Stress Affects Nearly Half of All Employees’ Work Performance

Key factors to look for from your Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

From the inside out, stress has a way of manifesting its way in the workplace. In fact, nearly half of all employees’ work performance issues are directly related to stress, according to “Stressed at Work: What We Can Learn From EAP Utilization,” the just released white paper from Bensinger, DuPont & Associates (BDA). With stress costing American businesses an up to $300 billion annually, it’s no wonder it has been referred to as the “health epidemic of the 21st century” by World Health Organization.

Stress is linked to myriad symptoms, including difficulty concentrating, absenteeism, and poor work quality. The overall data of BDA’s research revealed gender differences in the influence of stress on work performance, yet variances by age were minimal. Analyzing the findings, we learned that for both males and females difficulty concentrating is the most common way personal problems and stress disrupt work. Females are absent more often because of personal problems at home, but males miss more days of work because of personal issues. Formal disciplinary action was almost double for males, with those ages 56 to 65 reporting the highest rates of disciplinary action.

No matter how small or large your company is, stress is the common denominator for poor work quality and lack of productivity among your employees. It only takes a few overly stressed employees to wreak havoc on a company’s overall workplace morale and bottom line.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are proven to help combat employees’ stress. An overwhelming 94 percent of EAP participants reported positive outcomes and improved work performance after EAP intervention was implemented. Although EAP intervention helped many employees positively address stress and improve work performance, a one-size-fits all approach for employee stress reduction may not be enough. Traditional delivery models of face-to-face sessions may not work for all employees. Technology plays a vital role in how people manage their lives today. Individuals have different communication preferences. For example, men look for information on a wider variety of topics and issues online than women do, according to a Pew Internet Project. Therefore, EAPs offering self-directed access to information through a mobile device application or Website may attract more male participants. Additional service options such as phone sessions, video sessions, and chat should be considered to meet the needs of the employee population and to promote usage of the program.

Leveraging an EAP

Effective prevention and early intervention programming that is tailored to address the varying needs of your employee population is necessary for improving employees’ work performance and reducing stress. Some key components to help an organization get substantially more out of its EAP and minimize the effects of stress among it workforce include:

  • Identifying underlying causes of stress and depleting work performance issues should be at the cornerstone of your EAP providers’ clinical approach. This is done through educational programs and training tailored specifically to the type of your industry (e.g., manufacturing, business, hospitality, construction etc.), and by indentifying the differing effects of stress on employees’ work performance by gender and age.
  • Preventive programming is a key component for combating stress-related issues before they become problematic. The training provided by an EAP should address the individuals who make up the employee population, as well as the organization as a whole. This can be accomplished by addressing the differing effects of stress on employees’ work performance by gender and age.
  • Awareness is key. Training should include specific information on how to identify employees in need before personal issue takes over. Supervisors, managers, and Human Resources personnel who are able to recognize these signs and symptoms of stress among employees can save your company a lot of time and money.
  • Implementing a robust promotional campaign will lay the foundation for a successful stress reduction plan. It will help build awareness among a company’s team members, encourage stressed employees to engage in workplace health programs, and help increase utilization of among employees.
  • Promotional outreach should be customized. For instance, research shows that men prefer Web content that’s interactive, quick, and to the point. So to decrease male disciplinary action, promotional outreach to men should be brief, factual, and focus on solutions instead of problems, and should reflect their preferred modes of communication preferences: e-mail and text messaging.

It’s clear that the impact of stress on employees’ work performance has a bottom-line impact on companies of all sizes. Companies that teach their managers how to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress will be better equipped to encourage stressed employees to engage in positive behavior change. EAP utilization is proven to lead to enhanced employee morale; stronger commitment to the organization; better attendance; and improved interaction between coworkers and managers, and with customers.

Marie Apke is chief operating officer of Bensinger, DuPont & Associates, an EAP that promotes healthy outcomes for the workplace, employees, individuals, and their families. Founded in 1982 to provide Drug-Free Workplace consultation and policy development, BDA began providing EAP services in 1986. Today, BDA is one of the 10 largest EAPs in the nation, serving approximately 10 million lives. The firm’s diverse offerings, flexibility, and case management approach ensure an individualized experience for its customers. To view “Stressed at Work: What We Can Learn From EAP Utilization,” visit: http://www.bensingerdupont.com/images/contentfiles/BDA_White_Paper_2013.pdf.

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