Take Robert, a mid-level manager at a consulting firm.
In a typical day, he might start out strong—up early to walk the dog or shuffle the kids off to school—but it’s downhill from there. He spends most of his time sitting, is over scheduled with meetings, and is distracted throughout the day. To catch up, he works through lunch and eats an unhealthy meal at his desk.
In the evening, he battles traffic, then jumps right back into family responsibilities. He might fall asleep close to midnight…but not before checking up on social media (with a feed full of politics, arguments, and bad news.)
In short: Robert is not doing his best work or living his best life. Like millions of other working Americans, Robert is chronically stressed, juggling concerns from financial worries, to family responsibilities, to political and social stress, to his own personal health.
His chronic stress is costing him. And it’s costing his business too.
Stress is a Widespread Problem
Numerous studies show that job stress is the major source of stress for American adults. And that it has escalated significantly in recent years!
A workplace and health study described in the Harvard Gazette reported widespread stress at work, with 43 percent of workers saying their job is bad for their stress, and only 16 percent saying work had a positive impact on their stress levels. Forty-six percent of working women say their job has a bad impact on their stress level, compared to 40 percent of men.
The poll found that, “One in five working adults say they have experienced a great deal of stress at work in the past 12 months.”
Workers facing challenging circumstances, such as workers caring for a sick family member, working 50 or more hours per week or those in self-reported dangerous jobs, were more likely to report that work harmed their stress levels. For the workers who described their job as dangerous, 52 percent say their job had a negative impact on their stress level.
And this research was conducted pre-pandemic. We’re still waiting on the no-doubt numerous studies about pandemic-related burnout and workers refusing to return to toxic workplace environments…but it’s safe to assume that stress management is more critical than it’s ever been.
How Wellness Programs can Help
It’s critical that we help people learn to manage stress.
Wellness programs provide a variety of innovative solutions for helping employees cope with stress, but only about 50% of employers currently offer this benefit—the other half are missing out on an important method of encouraging healthy behaviors, decreasing stress, and ultimately saving money.
Reducing workplace stress contributes to long-term employee happiness, worker retention and productivity, leading to a new trend in more comprehensive mind and body wellness initiatives.
We hear this echoed by our clients, who frequently ask us how they can improve employees’ emotional and physical wellbeing in more holistic ways.
1. To reduce stress, emphasize a culture of mental wellness
Mental wellness is a broad concept, but it requires effort just like physical fitness does. People who maintain positive mental health more frequently realize their potential, are able to work productively, and can cope with day-to-day stresses.
In the office, you can tackle this by incorporating mental wellness into your day-to-day activities. Conduct free meditation and mindfulness workshops at lunch. Create a quiet space for reflection throughout the day. Encourage your team to talk breaks to walk or clear their heads throughout the day.
Managers can help encourage this by offering mental health days as needed, without the need to provide documentation or jump through hoops. Give people time off to recover as needed, and lead by example.
2. Offer a corporate wellness benefit.
To really commit to a healthier and happier team, consider launching or expanding your company’s wellness program.
Wellness programs can positively influence employees’ stress levels, as well as their overall job satisfaction and absenteeism. These perks and benefits can tackle numerous stress factors and help employees learn how to start healthier habits that can help reduce anxiety– such as establishing a healthy eating plan, getting regular exercise, or aiming for a least 7 hours of sleep each night.
“Wellness programs have positive impact not only toward employees’ wellbeing but organization wellbeing as well,” wrote the authors of one major study. The researchers saw a significant difference in stress levels among participants who participated in their company’s wellness initiatives, especially programs that included physical exercise, yoga, or aerobic activities.
We’re clearly more stressed than ever. There is an obvious need for tools and support systems to help people manage and balance their lives. Employer-sponsored wellness initiatives can help to deliver solutions instead of just more stress.
At IncentFit, we can build a custom plan to suit your company’s unique needs and challenges—from reducing stress, to finding time for the gym, to encouraging more and better sleep. Explore our products or talk to a benefits specialist to learn more.