Costs of Stress in the Workplace by Lucas Mattiello, BBA of Level Up Living

Stress is present in all organizations, especially in the dynamic legal field. With the many demands, responsibilities, and changes facing legal staff, managing stress levels is essential in order to avoid the negative impact elevated stress has on work performance, which can often overlap into the personal lives of business professionals. 

As we continue to encounter increased levels of change and uncertainty, stress levels increase. We all know that stress decreases employee effectiveness, employee health, and engagement levels. The cost of stress-related absences to employers is staggering: The Canadian Policy Research Networks estimates that stress-related absences cost Canadian employers about $3.5 billion each year. There is a more prevalent situation that is having a greater impact on employee performance and that is disengaged employees that are struggling with “presenteeism.”  

What is Presenteeism?

Presenteesim occurs when employees are at work physically, but due to stress, having an illness or a physical or emotional issue, they become distracted by it to the point of disengagement thereby reducing output and work quality. While absenteeism carries a significant cost, its lesser-known cousin is detrimental to team morale, decreases productivity, and results in lost revenue.

A 2005 survey of HR professionals from 94 Canadian organizations with 250 or more employees representing more than 300,000 employees showed that presenteeism was identified by 28% of respondents as an issue of concern, and 18% intended to address the issue in the short term. It is estimated that media, which provides a temporary escape, but also provides unnecessary additional stimulation. This can often lead to late nights, which contribute to yet another stress factor: Lack of sleep. We must look at stress as a cycle because there are a number of contributors that build into stressing business professionals today. This reinforces the stress cycle, which often begins with waking up feeling tired. Beginning the day with coffee to get a jumpstart provides temporary energy for a couple hours but often leads to a crash around 10 a.m. Then, a sugar craving or a longing for another coffee starts and the cycle perpetuates throughout the day. This “spike and crash” cycle places a heavy burden on the body, presenteeism has an incidence rate three times higher than absenteeism.

Stress will never go away completely. Actually, stress levels rise as the pressures to perform in today’s fast-paced, competitive legal industry remains constant. While certain levels of stress are actually healthy (stress can provide a boost of focused energy to meet deadlines), constant exposure to elevated stress can lead to significant health consequences such as employee burnout.

Disengaged employees become frequently distracted from their work. One of the most common observations I see is disengaged employees spending hours of their day surfing the internet. When not feeling fulfilled with work or feeling overwhelmed by work, the common result is to “check out.” Many people go online instead of focusing on what must get accomplished. When stress levels get too high, work stress often transfers into home life and can lead to feelings of anger, ineffective or a complete lack of communication, and withdrawal from family. The withdrawal often takes place by escaping into home computers to surf online mindlessly or engage on social especially the adrenal glands, resulting in lowered energy levels and can lead to adrenal fatigue, where your adrenal glands are overworked to to the point where they cannot keep up with the stress. You experience feelings of grogginess or have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, even if you’ve had an adequate amount of sleep.

Employee Burnout

Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. Sun Life’s recently released report “The Burnout Factor” identified that constant exposure to stress is a major contributor to employee burnout. 

Lessons Learned:

• The group with the highest average “burnout factor” (stresses in emotional, financial, personal, professional and health areas) is that of full-time employees.

• Of the full-time employee group, individuals between the ages of 35 and 44 (prime productive working years), are at a particularly high risk of stress. Their burnout factor score was, on average, 40.4, which is 30% higher than the average Canadian.

• Full-time employees between the ages of 25 and 34 (prime foundation years) scored 37.1 on the burnout factor, which is 29% higher than the average Canadian.

What Is Stress Management Training?

Stress management training raises awareness and empowers business professionals with tools, techniques, and strategies to effectively self-manage stress to maintain control. This is critical because one of the biggest drivers of employee stress is feeling it and not knowing what to do about it. In the past, this type of training often got applied reactively instead of proactively. We all know it’s important to resolve problems proactively by treating the source of the problem and not only address the symptoms, which will go on and on. In the past, the training was viewed as a cost instead of an investment. But that thinking has begun to shift.

The Business Case for Stress Management

The chart below demonstrates the various ways in which stress can impact your organization. There are a number of costs associated with stress in the employee costs, productivity, and health. While there are often difficulties quantifying some of the results of wellness programs, there is growing evidence that the cost-benefit ratio ranges from $1.50 to $6.15 for every dollar invested.

• *BC Hydro: For every $1 spent on the organization’s wellness program, the company saved an estimated $3.

• *Telus-BC: The company saved $3 for every $1 spent on corporate health initiatives.

How Stress Management Training is Carried Out

Participants in the training are led through a series of structured learning modules that increase stress awareness, provide self-management tools, and create personalized stress-management goals. Each step in the training builds upon previous learning to create a solid foundation of insight to support efficient learning. The activities utilize cognitive, kinesthetic and physical exercises to reinforce the Accelerated Learning Principles this program provides to engage participants in an effective learning environment. Participants receive stress assessments to track their progress and highlight priority topics to address to ensure their goals are met.

Why Get Stress-management Training?

The goal for stress-management training is helping business professionals to become more self-aware, better manage the stress that comes with a demanding position in the workplace, and increase your quality of life. While stress is prevalent in every role, it’s often overlooked in many education programs, which leads to the current situation of staff being stressed and not knowing the techniques to self-manage it. In the training, we address a number of topics including:

• Understanding the causes of stress, how it affects the body, and the role it plays in your life

• Self-management techniques to achieve control during stressful situations

• How to make stress work for them to boost productivity • Self-awareness triggers to identify stress and when it’s important to slow down • How specific food choices can add stress and healthier alternatives to reduce it.

What’s Next?

Interested in seeing what stress-management could do for you? Contact us today to discuss the best options for your staff. lucas@levelupliving.com or 604 720-1239