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Workers are stressed out

November 10, 2017

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

A recent survey by the American Psychological Association shows that stress in America is at an all-time high. While main sources of stress for more than 66% of the respondents tend to be about our country’s future and political issues, money and work still tend to be major stressors.

Many of the issues stressing out U.S. employees revolve around workplace issues.  The largest issue reported by the survey’s respondents was healthcare at 43%.  The economy came in at 35%.
Part of the problem today is the constant stream of news across all media forms.  “With 24-hour news networks and conversations with friends, family, and other connections on social media, it’s hard to avoid the constant stream of stress around issues of national concern,” said American Psychological Association CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr. “These can range from mild, thought-provoking discussions to outright, intense bickering, and over the long term, conflict like this may have an impact on health.”  And with current technology, these conversations leech into the workplace whether employers like it or not.  Employees remain connected all day even with strict social media or email policies.

Another study revealed that only 23% of employees felt that they could discuss stress issues with their managers.  But in contrast, 65% said they could discuss the stress they are under with colleagues.  In addition to the everyday stresses of employees, work issues only compile that stress.  Employees should be encouraged to speak up when feeling stressed or are dealing with mental health issues.

Many employees feel ashamed to admit that stress, whether from work or personal issues, is affecting them in the workplace.  Just as employers should encourage workers to take care of themselves physically, it’s important to also promote caring for one’s mental health.

When an organization supports mental health well being, employees are more likely to utilize benefits available for it without feeling ashamed or fearing retaliation.  A recent story surfaced about an employee that took a “mental health day” and emailed the CEO telling him that is what she was doing.  CEO Ben Congleton’s response went viral for his positivity and support.  The correspondence went like this:

Employee’s Email:
Hey Team, 
I’m taking today and tomorrow to focus on my mental health.  Hopefully I’l be back next week refreshed and back to 100%.

CEO’s Response:
I just wanted to personally thank you for sending emails like this.  Every time you do, I use it as reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health – I can’t believe this not standard practice at all organizations.  You are an example to us all, and help cut through the stigma so we can all bring our whole selves to work.

Each day, 1 million U.S. employees miss work due to stress in the workplace, according to the American Institute of Stress. With American stress levels at an all-time high, work stress is having a stronger effect on employees.  Many workers are “on” 24/7 with smartphones and wireless laptops.  There is no longer down time when an employee leaves work.

Employers can support their employees’ mental health in such ways as maintaining healthy, realistic workloads; making it easy for employees to access the Employee Assistance Program if you have one; offering a work/life balance; and ensuring that your medical plan covers mental health.  Doing so will result in a healthier, happier workforce that is more productive and engaged.

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