The Impact of Stress in the Workplace

Today’s workplaces are stressing us out, and adversely impacting our health and well-being, according to research by Harvard Business School. We are working too many hours, and too many hours of work have been shown to be related to high-blood pressure and a host of other diseases. Workplace stress might be affecting your health more than you think.

Absence of job control, work-family conflict and economic insecurity are all stressors. The combination of working too much and having too much stress can literally kill people. People’s minds affect their bodies. Stress is a mental state. It’s not surprising that things that make you stressed, nervous, anxious and feel out of control have enormous physiological impact.

Research has long-shown the negative impact of workplace stress in our lives. The Harvard study brought all of the previous research on the topic together in an effort to create a model that estimates the total effects on population health and health-care costs.

What is the effect of all of this stress?

The Harvard researchers found that there are about 120,000 deaths annually in the U.S. related to excess stress. Close to $190 billion is spent in healthcare costs as a consequence of exposures to harmful workplace conditions. These conditions include:

  • absence of health insurance
  • shift work
  • working too many hours
  • job insecurity
  • work/family conflict
  • not feeling things are fair and just
  • lack of social supports, among others.

The mortality rate for excess stress is comparable to some of the largest causes of death, namely heart disease and accidents. It’s more than the death rate from Alzheimer’s, diabetes or the flu.

What are the worst workplace stressors?

The biggest contributors to healthcare costs are chronic stressors, such as absence of healthcare, economic insecurity, too many work hours and work/family conflicts.

How much is in our control?

Employees need to understand that jobs that don’t offer healthcare, require long hours, shift work and are economically insecure are more than an inconvenience. These types of stressors will have a profound impact on their lives and should be taken into account when considering a position.

Employers who worry about healthcare costs should be more concerned about the work environment. The study found that employers tend to worry about individual decisions like employee eating, exercising, smoking, drinking, etc. Employers also tend to be concerned about broad social policy issues, like how we pay for healthcare in the U.S.

Most excess healthcare costs are a result of what people experience in the work environment. Employers need to understand the importance of reducing stress in the work environment; most of these issues are things the employer could improve or remedy if so desired.

How can we make things better?

Employers need to recognize the costs incurred when employees must live with excessive stressors and design a benefits program that, while supporting the company’s priorities, reduces risk and controls costs, takes into account employee stress and morale. MMA can review your current benefits program and help you design a strategic plan for the right coverages and cost control strategies.

MMA can help you determine the financial impact on your business while putting in place a plan that will control employee stress and possibly save their lives. Contact us today to get started.