Employers Need to Help Workers With Rising Stress Levels

Whether the source is bills, personal problems, politics, family issues, or work, the stress levels experienced by employees just seem to go up and up.

Changes at work are particularly straining for most people, with employees reporting rising stress levels and a resulting inability to balance their non-work responsibilities, according to a 1,500-person survey from the American Psychological Association.

Luckily, more employers are realizing how stress can affect employees and are striving to help them handle it better. Reducing stress makes good business sense, according to Ruth Hunt of Conduent Human Resource Services.

"We are now at a phase where it’s not just a nice-to-do, but it’s a must-do. When you are distracted, you can’t give 100 percent," Hunt told Bloomberg BNA. Lost productivity and a decline in employee health can make a big cost impact on a company, she said.

Decreased productivity is just one indication of employee stress—companies also need to watch out for increased turnover and poor customer service, according to Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half.

"Stress is a given if you are in the workforce and have a home life. We are seeing work/life balance is so important—it reduces stress if you have an employer who acknowledges ‘pulls’ outside of the office," McDonald told Bloomberg BNA.

Senior executives have the least reported stress at work, while staff-level professionals report more stress, according to a Robert Half study examining what makes employees happy at work.

Executives have lower stress levels because they have more control over their lives and work, McDonald said. Companies need to understand that helping employees meld work and personal life helps alleviate the strain—and this often means allowing more flexibility with respect to work locations and times, he said. "That reduces stress and turnover and creates a culture that attracts," he added.

Change or Lose Out on Talent

More organizations need to adjust to changing talent scenarios and employee expectations, according to Brett Good, senior district president at Robert Half. Workers want and need a better work/life balance and less stress on the job, he told Bloomberg BNA

"How do you create balance in the organization? That’s the reality that companies are faced with now" and need to adapt to if they want an engaged workforce, Good said.

Companies need to rethink rewards and work environments to remain competitive in today’s changing business environment, according to Kate Bravery, global practices leader within the Career business at Mercer.

Employees increasingly value more than just compensation—they want opportunities and more flexible work options, according to the Mercer "Talent Trends 2017 Global Study."

"All parties say more flexibility will help people thrive at work, although how it is done at an individual level can differ. We need to get to a place where flexibility is a right," Bravery told Bloomberg BNA.

Allowing employees flexibility in when and how they work can help them manage matters in their personal lives and ease stress, according to Bravery. Besides improving productivity, flexible work options and the chance for a better work/life balance can be key factors that help valued talent differentiate one business from another, she said.

Polling employees, preferably through an anonymous survey, is a good place to start, according to McDonald. HR can use such surveys to get a sense of what stresses employees and what is important to them, he said. HR can also develop training for managers to help create an open, communicative environment where employees are comfortable discussing stressors or asking for flexible options, he said.

Companies that make the effort to reduce stress and improve work/life balance for employees will get increased productivity in the end, along with reduced turnover, McDonald said.

Start a free trial to Bloomberg BNA’s HR Decision Support Network and experience a complete HR solution that helps you find answers to your toughest questions.