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Dealing with Workplace Stress: The Stress Recovery Effect

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Workplace stress can harm employee productivity and their overall health and well-being. The consequences are even more noticeable when employers overlook the issue and fail to set up coping strategies for dealing with work stress. 

In addition to its physical and mental health effects, the stress can result in greater absenteeism and workers’ compensation costs, lower productivity, and increased staff turnover. 

According to a Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report, more than half of U.S. workers experience stress in the workplace daily.  

Globally, there was an increase from 38% in 2019 to 43% in 2020, while productivity decreased by two percent. As a result, statistics also show that this can cost businesses up to $300 billion a year. 

With stress levels increasing by the year, employers should address this issue and set measures in the workplace to help employees who are dealing with stressful work situations. 

The Impact of Stress

A recent poll conducted by the American Psychological Association reveals that inflation is the top source of stress for 87% of the respondents, followed by supply chain issues and global uncertainty, which are significant stressors for 81% of people. 

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical uncertainty led to a record percentage of people stressing because of money, or 65% of American adults, increasing unhealthy behaviors that affect their physical and mental health. This data shows the widespread impact of stress and its evident presence in everyday life.  

However, dealing with work stress and anxiety is also a significant issue, on top of stressors like record price increases, housing, or money. 

Exploring work-related stress reveals a genuine problem and how it fluctuates based on the industry. 

Business fields directly affected by the COVID-19 restrictions reported higher levels of stress. The top three most impacted were art (84%), healthcare (75%), and education (73%). 

Nonetheless, some of these industries have been dealing with stressful work situations for quite some time, long before the pandemic started. 

For example, a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine (Shanafelt et al. 2012) revealed that almost half of more than 7,000 doctors surveyed reported burnout symptoms. Fatigue, detachment, and a low sense of accomplishment were the primary complaints. They were more prone to error, less empathetic, and more likely to de-personalize patients. 

That further proves that stress in the workplace should be a concern for employers across all industries and its management a main priority.

How to Manage Stress at Work?

Leadership and HR can try different approaches to resolving the stress issue at work. They can either execute immediate and long-term stress management strategies or set up a personalized program based on their employee research. 

The latter will give companies specific insight into work stressors and solutions on how to manage stress at work for each employee separately. 

Create a Supportive Company Culture

Employees tend to be less productive when they feel underappreciated or don’t get the support they need. So, a toxic work environment with short deadlines, excessive workload, or unresolved conflicts can induce stress and anxiety, decreasing the overall quality of work. 

It’s up to the management to redesign the work environment into a more supportive space for employees and establish a company culture that cares for their wellbeing. 

Managers and HR must develop a support system with short-term and long-term benefits for employees. For example, extending deadlines, providing more breaks for employees, and giving them a voice in decision-making processes. 

Additionally, they can set wellness programs for dealing with work stress and anxiety and inspire an open communication culture in the workplace. 

Improve Employee Well-being

HR professionals can implement Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that provide services for stress-related problems in the workplace to improve employee well-being. These programs are confidential and can offer various benefits, resources, and counseling with professionals for the employee and their families. 

The EAP provider should address a broad range of issues that affect the workers’ physical, mental, or emotional health and work with managers to establish the best practices for coping with work stress.  

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Use Customized Stress Management Programs

The workplace is a complex environment that facilitates all types of people and personalities. Thus, a particular stress relief approach won’t have the same result for everybody. 

Instead, businesses can use the Stress Recovery Effect program as a stress management program that they can customize based on each employee’s needs. 

This approach can give valuable insight into how workers respond to different stressors and use these results to create a stress management strategy that enables practical training and education for any employee, business, or industry.  

What is The Stress Recovery Effect?

The Stress Recovery Effect is a behavior-based program created by Drs. Nick Hall and Dick Tibbits. Its purpose is to help employees understand their stress coping styles and either improve or change their approach to dealing with work stress. 

Goetzel and Associates evaluated the relationship between ten modifiable risk factors and medical expenditures. They found that 22.4% of annual medical spending was related to modifiable risk factors. 

So, to address the modifiable risks in emotional health and stress, Florida Hospital, now AdventHealth, developed this stress management program for its employees, which was also the subject of an IRB-approved research study. 

The program’s design allowed administrators to customize it to each participant using original research. 

During the 6-week pilot, employees identified their distinctive stress coping styles, created a personalized stress profile, and learned various strategies to cope with stress. 

The Research

The primary objective of this program was to determine if the Stress Recovery Effect program was effective in reducing anxiety and improving emotional health.  

It took several pre and post-session measures, including The Harvard Step-Tests, GAD-7, PHQ-9, and a 77-item questionnaire.  

These measures collectively assessed heart rate recovery related to stress, extents of depression and anxiety, and emotional, mental, and spiritual health domains.  

Additionally, a subset of questions from the WebMD Health Assessment estimated sleep, emotional health, and stress for this study.  

Overall, 72 participants enrolled in the six-session program, and four withdrew before the final or post-testing period.

The Results

Participant feedback regarding the program was quite positive.  

Of 66 participants completing a post-program evaluation, 79% found the program very helpful or extremely helpful, 100% of participants stated they adopted program strategies, and 98% indicated that they felt better equipped to handle stress because of participating in the program. 

After completing the successful program pilot, the hospital rolled it out to its 22,000-employee population base. 

The Stress Recovery Effect is now available nationally and internationally through the Health Performance Strategy team at AdventHealth. 

On a Final Note 

As a silent and often overlooked influence over a person’s health, physical and psychological stressors in the workplace negatively impact both employees and employers. 

Turning a blind eye to the problem is counterproductive. Thus, companies should address the issue by dealing with work stress in a way that would be most beneficial for their employees. Their efforts in creating a positive and stress-free environment will eventually lead to a healthier and more productive workforce. 

Written by Shortlister Editorial Team
Written by Shortlister Editorial Team

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