In Part 1 of Stress in the Workplace, I addressed ten steps that employers can take to help employees on their journey to identifying signs of stress and how to manage it. In Part 2, we'll explore the impact of stress as well additional ways employers can promote healthy mental and physical lifestyles.
Many employees face stress for various reasons. About 33 percent of employees report high levels of stress. In addition to personal stressors, workplace stress can be a harmful physical and emotional response when the match between job demand, resources and needs of the employees is misaligned.
In today's workplace, 75 percent of employees believe they have more job stress than a generation ago and 25 percent feel their jobs are the number one stressor in their lives.
Some major causes of workplace stress include:
When stress goes unchecked and untreated, it can lead to both mental and physical disabilities. In a report by the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health, the total cost of both diagnosed and undiagnosed mental illness is approximately $51 billion annually.
As of January 2013, the new Canadian Standards Association's National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (the CSA Standard) has been released. The purpose of the CSA Standard is intended to help promote psychological health and safety (PHS) in the workplace. On a voluntary basis, employers are encouraged to implement new policies, procedures and practices to promote PHS; it is commonly referred to as P6. These policies and procedures are to be considered for inclusion above and beyond existing Workers' Compensation and Human Rights requirements. Basically, it is a framework that overlays what employers hopefully are doing already.
Employers can access the CSA Standard without charge from the CSA website for the first five years following its release. The CSA Standard or P6 provides employers with an infrastructure made up of six parts: policy, planning, promotion, prevention, process and persistence.
The American Medical Association has noted that stress is the basic cause of more than 60 percent of all human illness and disease. The reality is that our body doesn't discriminate between a big or little stress. If unchecked, stress can age us prematurely, impair our cognitive function and drain our energy leaving us struggling to focus and feeling further and further behind in our work.
If you have questions about the CSA Standard and the services available within your group benefits plan to help employees deal with stress-related issues, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Most people would agree that some forms of stress are healthy and help us stay productive when we're pushed just slightly outside of our comfort zone.
It's easy to feel stressed in our world. We're pushed to do things faster and better all the time. While advances in technology have done much to make our lives easier and provided efficiencies we never dreamed possible, it also created a great deal of stress. Billions of people use smartphones now to stay connected and as a result they feel the need to be 'plugged-in' all the time. People are seen texting while driving, eating, watching television and walking.
We can accomplish only so much in a day yet find ourselves frequently lamenting the challenge in achieving work/life balance. We're strained thinking about not being able to do everything on our ever growing list. There are many other stressors including: financial worries, relationship woes, eldercare challenges and increasing job demands that add to our stress levels. Employees can't be expected to check their stressors at the door before entering the workplace. They carry their emotional burdens with them and when job demands heat up, the work setting becomes a pressure cooker bubbling with mental and physical health issues aggravated by stress.
What is the cost of stress in the workplace and how do we measure the harm it causes? Dr. Martin V. Cohen called stress "the silent killer" in his article on stress management. With one in five Canadians facing the potential of experiencing a mental health issue in their lifetime, dealing with stress has become a major concern for employers. The results of the 2013 Sanofi Canada Healthcare survey indicate that employers plan to introduce more wellness programs and ways to protect employees' physical and mental well-being. Not only do they say it is the right this to do as a responsible employer, but they believe it will have a positive impact on reducing disability claims and increasing overall productivity and engagement.
In part 2 of this series, I'll explore many ways employers can effectively help employees manage stress in the workplace. Employers can begin by promoting the following the 10 steps that Dr. Cohen recommends:
By sharing tips that employees can use at home, they begin the process of effective stress management and help employees develop habits that will build a healthy path on the road to mental and physical well-being.
For questions about what tools and resources are available through service providers to support employees dealing with stress and mental health issues, contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.