Wellness and Mental Health

Dealing with Workplace Stress: The Stress Recovery Effect

As workplace stress can harm employee productivity and their overall health and well-being, how should companies address workplace stress in the most beneficial way for their employees?
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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 workplace stress. 

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

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report, more than half of US 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 Workplace Stress

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. 

Some of the most common causes of workplace stress include heavy workloads, tight deadlines, interpersonal conflicts, and more.

And while moderate work stress levels can act as motivators for some employees, prolonged exposure to stress, or chronic workplace stress, can lead to physical health issues, decreased job satisfaction, and overall burnout.

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.

Dealing with Workplace Stress: 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.  

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 workplace 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-7PHQ-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.

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.

The Importance of Mental Health and Well-being Programs in Dealing with Workplace Stress

While workplace stress cannot be entirely eliminated, HR teams, employers and organizations should shift their focus to minimizing its impact and fostering a supportive workplace environment.

Mental health and well-being programs can help them achieve these goals as these programs are designed to equip employees with coping strategies, emotional resilience, and techniques for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. By investing in such initiatives, employers prioritize the mental well-being of their workforce.

Benefits for Employees

Workers can have various benefits of mental health programs, especially those struggling with chronic stress level at work.

The advantages of mental health programs in the workplace include a reduction in stress and anxiety levels, enhanced emotional regulation, improved concentration, and heightened overall job satisfaction. Ultimately it can result in employees’ better navigation of challenging work situations, while taking care of their mental health.

Benefits for Employers

These positive effects of implementing a mental health program in the workplace do not affect only employees, but employers as well. By being aware of the unique needs of their workforce through surveys and consultations, employers can implement programs that aligns with organization’s values and requirements.

Moreover, this commitment to employees’ well-being is often translated into higher employee satisfaction and productivity, reduced absenteeism, and lastly higher levels of retention rate within the organization.

Fostering a Supportive Workplace Environment

Implementing a mental health program to deal with workplace stress whether it includes workshops, counseling services, meditation sessions, and fitness activities results in a positive and supportive work environment.

Firstly, it creates a positive workplace culture characterized by open communication and mutual support that ultimately drives productivity and innovation.

Secondly, it addresses workplace stress by eliminating the stigma around mental health issues.

Finally, when organizations normalize the conversation around employees’ mental well-being, it contributes to a healthier, happier workforce, centered around a culture of empathy.

Measuring Success

Dealing with stress in the workplace through mental health initiatives can be measured both quantitively and qualitatively. The metrics can include tracking changes in employee stress levels through surveys, monitoring employee engagement and retention rates, and assessing productivity and absenteeism trends.

The positive shifts in these areas can signify the program’s efficacy in dealing with workplace stress.

Future Trends in Corporate Sustainability

Businesses need to be proactive in their sustainability efforts, which means staying up-to-date on the latest trends and technologies. 

Below are some of the key trends in corporate sustainability that businesses should be aware of.  

Conclusion

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 workplace stress in a way that would be most beneficial for their employees. Their efforts in creating a positive and stress-free environment that prioritize employee mental well-being will eventually lead to a healthier and more productive workforce.

Written by shortlister editorial team

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