When people think about what health risk factors are potentially costing employers billions of dollars, they may guess high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or obesity. However, not many know that stress is costing businesses as much as $300 billion a year.
Why is stress having such a negative impact on the American workplace? For one, up to 78 percent of full-time workers in the U.S. are living paycheck to paycheck. The American Psychological Association also agrees that financial troubles are the top stressor for Americans. In their report, “Stress in America: Paying With Our Health,” they also cited work (60 percent), family responsibilities (47 percent), and health concerns (46 percent) as other causes of stress.
Even though stress is a part of everyday life, it can get to a point where it causes poor health and well-being for an individual. But there are strategies and tactics that employers could provide to help their workforces become more resilient and save on costs related to stress.
How wellness programs can help
Focus on both prevention and treatment
As with physical health, mental health can deteriorate when individuals neglect that part of their well-being. People can take steps to prevent their conditions from worsening. For example, everyone experiences stress, but chronic stress, if left unaddressed, can lead to emergency healthcare, medication, and other costly interventions. The first step your organization can take is to see how wellness programs can play a role in prevention of more serious mental health problems.
Recognize the link between physical and mental health
When it comes to wellness programs, traditionally, employers have worried mostly about how chronic conditions cost them in direct medical costs and indirect costs like lost productivity. But mental well-being is pivotal to physical well-being as well. Stress is a big contributor to poor physical health. Stress can worsen chronic conditions like diabetes, depression, and cardiovascular disease. When providing wellness education, don’t neglect the importance of stress management.
Use what you (might) already have
Did you know that employee assistance programs (EAPs) have been around for decades, and they first started out as a workplace solution for alcoholism and substance abuse? EAPs can be easily incorporated into a larger wellness strategy. Managers refer this resource to employees struggling with emotional and mental health issues such as stress and anxiety. In addition, some EAPs offer a legal and financial benefit, which can help employees struggling with those types of life concerns.
Promote a mentally and physically healthy lifestyle at work
In addition to promoting diet and exercise (although those have been proven to help with mental well-being), also think about how to incorporate things like meditation, mindfulness, and other stress management techniques and programs. You can take it a step further by implementing changes to work policy or environment for a more balanced mindset. For example, think about agile work arrangements or reducing the frequency or duration of meeting times. You may also provide quiet spaces or privacy booths in the workplace to allow employees to take restful breaks when they really need them.
The deep mind-body connection has a profound effect on overall well-being, so see how your organization could better address mental wellness issues. Learn more about wellness programs and how they could help with employee wellness, morale, and productivity by visiting HumanaWellness.com