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Work-Related Stress Can Cost Companies $3.5 Million, Here’s What They Can Do!

Introduction

Work-related stress is experienced by employees when the work expectations exceed the person’s ability to cope with or control them. Work-related psychosocial risks and stress with their associated adverse health and business outcomes affect workplaces worldwide.

The modern economic ecosystem places increasing pressure on both employers and workers to remain competitive. While these changes provide numerous development opportunities, nonetheless, if poorly managed, they can increase psychosocial risks and result in adverse health and safety outcomes.

Many studies all across the world illustrate the financial cost of work-related stress and the psychosocial risk that manifests and can be quantified in a variety of forms, e.g. productivity loss, health care costs, absenteeism, etc.

Most of these costs have an impact on the individual, the organisation, and society. Ultimately, workspace stress and its associated effects on health and mental well-being will impose a financial burden on individuals, organisations, and communities.

Factors Impacting Work-Related Stress

Situations that are more likely to cause stress are those that are unfamiliar or uncontrollable, either uncertain or ambiguous, involving conflict or loss or performance expectations. One of the primary reasons for workplace stress is excessively long working hours, that too unpaid or “presenteeism”.

Similarly, working erratic shift timings can lead to stress. When a person is asked to do more than one job at a time, it gets stressful for them. Constant job insecurity and inability to strike a perfect work-life balance add to work-related stress. Office politics makes the whole picture more gloomy.

Representational image.

Poor communication also contributes to workplace stress. Certain managerial practices are found associated with creating a stressful environment.
Practices such as limited participation of a person in decision-making, unclear organisational objectives, unclear task allocation or incorrect task allocation  that is not in sync with a person’s competencies do not make for a peaceful work environment for people.

Excessive commute time and bad traffic drains a person furthermore and ensures built-up stress.

Human Cost Of Stress

The human cost of work-stress and psychosocial risks involve emotional stress and a decline in quality of life experienced by affected individuals. There is evidence that workplace stress is related to a decrease in the quality of relationships with spouse, children and other family members.

Individual-Level Cost

Various studies show a link between psychosocial factors like work-related stress, and cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Evidence indicates that the chances of work stress-related cardiovascular disease are higher in blue-collar occupations when factors like restricted discretion, shift work (particularly nightshift), effort-reward imbalance, high demands, poor psychosocial work environment, social isolation, physical inactivity or occupational violence, etc. are present.

Cost of diabetes ( type I and type II) include direct medical costs — drug costs, inpatient and outpatient treatment — and indirect costs — like productivity losses and costs associated with medical conditions like renal failure, cardiovascular disease, foot disease.

For the individual, workplace stress often leads to increased medical and insurance costs. They are more likely to take time off or leave employment because of stress-related illness or injury and have a direct impact on their earnings.

Some workers, especially women, might have to leave employment altogether. About 42 % of white-collar workers
opt for early retirement because of work-related psychosocial disorders.

Physical Health Cost

Stress takes a significant toll on an individual’s physical health. Weight fluctuations are the most common symptom of anxiety. Sleeping pattern also gets affected by stress. Fatigue and frequent headaches can be generally observed in every stress sufferer. Gastrointestinal diseases are also expected due to acute stress.

Cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases, peptic ulcers and type 2 diabetes are common long-term health issues triggered by stress. These health issues become so severe and complicated that many older adults end up having involuntary job loss due to low productivity.

Behavioural Cost

The onset of depression due to workplace stress also acts as a trigger for alcohol and substance abuse in an individual for their perceived ‘stress-relieving’ effects, which is a misconception and can be verified by any medical advisor. Aggression and mood swings are also commonly observed in people suffering from stress.

There is evidence that workplace stress is related to a decline in the quality of relationships with spouse, children and other family members. Diminishing creativity and growing impatience also mark the onset of stress. People render to isolation more often when they suffer from anxiety. Smoking has become prevalent in people undergoing stress-related issues.

Organisational Cost

At the organisational level, the financial implications of work-related stress and psychosocial risks are associated with deterioration of productivity, higher levels of absenteeism and employee turnover. Further, it is estimated that 30 % of sickness absence is directly caused by stress.

