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Stress is the Number 1 Problem in Workplaces

It may not be news that employees see their own stress as a top issue. Now Towers Watson’s 2013/2014 Staying@Work Report confirms that 78% of employers also see it as their top too.

An employee’s stress level is a top concern of their employer because it costs American businesses ~ $300 billion/year in increased healthcare costs and lost productivity from absenteeism and low engagement.

Employers push EAP for stress, but employees aren’t interest.ed While aligned around the problem of employee stress, the Towers Watson Staying@Work report also highlights this key disconnect:

89% of employers promote their EAPs (employee assistance program) to employees to help manage stress, but only 5% of employees take advantage.

The PsyToday article, “Why Don’t Employees Use EAP Services?”, outlines four reasons why employees don’t use EAP:

  1. Don’t believe its confidential
  2. Feel there is a stigma in asking for help
  3. Believe they have to ask permission of boss or HR
  4. They don’t know it exists

And the same Towers Watson report points to another potentially simple reason: employees just don’t want EAP’s kind of help in managing their stress.

Employees don’t want EAP referrals to manage stress

EAP’s generally provide assessment and referral services for personal issues including substance abuse, death of a loved one, divorce or care of an aging parent. However, employees don’t want a referral to a counselor to help with their stress. Many are already managing their stress through activities including:

47% doing activities to distract from the stress (eg: reading/listen to music, movies, TV, games)

42% talking with supportive family and friends

39% doing physical activities (exercise more, play sports, go for a walk)

25% indulge themselves (eat less healthy food, drink more alcohol)

Relaxing with a book or music, exercising more and spending time with family and friends are all excellent ways to reduce stress. And the indulgers may simply need access to a healthier alternative. Why don’t employers do more to help their employees manage stress in these ways?

Help employees to manage stress the way they want to

Many employees don’t need or want a counselor to better manage their stress. What they need and want is access to engaging, stress-busting activities they can do on their own time. Activities like at home workouts, relaxing yoga practices, guided meditation and healthy recipes to cook at home with family and friends.

Lack of participation in Employee Wellness programs hurts both the employees and the employer - especially when it comes to employee stress. Evolving wellness programs to include stress management alternatives to EAP -- especially activities and services that employees already familiar want to do will increase participation rates and everyone will feel the benefits.

Be sure to read our blog post on giving employees a wellness program they'll actually use

Deborah Holstein
ABOUT THE AUTHOR | Deborah Holstein
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