There are many factors that have contributed to the precipitous rise in workplace stress over the past two decades.
From an “I can have it all” mindset in the 1990’s, to “Results Only Work Environments” in the 2,000’s, and we can “Do More with Less” following the 2009 recession,
stress has become synonymous with work.
Most notably, technology has accelerated the pace of work and perpetuated a pervasive always-on culture typical of today’s organizations. Equipped with smart phones, computers, wearables and the like, employees are expected to be at-the-ready, available 24/7 to respond to events, and quickly adapt to changing conditions impacting their organizations.
Causes of Workplace Stress
In addition, leaders under pressure to grow market share and increase revenue have become expert at responding to circumstances that threaten profits by generating cascading rapid-fire responses across organizations perpetuating reactive and chronically anxious cultures.
A 1999 study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found employees are not afforded enough time to recover from the “whirlwind” pace of work with 40% of workers reporting their job to be “very stressful” or “extremely stressful. Some organizations are responding by offering workers access to corporate wellness programs to help them cope with workplace stress brought about by constant change.
40% found their workplace stressful in a 1999 study.
The idea that organizations should cultivate a healthy workforce is not a novel one, leaders began promoting healthy workplace habits and benefits as far back as the 1950’s.
Initially these “wellness benefits” focused on providing care for traditional health related issues, but a 1998 report by the World Health Organization that redefined health as
“a state of complete physical, spiritual, and social wellbeing not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,”
prompted a shift in thinking about health and gave rise to mind-body leadership development programs that build resilience in stressful work environments.
Stress has become ubiquitous in the workplace.
The World Health Organization has identified workplace stress as a 21st century epidemic that threatens the health and well-being of the U.S. workforce and costs businesses up to $300 billion a year.
The United Nation’s International Labor Organization characterized workplace stress as a “global epidemic”, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that occupational stress is posing a serious threat to a worker’s health.
Today’s workers are turning to their employers to provide training and support to reduce the negative impact of stress on their health and wellbeing.
A recent survey of more than one thousand employees conducted by the American Heart Association (AHA) showed employees are “extremely” interested in employer sponsored programs that may help them cope with stressful work-related situations.
That same survey showed that
“employees attributed a variety of health outcomes to participation in resilience training programs, including having more energy (51%), exercising regularly (45%), and improved quality of life (41%). Further, those who have participated say, overall, their health has improved a great deal or fair amount because of the resilience training (73%). And, 80% of those who are offered resilience training programs say the availability of the programs have a strong or very strong impact on their commitment to their health.”
73% experienced great health improvement due to resiliency training.
Why use resiliency training programs?
Given the growing burden of workplace stress on employees and on organizations, experts in the field of leadership development have started exploring new strategies for building resilience in the workplace. Research indicates a growing interest in emerging strategies such as resiliency training to foster healthier workplaces and help employees cope with workplace stress.
In 2017, AHA’s research suggests that workplace stress is a 21st century dilemma that is costing organizations billions of dollars in lost productivity and health care costs each year; it is a problem that organizations are eager if not anxious to resolve.
The dilemma organizations face is problematic, not only because it affects organizational functioning but because stress itself is difficult to measure and challenging to address. Nonetheless, the data presented in AHA research is compelling for anyone seeking validation about the benefits of stress management and resiliency training programs.
Additionally, many organizations are looking for ways to improve employee health and wellbeing, and they are also looking for ways to address rising health care costs.
Data showing that resilience programs have a positive effect on employee engagement, loyalty, job satisfaction, and productivity is an encouraging sign for employers seeking meaningful options and measurable results. The research is also promising for consultants who want to play an important role in helping organizations become healthier workplaces.
Learn more about Resiliency Training.
There are countless schools of thought on how to build a resilient and healthy workforce along with corresponding models potentially overwhelming consultants and organizations and resulting in inertia.
However, the cornucopia of options for unlocking the secret to managing workplace stress provides consultants with research options for exploring best practices, but unlocking the code is not easy as one size does not fit all.
An individual’s capacity for managing and adapting to life’s stressful events plays an important role in developing coping strategies that can be successfully implemented across an organization with the help of a knowledgeable consultant.
AnaLia Medina, Founder of Kinteos Consulting, is an Organization Development Consultant & Executive Coach who specializes in studying the effect of chronic stress on group dynamics, employee productivity, decision making, and workplace morale.
She has a background as a business development professional and solutions consultant with 20+ years spent working with decision federal government leaders and key decision makers in the United States and in foreign posts around the world.