Stress in the Workplace

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Work-related stress affects a large number of Americans and its impacts on employees are far-reaching. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stress can negatively affect both a person’s mental and physical health. Symptoms of stress-related illness include sleep disturbances, upset stomach, headaches, high blood pressure, irritability, depression, increased use of alcohol and drugs, poor job performance and compromised relationships with family and friends.

While many of these signs are easy to recognize, the effects of stress on chronic disease are less obvious because serious health problems may develop over time. The long-term negative effects of stress may range from cardiovascular disease and a weakened immune system to psychological disorders and even workplace injuries. In fact, studies indicate that healthcare costs are 50 percent higher for employees who report high levels of stress.

In a recent survey conducted by CareerCast, a California-based company that publishes an annual Jobs Rated Report, the amount of stress workers experience can be predicted by looking at the typical demands inherent in their jobs. These factors include travel demands, environmental conditions, physical demands, deadlines, interacting with the public, working in the public eye, growth potential, competition in the field, hazards encountered, responsibility for the safety of others, and potential for harm and/or death.

After evaluating 200 occupations on 11 different factors, CareerCast found that the following 10 jobs are the most stressful in the U.S.

1. Enlisted military personnel
2. Firefighter
3. Airline pilot
4. Police officer
5. Broadcaster
6. Event coordinator
7. News reporter
8. Public relations executive
9. Senior corporate executive
10. Taxi driver

Based on the same job demands, ranging from physical danger to psychological stress, the following 10 jobs are listed as the least stressful in the CareerCast report:

1. Diagnostic medical sonographer
2. Compliance officer
3. Hair stylist
4. Audiologist
5. University professor
6. Medical records technician
7. Jeweler
8. Operations research analyst
9. Pharmacy technician
10. Massage therapist

What does this mean for employers?

While many assume that pressure to perform is the only way to stay productive and profitable, studies show that stressful working conditions actually lead to increased absenteeism, tardiness and intentions by workers to quit their jobs – all of which negatively affect a company’s bottom line. Labor statistics also reveal that workers who take time off because of stress or anxiety tend to be off the job for about 20 days.

A healthy workplace is one marked by low rates of injury, illness and disability. Employee assistance programs and stress management training can help improve workers’ ability to deal with difficult situations and develop strategies to decrease symptoms of stress. Employers should look for ways to improve the work environment by identifying stressful factors and reducing them as much as possible.

Management strategies that can reduce job stress include ensuring that workload is aligned with employee capabilities and resources; designing jobs that provide opportunities for workers to succeed; providing opportunities for professional growth and development; improving overall communication and opportunities for social interaction; and establishing realistic work schedules that allow for work-life balance.

Finally, offering robust and personalized employee benefits can help improve overall job satisfaction and productivity. Understanding what is most important to employees will help organizations design insurance plans that are tailored to their needs and the needs of their families. In the long-term, it may also save the high cost of employee turnover.

Though job stress may never be completely eliminated, the good news is that employers have an opportunity create a healthier and more productive workplace through enhanced employee benefits packages and wellness programs.

Pacific Federal is a subsidiary of Zenith American Solutions.