Stress – the hidden cost to the bottom line

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Stress in the workplace has increased significantly over the past 20 years in line with a change in the work environment; an environment which is characterised by resource scarcity, information overload, increased workload, tighter deadlines, faster turnaround times and tougher performance requirements for the individual.

Stress is estimated to be the biggest cause of absence from work, and costing UK businesses ca. £13 Billion a year, a CIPD/Simply Health 2011 Absence Management Report stated. These figures will have most likely risen since the report was published.

Traditional leadership has often not evolved to deal with this change in the work environment and the resulting increase in employee stress, and in a lot of cases neither have the company’s culture, processes and training and development offering, resulting in workplace being perceived as ‘toxic’ as Gary Chapman et al write in Rise above the toxic workplace.

Whilst I agree that everyone is responsible for their own life and health, and attributing blame to anyone does not solve anything, we do have to accept that a lot of stress at work is caused by antiquated leadership models, co-dependent team dynamics and interpersonal conflicts. In addition, a lot of employees are not sufficiently self-aware of their deeper stress triggers (scripts and patterns) or have learnt the skills to effectively neutralise these triggers to remain healthy.

In my experience ignoring this situation, can be very costly for organisations: increased absence due to ill health and stress, less productivity, less creativity, time spent on dealing with interpersonal issues, wasted effort, and increased errors. I also believe that companies have a corporate social responsibility and a duty of care towards their employees. Given that we spend most of our waking time at work, where else would we start to deal with stress related illness and disease…but at work.

How you can foster resilience

There are a number of interventions an organisation can offer its employees that show results quickly and have  financial benefit.

Resilience workshops and team events work really well to increase an individual’s self-awareness and resource them to deal with their individual stress, and improve team dynamics and thus reduce collective stress. In my view workplace stress is a collective issue and not just an individual one.

As an example how powerful and impactful resilience workshops can be, I ran two day resilience/self-awareness workshops for all people managers/leaders globally across one of my client organisations. Almost immediately after the workshops, the people managers passed what they learnt onto their staff, and the interpersonal atmosphere within the organisation changed over a period of a few months:

  • reduced stress levels,
  • increased productivity,
  • improved team dynamics,
  • people taking positive responsibility for their own emotions,
  • actions and behaviours.

Interpersonal conflicts that had caused significant stress to both parties and the people around them resolved almost overnight. As an added bonus, the organisation’s staff turnover decreased, thus reducing recruitment costs and loss of intellectual capital when someone left.

Although we did not cover food or exercise choices in the workshops, because of the increased self-awareness, some teams started to introduce stretching sessions in breaks, or brought in fruit to share instead of chocolates. It was wonderful to watch and experience, how much difference a little bit of shared self- and interpersonal awareness made.

Other options would be to introduce peer-to-peer resilience coaching or mentoring which some companies have already implemented with some success (no cost to the organisation apart from time).

And this is just one case, other organisations had similar results.

To discover how we can help, click on resilience, wellbeing & stress management or leadership development.

Contact us to find out more.

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