Workplace Stress Linked to Rising Health Care Costs

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Workers are stressed out and overwhelmed. Sandwiched between caring for children and parents, worrying about retirement, and making ends meet means employees constantly are on edge. Ira S. Wolfe, author of Business Values and Motivators: What Fills Your Employee Buckets, believes workplace stress is linked to double-digit increases employersÂ? cost for health insurance costs. Apparently, heÂ?s not the only one.

Workers are stressed out and overwhelmed. Sandwiched between caring for children and parents, worrying about retirement, and making ends meet means employees constantly are on edge.

Ira S. Wolfe, author of Business Values and Motivators: What Fills Your Employee Buckets, believes workplace stress is linked to double-digit increases employers’ cost for health insurance costs. Apparently, he’s not the only one. The American Institute of Stress estimates the cost of workplace stress to employers at more than $300 billion each year. That number includes both health care payments and missed work days.

Wolfe admits some stress is normal. “To gripe about being overworked and under-paid and working hard and not getting the recognition you deserve is almost as American as apple pie,” he says.

Sustained and prolonged stress is not normal. Two out of five workers experience distress due to too much pressure or mental fatigue at work. According to Wolfe, this workplace stress is beginning to bleed companies dry. Workers who report they are stressed incur health care costs that are 46 percent higher, or $600 more per person, than non-stressed employees. One in five workers is at risk for stress-related health problems including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, substance abuse and depression.

Several reports recently released by LLuminari, Inc. Kronos, Inc. and the International Labour Office bear out Wolfe’s connection between workplace stress and rising healthcare costs.

Wolfe recommends every employer do what he calls an employee “stress” test. Similar to a stress test used to check out the health of a person’s heart, Wolfe’s CriteriaOne® DISC and Business Values and Motivators assessments “check out” both current employees and job candidates. These assessments test the person’s motivation and ability to cope with the stress of the job. “Hiring or promoting an employee into a position and then having that person not show up, quit and file for disability is just too expensive, especially for the small- and medium-sized business owners”, Wolfe says.

This “stress” test also works for people who have been on the job for some time. After using CriteriaOne, a few of Wolfe’s clients discovered several of their top employees were so stressed they were looking for other jobs. In one case, a 37-year-old manager was on the road to his second heart attack in just three years. In this case, employee “stress” testing literally saved a life. By restructuring jobs and providing some coaching, companies can retain highly skilled and loyal employees, cut health care costs and reduce absenteeism.

Wolfe believes too many employers still think employees just need to tough it out. But the cold hard fact about workplace stress is that has a very chilling effect on the bottom line.

Wolfe is the founder of Success Performance Solutions, an employee selection and performance management consulting firm in Lancaster PA and author of The Perfect Labor Storm: Why Worker Shortages Will Not Go Away.

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