How employee stress affects your business (and the economy) more than you think.
Imagine having a problem that costs the economy millions of dollars annually, burdens the public health and insurance system, shortens lifespans, diminishes productivity, and increases the number of employees who leave your business. That is essentially what stress does. It is the shortening of lives.
Stress is not all bad. In fact, your business and your employees benefit from various levels of healthy stress when meeting deadlines, working on projects and reaching team goals. When stress becomes unmanageable, it provokes an onslaught of psycho-physio-socio-economic side effects – a huge compound term that translates to a host of undesirables for the success of your business.
The Cost of Stress
One feature of stress is its systematic stressors which, according to PAHO/WHO puts you and your employees at an increased risk for a slew of health hazards like ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease (stroke), neoplasms (cancer and non-malignant tumors), and diabetes which were recorded as the major causes of death, in that order for Guyanese. Others included hypertensive disease (high blood pressure), suicide, heart failure, and liver cirrhosis (often caused by alcoholism).
It is estimated that up to 65 % of Guyanese in the labour force suffer from one or more of these often stress-induced diseases. There have been clear, evidence-based links between stress and poor mental health, hypertensive disease, obesity, and alcoholism. We hope it is becoming obvious that stress reduces your life expectancy along with the quality of life you actually have.
A local study which was steered in part by Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, former Chief Medical Officer, Ministry of Health – Guyana, explained that the national prevalence of diabetes was 18.1% in 2018 and the WHO country profile (Guyana) for 2016 revealed that most diabetes-related deaths occurred in the 30 to 69 age range indicating that these stressors are literally wiping hundreds of people out of the labour force prematurely every year. The chairman of the study lamented that the sustainability of the country’s economy will be severely compromised if on a yearly basis human resources are lost at this rate.
You’ve digested quite a bit of information. It’s time to understand exactly how employees are even exposed to stress and how much of that is actually job-related, right? Well – isolating and treating one stressor can have tremendous impacts on reducing stress levels, but it can also have the opposite effect if the right stressor has not been targeted. People do not operate in a vacuum. Their social lives, family dynamics, self-care, religious interactions, and workplace culture are all important and interrelated aspects of a person’s life so stressors from one area often do affect several other sectors.
A good idea is to actually identify and become familiar with common everyday stressors and less common but major stressors that your employees experience. For example, workload and working hours, job ambiguity and job security, lack of recognition, death or injury of a loved one or pet, poor health, divorce, relationship, and family problems, change in living situation, increase in financial obligations, marriage, new dependents, work-to-home commute, method of commute, and traffic as well as unexpected stressors, such as malfunctioning home appliances, burglary, and in some instances – power outages.
Discrimination is also a profound stressor. Originally from St. Lucia, Harvard researcher David Williams, PhD has piloted phenomenal research on how everyday micro-aggressions and discrimination cause profound stress in the long term and cost economies to bleed resources.
What can you do?
Okay, now you know how stress can affect your body, burden the economy, and cause massive dissatisfaction rates but how does this actually affect your business?
From revenue loss to high turnover rates and costs associated with advertising and onboarding, loss of productive hours, absenteeism and employee range of satisfaction, and costs associated with overtime pay for employees who pick up the additional work, stress can ruin your company’s bottom line.
Being busy is nothing to brag about. We ought to explore lessons in productivity, to ensure that during the onset of the worst pandemic most of us will ever see in our lives, a balance can be found between maintaining your bottom line and supporting the health and well-being of your employees.
Trust us, they will thank you for it!