Statistics on workplace stress are too alarming to ignore. For decades, workplace expectations have been phrased in positive terms like, “works well under pressure,” “can handle multiple priorities,” or “willing to work long hours.” While these attributes have been linked to job success and promotion potential—as well as demotion or career stagnation if not followed—they are also linked to harmful stress.
Years of extreme workplace pressure and lack of balance and stress management have resulted in a near epidemic of employee disengagement in organizations across the nation.
Gallup Poll and Blessing and White surveys reveal that engagement across all organizations does not exceed 30 percent. Gallup defines engaged employees as “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.” (Access 2013-2014 survey results here.)
Research from the American Institute of Stress reveals that the workplace is by far the leading cause of stress for Americans. Mounting stress is implicated in the rise of workplace violence, increased absenteeism, and hours worked.
Health Advocate, Inc., a nationwide health care advocacy and assistance company, noted that stress-related illness accounts for at least 90 percent of doctor visits. In another survey, participants indicating high stress and stress-related illnesses had health care costs 46 percent higher than non-stressed employees. What these two studies show is that work is making people sick—literally—and sometimes critically and terminally. Equally apparent is the devastating impact on any organization’s bottom line. For example, the annual cost of lost productivity due just to stress-related sleep deprivation is $63 billion. Other statistics are more hopeful:
- In 2012, Health Insurer Aetna experienced a 7-percent reduction in health benefit costs following an initiative to promote yoga and meditation. CEO Mark Bertolini reported improvements in employees’ heart rates and productivity. (Aetna’s 48,000 employees have access to three wellness programs that incorporate mindfulness).
- Eighty percent of General Mills’ employees who participated in Janice Marturano’s meditation program reported an increased ability to make decisions.
- A Johns Hopkins University study found that merely 30 minutes of daily meditation can help decrease anxiety, pain, and depression.
- NASA found a 34-percent performance improvement in pilots who were allowed to take a 40-minute nap prior to their scheduled flight.
These studies suggest that should company owners want more productive employees, a more engaged workforce, and improved bottom-line results, it might be time to evaluate employees on their ability to take naps, their attendance at workplace yoga or meditation sessions, and their relaxation skills.
How well does your culture support these metrics?