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.
With the results of the 2013 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey newly released, I was interested to learn what plan sponsors had to say about personal health in the workplace. With 82 percent of employers indicating that their organization plans to invest more into health and wellness activities primarily because they feel it will improve employee health and productivity, I'm encouraged by this more prevention oriented approach.
Disabilities related to mental illness, depression and stress are on the rise in Canada. Increasingly, employees are reporting feeling more stress and dealing with issues related to mental health. A grey paper titled, New Workplace of the 21st Century - Toward a Productivity Revolution Through Mental Health & Innovation, noted that "there is much that is physical about mental disorders and much that is mental about physical disorders where historically, health has been described as 'physical'." How do employers help prevent disabilities related to mental health issues and what role can an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) play?
It isn't uncommon for plan sponsors to have EAPs embedded in the structure of their group benefits plan. An EAP offers low cost, confidential and easily accessible services that employers can provide to promote a healthy workplace culture. EAPs address both the physical and mental aspects of issues covered through their multi-faceted service offering.
These days, EAP providers have moved well beyond the days of offering just counselling and addiction services. With the rise in popularity of smartphone usage and mobile applications, we're seeing EAP providers such as Morneau Shepell and Homewood Human Solutions launch comprehensive EAP apps that help employees get help anytime from anywhere worldwide. These apps provide the ability for employees to register for e-counselling and offer tools to measure stress and even to evaluate relationships. Some EAP apps offer videos and podcasts on relaxation, reducing stress, and anger management.
One of the challenges with an EAP relates specifically to low utilization rates by employees. EAP utilization ranges between 8 to 12 percent. Many employees simply don't realize what tools and short-term resources are available to them on a voluntary basis. What can employers do to raise awareness and confidence in the EAP? Here are some tips for plan sponsors to keep top of mind:
EAPs offer great support for those who use the services, but also offer an important element of prevention as employers move toward promoting the health and well-being of their staff. Not everyone will need or want the services of an EAP, but like the security of carrying around an umbrella in the event of a rainy day, it is a great way to help employees know that help is simply a quick call or an email away.
Let us help you ensure that your EAP plan doesn't remain a hidden gem. Contact us to discuss ways to effectively communicate about the value in your EAP plan. We're here to help so 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.