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Putting resilience at the heart of fighting work stress

April 10, 2021
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A healthy workforce consists of employees who can cope — and hopefully even thrive — in the face of acute life and work stress. 

But chronic stress, which results from frequent exposure to situations that trigger the release of cortisol and other stress hormones, can lead to employee burnout.

According to Harvard Medical School, burned-out employees are more likely to engage in damaging behaviors, such as smoking, substance abuse, and compulsive overeating, that negatively affect heart health.

With 83% of Americans suffering from work-related stress at any given time, about 1 million workers miss work each day. 

Unfortunately, employers risk more than productivity loss.

The grim reality is work-related stress causes 120,000 deaths each year, according to the American Institute of Stress. Stressed employees also drive about $190 billion in health care costs.

How work stress impacts employee health

The Mayo Clinic highlights several factors that make employees feel work stress:

  • Unclear job expectations
  • Extremes of activity (e.g., a monotonous job suddenly turns chaotic)
  • An inability to influence decisions that affect their jobs, such as their work schedule, assignments, workload and resources
  • Being unable to strike a healthy balance between work and personal life
  • Feeling isolated at work and in their personal lives
  • Economic insecurity and financial stress

American Heart Month is the ideal time to learn how emotional resilience improves heart health. Keep reading to discover key health promotion strategies for how to deal with stress at work.

Combat work stress by prioritizing employee health 

Some factors are outside your control as an employer. However, you can focus on employee health and ways to reduce work stress.

For example, clarifying job expectations and helping employees manage their workloads by better communicating priorities can help reduce stress. But what about the stressors that you can't remove?

When part of a larger wellness strategy, resilience training can help your employees develop the ability to better manage the ups and downs of work. It can also increase their capacity for dealing with change and other stressful situations.

Broaden the scope of employee wellness programs

Compared with a decade ago, employers now view wellness programs as a key aspect of their employee benefits package, according to an Optum Wellness in the Workplace study.

These programs not only improve workplace satisfaction and engagement but also decrease employee absenteeism. But many companies neglect to include a key element of wellness: employee resilience.

Given the health concerns facing American workers today, a growing number of employers have added resilience training to their wellness programs, according to a 2020 report on workplace stress management.

Following in their footsteps by integrating resilience training into your onboarding program could help you reap long-term rewards — like greater employee loyalty and increased workforce productivity.

Help improve resilience through training

Resilient employees have the skills to deal with setbacks as well as the capacity to move on after they encounter a stumbling block.

They also show higher self-esteem, a sense of efficacy over their lives, and the ability to better manage stress. But does it indeed help their heart health?

The American Heart Association's Resilience in the Workplace survey of 1,001 working Americans shows it does. 

Nearly three in four respondents said resilience training had improved their health either a fair amount or a great deal.

Specific outcomes reported by participants included: 

  • Having more energy (51%)
  • Exercising regularly (45%) 
  • Enjoying an improved quality of life (41%)

The takeaway? 

Employee resilience training not only strengthens your workforce at scale but also improves their overall health and well-being.

Raise awareness of mental health, wellness issues

The CEO Roundtable reports that stress-related mental health disorders are common across the U.S. workforce. 

For example, many workers struggle with depression in addition to physical conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

The American Psychological Association reached a similar finding in its 2020 survey, in which 70% of respondents cited the workplace as a significant source of stress.

Given the pervasiveness of chronic stress and mental health disorders within America's workforce, the CEO Roundtable recommends employers provide comprehensive mental health prevention and treatment programs.

After all, employees spend most of their waking hours at work, driving the success of their company. Employers should take some responsibility for their mental health.

Ready to take the first step toward improving work stress?

The first step in tackling stress at work is to reduce stigma by normalizing it through conversation.

Job stress isn't an easy problem to solve, but employee wellness initiatives — from yoga and meditation workshops to resilience training — offer a win-win for your employees and your company.

While you benefit from increased employee loyalty and greater productivity, employees will achieve gains in their health and happiness — both at work and after hours.

Interested in learning more about minimizing work stress by implementing a wellness program at your organization? 

Contact Health Links.


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