In the United Kingdom, in 2011-12, work-related stress caused workers to lose 10.4 million working days, and workers were absent for on average 24 days (HSE, 2013). More workplace injuries start to occur if the employee is having stress-related issues, so companies need to spend more on health care cost. Some national studies show that about a fifth of staff turnover can be related to stress at work (CIPD, 2008a), and that among employees who state that they ‘always work under pressure’, the accident rate is about five times higher than that of employees who are ‘never’ subject to pressurised work (Eurofound, 2007).

Representational Image.

People suffering from work-related stress take a lot of last-minute leave, and therefore, more workdays are lost. This reduces the efficiency and productivity of the whole organisation.

People suffering from stress also experience increased impairment at work, which further reduces the efficiency of the organisation. A massive drop in work performance within a short duration can be observed.

The AIS goes on to report that this last-minute absenteeism tends to cost companies, on average, $602 per worker each year. This figure can reach $3.5 million annually in the case of large companies.

Presenteeism

It is interesting to note that loss in productivity is not only due to absenteeism. It also occurs in what is known as “presenteeism” — 0r a situation where workers are reporting to work but not working at their optimum levels because of stress-induced medical conditions like depression.

Societal Level Cost

At a societal level, ill-health linked with chronic work-related stress and prolonged exposure to work-stress can strain health services, lead to reduced economic productivity and, in turn, hurt a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). According to research, psychosocial disorders are accountable for the loss of 1.5 million working days in the construction industry each year; however, it did not specify if the stress was work-related.

Additionally, many of the identified studies presented figures based on the calculation of ‘attributable fractions’, the proportions of a negative outcome (e.g. diseases) that can be attributed to, in this case, psychosocial risks or stress at work. This allowed to ‘extract’ costs related to psychosocial risks or stress from the total financial burden associated with a particular problem.

Women at The Workplace

Pregnant Women

Affecting Factors: Working for long hours, irregular working hours, job stress, physical activities such as heavy lifting and standing for long hours.

Outcomes of factors mentioned above: Spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, preterm delivery, low birth weight and congenital malformations

Suggestions and recommendations:
1. Working hours should be reduced and involve no physical activity.
2. Working hours should be flexible to women; work from home is a great solution an organisation can provide.
3. More medical facilities and maternity leaves should be provided.
4. Maintaining and practising regular stress-relieving activities such as exercises, yoga, meditation.
5. Working environment should be friendly.

Single Mothers

Affecting Factors: Imbalance between work and family due to long working hours, job dissatisfaction, inadequate child care, work overload, financial difficulties and shift work.
Outcomes of factors mentioned above: Affects mother’s and children’s mental well-being as children expect more attention from their parents. Appointing caretakers for their children often affects the productivity and personal growth of women.

Suggestions and recommendations:

1. Administrators need to create an environment where employees do not fear bringing up a family.
2. Managers can provide a supportive environment that permits flexibility in schedules, telecommuting options, personal time-off and another family-focused programme.
3. On-site child care facility should be provided.
4. Counsellors should be appointed by the organisation for understanding more about women’s job stress, work demand, quality of life, mental health and personal life.

Primary Survey

For a study, a point-by-point study poll was created and a pilot review was directed. Reactions were acquired from 101 individuals working in middle-class and regular positions with shifting degrees of involvement. The example for the overview included 36% female and 62% male respondents, with 2% not revealing their sex.

With the essential focal point of the outline being current contestants of the occupation climate, the age gathering of the example was under 25, comprising 76% of the example size. Moreover, the 25-30 age class comprised 14.6% of the example. Different ages over 30 made up the rest of the pie.

The example was additionally ordered as far as the regular working hours — 6-8 hours entailing 22.3% of the respondents, 8-10 hours for 38.8% of the respondents, over 10 hours for 33% of the respondents.

Representational Image

The review fundamentally comprised four sections. The initial segment attempted to discover the degree of stress experienced by representatives in a workplace on a Likert size of 1 to 5. The next part attempted to distinguish the significant and minor wellsprings of this pressure, utilising a Likert scale rating for four boundaries, viz. verbal abuse, financial abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse and abuse on work-life balance.

The third part affected the respondents to distinguish the kinds of stress they are encountering, viz. time stress, anticipatory stress, situational stress or encounter stress. In the fourth part, the apparent effect of business-related pressure is estimated on eight critical boundaries, viz. productivity, work performance, job attrition, social interaction, sleep pattern, emotional behaviour and medical implications.

