in stressful conditions.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that the average absence from the workplace due to stress related illnesses and injury is 20 days.

Paul Rosch, president of The American Institute of Stress claims that stress costs U.S. industry well in excess of $300 billion a year in lost productivity, insurance claims, health costs, accidents and the need to replace workers. 

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggests that certain working conditions are stressful to most employees � most of the time.  These include:

  • Lack of control over working environment
  • Unrealistic deadlines and workloads
  • Lack of supervisory support
  • Poorly defined workloads.

NIOSH believes that the first line of defense against job stress is to design jobs that avoid the universally common stressful conditions noted above.  It isn't easy to assert organizational change but failing to remedy workplace stress will ALWAYS negatively affect your bottom line. 

All organizations are unique so there is no universal prescription for change.  No matter what the size of your organization, the process of change requires a structured approach beginning with the identification of the problem.  This can be done through group discussion or surveys of your employees.  Workers should be asked about working conditions, stress levels, health concerns, job satisfaction and other relevant issues.  Once you have ascertained what the problems are in your specific organization, you can devise and implement solutions. 

Some examples of organizational changes that can help reduce workplace stress and the illnesses and injuries associated with stress:

  • Define workers roles and responsibilities;
  • Allow employees to fully utilize their skills;
  • Establish work schedules that are compatible with demands outside of work;
  • Involve workers in decisions that affect their jobs;
  • Reduce uncertainty about future job prospect;

Periodic evaluations that include both employee feedback and objective data such as attendance reports and health complaints will help ensure positive organizational change and brings you well on your way to creating a culture of safety within your organization. 

Creating a culture of safety within your organization begins as the right thing to do and ends with tangible proof (less illnesses and injuries) that doing the right thing always is ALWAYS the right thing to do.  To date Arbill has helped protect almost 300,000 employees.  Take that first step towards creating a culture of safety in your organization by visiting To be sure you don't miss out on future blogs � subscribe here.