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Well at Work

U.S. Employers Rank Stress as Top Workplace Issue


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Stressed at the office? You're not alone. Stress is the number one workplace issue according to the 2013/2014 Towers Watson Staying@Work Survey, conducted by Towers Watson in collaboration with the National Business Group on Health. While employers ranked stress as the top issue facing employees, above physical inactivity and obesity, only 15 percent said that decreasing stress and anxiety was a top priority of their company's health and productivity programs.

Employers ranked the top three causes of workplace stress as lack of work/life balance (86 percent), inadequate staffing (70 percent), and technologies that expand employee availability during nonworking hours (63 percent). In contrast, employees ranked inadequate staffing as the top cause of stress, followed by low pay or low pay increases and unclear or conflicting job expectations, according to the Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitude Survey of 5,070 workers.

The disconnect between employee and employer sources of stress included more than just inadequate staffing. Employees ranked lack of work/life balance fifth, employers put it first. Low pay or low pay increases was the second biggest stressor for employees, but employers ranked it ninth.

"Employees seem to be saying, 'support me, pay me, and direct me,' but employers are focused on other stress factors," said Shelly Wolff, senior health care consultant at Towers Watson. "Stress has a strong link to physical health, emotional health, personal purpose and community—all contributing factors to workplace performance. Employers that fail to understand employees' views on stress risk diverting time and resources to fixing the wrong problems and, at the same time, alienating employees."

While many employers have employee assistance programs (EAPs), provide access to financial planning services, and offer flexible working options to help employees manage stress, only 5 percent of employees say they utilize these resources. The survey also found that only 39 percent of employers offer stress management interventions like yoga, Tai Chi, or workshops to employees. To combat stress, employees are more likely to rely on leisure activities, social support, and physical activity to cope with stress.

"Employers need to understand their employees' stress drivers, assess their health and productivity programs in light of the findings and leverage what employees are already doing to cope with stress," said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health. "Employers should improve and promote EAPs, encourage employees to take vacations, design company-sponsored physical activities and offer formal programs to effectively manage stress."  

For information on how you can bring better, more integrated health/wellness services to your company, visit www.CorePerformanceWellness.com.

Tags: Health, Stress, Pressure, Work