Survey Responses

Survey Analysis

Correlation between Stress level and Decline in Performance:

Correlation between Stress level and Workplace:

Correlation between Stress level and Job Attrition

Correlation between Stress level and Medical Implications

Recommendations

Conclusion

Around 60% of the people who took the survey experienced high level of stress at their workplace. People rarely experience verbal abuse, physical or financial abuse. The primary reason for high stress is mental abuse or abuse on the work-life balance of the employees. This might be attributed to the fact that most organisations exploit their employees and expect them to work overtime.

There are no strict rules regarding the number of working hours in India regarding this. When the client and employees are operating from different time zones, Indian employees have to adjust their schedules according to the client. According to the survey, more than half of the people have work for more than eight hours a day. Additionally, around 25% of the employees are working more than 10 hours a day.

We have found the positive correlation between stress and its perceived factors of impact including decrease in productivity, decreased performance, number of leaves taken, job attrition and health implication. As the average age group of the sample was between 18-25 years, the health implications were not very bad, but with age, they too might experience higher impact of stress on their health.

We also observed that people are reluctant to stay at their present job instead of switching to a new role. This might be due to the ubiquitous nature in which the organisations works or because people are worried about their financial security.

=Factors like the loss in productivity, decline in performance, leaves taken, job attrition, etc. have cost associated with them. To maximise the well-being of organisations and their employees, organisations should actively work to reduce factors that lead to stress at the workplace.

Workplace stress has impact on the organisation’s cost as well as the employee’s health. Seeing this effect on their revenue and efficiency, organisations have started doing a psychometric profiling of those who may be at risk of stress due to their psychological make-up. But this won’t help anybody as it risks a skill shortage and turns workplace stress into a vicious cycle as, with limited staff, work would be placed on fewer employees.

Therefore, instead of playing the blame game, organisations should make specific systemic changes to reduce stress caused by structural level problems. They must maintain an appropriate number of employees to avoid individual work overload and overtime. They must ensure working conditions are adapted to people’s differing physical and mental aptitudes.

The organisation should have a work culture such that an employee is allowed to participate in the design of their work situation and the processes of change affecting their work. Hence, an agile working environment could help beat workplace stress.

Providing employee skill training will go a long way in helping to avoid factors that trigger stress. Organisations should also concentrate on improving internal communication. Inputs from all ranks should be encouraged. Organisations should make communication a weekly process.

Representational image.

The organisation can provide apps for work-related communication on phones and tablets. Online Management tools can be used instead of meetings. These tools will provide all information to all the employees in written and make them feel included. More company-sponsored counselling programmes and health promotion programmes should be initiated.

Organisations should encourage social activities; as coworkers get to know each other, expectations and communication barriers get broken, greasing the wheels for more accessible future interactions. They can provide common transportation and private transport for their employees according to ranks. This way, they don’t have to drive and deal with the traffics.

They can use the time to listen to music or watch cartoons or comedy clips. This will help them relax. Social activities like dumb charades, atlas, antakshari can be organised to engage all and have better bonding which will, in return, help the organisation. Organisations should allow remote working for jobs that don’t require a worker’s presence in the office regularly.

First and foremost, individuals should be able to identify signs of stress burnout. They should keep their perfectionism in check. Individuals need to learn how to prioritise and organise. They should not beat themselves up on little things. Carpooling should be encouraged by individuals to deal with commute stress. They need to learn to say NO. They should be strong enough to leave the job if it is toxic to them.

References

  1. Rethinking work-health models for the new global economy: A qualitative analysis of emerging dimensions of work: Michael Polanyi and Emile Tompa
  2. Effort–reward imbalance and health in a globalised economy: Johannes Siegrist
  3. Calculating the cost of work-related stress and psychosocial risk: European Risk Observatory
  4. Economic stress and fear of the financial crisis: Hot and cold reactions: Melissa Morone, Gabriele Giorgi and Javier Fiz Perez
  5. The correlation between stress and economic crisis: a systematic review: Nicola Mucci, Gabriele Giorgi, Mattia Roncaioli, Javier Fiz Perez, Giulio Arcangeli
Note: The article was originally published here
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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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