Employee stress costing clients billions in lost productivity

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Stress isn’t just affecting employees’ personal lives, it’s also killing their morale and productivity in the workplace — and costing employers billions in the process.

More than 20% of workers spend more than five hours on the clock each week thinking about their stressors and worries, according to a new survey of 1,505 full-time U.S. employees from Colonial Life. An additional 50% of workers said they lose between one and five hours of work to stress each week.

Citing statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Colonial Life said that with 128.5 million full-time employees earning on average $21 per hour, employers are losing billions on workers because of workers who are disengaged or unproductive because of stress.

“Employers should pay close attention to the emotional well-being of their employees,” says Laurie Mitchell, assistant vice president for global well-being and health for Colonial Life. “Stressed employees are not productive or engaged in the work that they do.”

Topping the list of employee stressors are work (29%) and finances (24%). Additional causes of stress include personal/spousal healthcare, family and caring for elderly family members.

And it isn’t lost on employees that increased stress is impacting their work performance. In fact, 41% of survey respondents said productivity levels dropped due to stress. Further, a third of employees surveyed said stress made them feel less engaged, and about 15% said the added pressures were pushing them to look for a new job.

See also: Why financial wellness can no longer be an afterthought

Employees have a lot of ideas about how their employers can help alleviate the stress, leading with additional salary and paid time off, according to the survey. Other top requests included additional retirement contributions, more flexible work schedules, additional medical coverage, more flexible work locations and wellness programs and discounts.

Meanwhile, Mitchell suggests clients can help employees manage their emotional well-being and mental health in a number of ways. Those include:

· Enhance referrals to available services such as an EAP.
· Provide telehealth services for behavioral health, mobile health apps for mindfulness and stress reduction, fitness centers and financial well-being programs.
· Promote work-life balance through use of flexible work arrangements, PTO and other paid leave programs such as parental leave.
· Prioritize a supportive and psychologically safe work environment.

“Employers should ensure they are using effective communications that engage employees in all the resources an employer has to offer,” Mitchell says. “Nothing works well if employees don’t know about it.”

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