By FELTG Staff, October 18, 2022

Project deadlines, that one co-worker who rubs you the wrong way, work-life balance, worries about keeping your job. Sometimes, the stress of work can feel overwhelming. Even with a low unemployment rate, which allows workers more choice in job selection, people are feeling more stressed out than ever when dealing with workplace issues.

We sat down with Shana Palmieri, LCSW, FELTG Instructor, and Chief Clinical Officer and Co-Founder of XFERALL, to find out how managers can help employees ease the tension they have at work.

FELTG: What are some of the more frequent causes of workplace stress?

SP: Reports of stress in the workplace reached an all-time high in 2021 at 43 percent, up from 31 percent in 2009 and 38 percent in 2019.

The impact on employees and employers is significant. Workplace stress leads to employee disengagement.

Current employee disengagement rates are at 50 percent, resulting in a significant loss of employee productivity. Job-related stress is estimated to cost United States Industry $300 billion annually in diminished productivity, absenteeism, and accidents. The main causes of workplace stress are:

  • 39 percent report their workload
  • 31 percent report interpersonal issues/conflict in the workplace
  • 19 percent report juggling work and personal life
  • 6 percent report job security

FELTG: How can supervisors and managers help employees deal with workplace stress?

SP: Based on all-time record highs of employee stress in the workplace and disengagement, it is critical for employers to focus on employee well-being and engagement.

Key recommendations include:

  • Add employee well-being to executive dashboards.
    • Key measurements may include employee engagement, economic cost, turnover rates, productivity, healthcare and disability costs, company reputation, employee attitudes and well-being.
  • Formalize and prioritize employee well-being programs.

It is important to assess and address potential risk factors for employee stress and disengagement:

  • Poor team cohesion
  • Lack of clarity in strategy or objectives
  • Insufficient employee support
  • Hostile work environment, bullying, harassment
  • Employees having little or limited control over their work
  • Poor management and weak communication styles
  • Inflexible work hours/limited PTO
  • Poor safety policies/health risks at the workplace

Employers will improve well-being and reduce disengagement by proactively creating a workplace culture that promotes physical and mental well-being and implementing practices that drive employee engagement.

FELTG: What are some of the warning signs managers and supervisors can look for in  employees which might indicate employees need professional help?

SP: High levels of stress can lead to burnout, mental health conditions and substance abuse. Some warning signs employees may need professional help include:

  • Increasing use or abuse of substances
  • Increased social isolation
  • Increased agitation, low frustration tolerance (can be a sign of depression)
  • Low mood with apathy, difficulty making decisions, tearfulness
  • Increased anxiety
  • Reports or comments concerning suicidal thoughts
  • Extreme fatigue in combination with significant changes in mood
  • A significant change in work productivity and/or decreased quality of interactions in interpersonal relationships

If an employee makes threats to harm themselves or others, it is important to obtain immediate assistance available by calling 911 or the 988 crisis line.

[Editor’s note: For further insight on how to help your employees deal with stress, join Shana on Thursday, March 23, 2023 from 1:00-2:00 PM ET for Grappling with Employee Stress in the Workplace: Improve Performance and Morale in Your Agency.] [email protected]

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