October is International Longevity Month. This is a perfect opportunity to discuss the relationship between workplace stress and life expectancy and what you can do to help reduce the stress levels your employees may be experiencing. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “worked to death”. Sadly, it’s more than just an expression; it can be a reality in the workplace. Studies have shown that stress in the workplace can actually shorten your life.
“Decades of health research has found that the effects of stress compounds over time, starting with psychological stress, which can eventually lead to physical problems like high blood pressure and even death,” according to Erik Gonzalez-Mule, assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resources at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. In order to cope with stress, many people resort to unhealthy behaviours like smoking, drinking too much, over-eating or living a sedentary lifestyle. Other employees may up and leave before their stress levels become dangerous. In fact, according to Monster Canada, 25% of Canadians admit to leaving a job due to stress and another 17% have considered it.
What are the symptoms of stress?
According to the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, these (among others) are the signs of stress to watch out for:
- Mood swings
- Poor concentration
- Low productivity
- Avoidance of social activities
- Increased use of alcohol or tobacco
- Over or under eating
- Sweaty palms
What can you do to help reduce the stress levels among your employees?
It’s important to create healthy psychosocial work environments. I have several suggestions for creating less stressful, happy workplaces:
- Flexible work schedules – gives employees a feeling of having control.
- Work from home option – alleviates the stress of a long commute or taking children to and from daycare
- Open communication between management and employees – provides a safe environment for employees to discuss their situations and to ask for help or accommodation
- Encourage out-of-work team bonding – helps to build relationships and social connections
- If there is an onsite gym or yoga classes, promote its use – or partially subsidize membership in a nearby offsite facility (if possible)
- Encourage employees to take short breaks during the course of the day and get up from their desks at lunch – even a short walk or chatting with a colleague can help relieve stress
Creating a less stressful workplace is important for your employees and for your company. Employees becoming ill (or worse) due to stress, going on stress-leave or quitting due to stress can cause havoc with morale, productivity, and your bottom line. A happy and healthy workplace is good for your employees and it’s good business.