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Culture Of Health: Managing Stress

Part one of our three-part series Culture of Health: From Wellness to Wellbeing
Pretty much everyone these days says they are “stressed out.” It’s almost abnormal in the work world to say otherwise. So, if everyone is stressed out, why should an employer even attempt to do anything about employee stress?
According to the American Institute of Stress, the consequences of stress-related illnesses cost businesses an estimated $200 to $300 billion a year in lost productivity. While we all know what it’s like to be stressed out, are we truly aware of the negative effects that stress can have on job performance, employee productivity, and overall wellbeing?
Just what is stress? Stress is commonly defined as our body's way of responding to any kind of demand or impending threat. While not all stress is bad for your health, symptoms of chronic stress can lead to serious physical and mental health complications. The American Psychological Association reported that in 2015, money and work remained the top two sources of significant stress, with family responsibilities emerging as the third most common stressor in our lives.
More specific to the workplace, global research conducted by Willis Towers Watson in 2014 found that the principal sources of workplace stress include:

  • Excessive workload, compounded by inadequate staffing

  • Unclear job expectations

  • Poor rewards for effort contributed

  • Overwhelming productivity demands 


Based on studies by the Mayo Clinic, the long-term activation of the stress-response system and the resulting overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can disrupt the body's natural processes. As a result, chronic stress increases the risk for numerous health problems, including: 

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Digestive problems

  • Headaches

  • Heart disease

  • Sleep problems

  • Weight gain

  • Memory and concentration impairment 

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that employees who report that they are stressed incur healthcare costs that are 46% higher than their non-stressed coworkers. Furthermore, Limeade, a corporate wellness technology company, has tracked the extent to which stress impacts wellbeing, and reported that 80% of all doctor visits and 60% of all costly illness and disease can be attributed to stress.


Stress, no matter the source, can also cause mental duress that leads to poor concentration, irritability, job dissatisfaction and low morale. The American Institute of Stress found that stress-related distractions or fatigue account for an estimated 60 to 80% of accidents on the job, and reports that an estimated one million workers miss work each day due to stress, costing companies an estimated $602 per employee per year. In addition, experts from meQuilibrium‘s clinically validated resilience training program report that 77% of people change jobs due to stress.


The research shows that promoting stress management in the workplace is an important step towards reducing healthcare costs and improving health outcomes overall. While it may be nearly impossible to eliminate stress from our everyday lives, it’s possible to avoid the detrimental side effects of chronic stress by influencing the way your employees think about and respond to stressful situations.
With the right guidance and support, your employees will be better equipped to find ways around problems by avoiding negative reactions, looking for new solutions, and remaining confident about overcoming the obstacles they face. No matter what type of stress management procedures your organization chooses to implement, a commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of all employees is the key to success.
Our next article will discuss the impact of financial instability on employee wellbeing, and the role of resilience – how you react to episodes of stress – in mitigating stress.

Patty Starr bio image

About the author

Patty Starr

Patty Starr is president and CEO of Health Action Council and is responsible for driving the strategic direction of the organization--build stronger, healthier communities where business can thrive. 

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