The Cost of Workplace Stress: What You Need to Know

The Cost of Workplace Stress: What You Need to Know

Most HR professionals understand that, to at least some degree, their responsibilities include promoting a positive working environment for all employees. That’s why many prioritize guarding against workplace stress.

This is something you should be paying attention to as well. Stress in the workplace can have major consequences for both employees and the organization as a whole. Luckily, when you understand exactly how harmful stress can be, you may be more inclined to address it.

The following points serve that exact purpose. To appreciate exactly why you need to work with other decision-makers at your company to reduce employee stress, keep these tips in mind.

The Financial Cost

Stress has a direct negative impact on the financial health of a company. There are many reasons this is the case.

When employees are stressed, they may be less productive than they would be if they were relaxed and engaged. They may be more prone to absenteeism as well, since people who suffer chronic stress are more likely to become physically sick or feel so mentally exhausted that they need a day off. Stress in the workplace also tends to result in a high turnover rate; this blog has already covered how expensive that can be. Additionally, in working environments where negligence can lead to safety hazards, stressed employees may overlook important details that might contribute to accidents—some of them life-threatening.

Calculating the exact cost of these potential scenarios is difficult. However, HR professionals and employers should know that estimates say stress costs U.S. organizations a total of $300 billion each year.

You don’t want to be part of that trend. To ensure your company thrives, you need to proactively identify the causes of stress at your organization and take steps to correct them.

stress work

The Reputation Cost

No matter what industry you work in, there’s a good chance it’s competitive. Thus, you know how important your company’s reputation is. If you don’t consistently impress customers, they’ll take their business elsewhere.

This is another reason HR professionals must work to reduce stress in the workplace. When employees are struggling with anxiety and tension, they may not complete projects successfully, their interactions with customers may be unpleasant, and the overall quality of their work may suffer.

It’s easy to understand how this can affect your company’s reputation. Even if workers overcome their stress and improve their performance, by the time this happens, it may be too late. Customers who had negative experiences related to an employee’s poor performance will turn to one of your competitors when they need similar products or services in the future.

That’s important to remember. While it’s absolutely necessary to address current stress-related workplace issues, it’s also crucial that you identify ways to prevent employees from experiencing stress in the first place.

The Relationship Cost

It’s not uncommon for stressed employees to exhibit personality changes. Employees who previously got along well with supervisors and coworkers may, after feeling stressed for a prolonged period of time, treat others disrespectfully. This creates a tense and potentially hostile work environment in which people find it difficult to work together toward common goals. Additionally, the disrespectful behavior of a stressed employee can cause others to become stressed too, resulting in a “snowball effect.” In short, stress can cause morale to nosedive.

Remember this when employees start to behave differently at work. Although you should never tolerate any employee mistreating others, you should also ensure that managers understand that such changes in behavior are often signs of stress, not necessarily inherent personality traits.


Making Changes

When you see stress taking a toll on your organization, it’s important to identify the causes. Some employees’ stress may stem from their personal life, but there is little you can do about that. However, within the workplace, there are typically a few major culprits that either cause or exacerbate employees’ stress. These include unchallenging, mindless work; limited career advancement opportunities; and no control over decisions.

It’s easy to see how limited opportunities for growth and a mind-numbing job can combine to make someone feel frustrated and stressed. Human beings need mental stimulation, and it’s tough to show up day in, day out to a job that’s soul-crushingly boring. While you can’t always change people’s job responsibilities, there are some steps you can take to make work more engaging, or at least less dull. For example, investigate what technologies you could adopt to take over mindless or repetitive tasks. Is there something your employees hate doing that a computer could do better? What would be a better use of your employees’ unique talents? In addition, consider the career development opportunities at your organization. Consider offering trainings or professional education to help employees move up the career ladder.

Better communication can help alleviate employees’ stress caused by lack of control over organizational decisions or their job itself. Ensure that your organization has feedback mechanisms in place and that managers welcome employees’ opinions. In addition, ensure that managers aren’t micromanaging employees—encourage them to allow their employees to decide how they will accomplish some tasks and responsibilities. Having autonomy and control helps people feel less stressed.

Managers and executives should also ensure that they explain company decisions, especially those that lead to big changes. When people know the reasons behind a decision, they often feel less anxious and frustrated about it. Similarly, hearing about a major change only indirectly, or by accident, can be extremely frustrating.

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