What The Data Says
To understand the cost of stress we wanted to fist see how much it is impacting people. We surveyed LinkedIn to find out how much does work stress impact people at home. Because we deal with aspects of human performance so often, the results were not surprising. Yet when we continued to analyze the big picture, we uncovered some interesting facts. The picture below illustrates the results of that survey.
When we have 64% of people reporting that this negative impact of stress on home life occurs on a heavy or worse level, it makes you stop and ask what the companies are doing about it. Yet this is just another area where science says one thing and business does another. Because business is so far behind what behavior and human performance science say, we see that only 17% of companies are doing something to address stress for their employees. This data were from our research two years ago, so we are optimistic that the number is a little better today, but none the less you can see the massive difference between what the employees are reporting and what business is doing about it.
Now this falls in line with the Organizational Behavior rule of 1/8th. A rule that explains why so few organizations are truly effective at how they manage their people. One-half won’t believe in OB. One half of those that do will not make enough changes to see any difference. Only one half of those that do make enough change will practice and persist enough to see the profits they want.
Why is this important? Becasue the companies that figure out the astronomical cost of stress and decide to invest in protecting and developing their people will reap rewards of competitive advantage over the companies that do not. When one sees that stress costs organizations over $300B annually in the US alone, wanting to recoup some of that loss is a smart idea. Yet, that is only the reactive side of applying stress management practices in the workplace. By making this investment, your company doesn’t just save on lost revenue. It also increases the team member performance that has been lagging due to the overwhelmed human operating system.
Where Stress Gets Expensive
The most apparent and most studied negative impact of stress is healthcare costs. We surveyed naturopathic doctors to understand the connection of stress to health better. These professionals look at health from a big picture of the body’s interconnectedness standpoint. They know that there is no action in one body area that does not create a correlating reaction somewhere else. When we posed the question of what percentage of health ailments stem from stress in modern society, the estimates ranged between 85-95%. Not a single doctor told us that stress was connected to health ailments less than 85% of the time. Now that is some scary stuff, knowing that less than a quarter of companies help employees in this area.
Cost of Stress: Absenteeism
The next heavily researched stress-related cost is the connection of stress to absenteeism. As you saw above, stress is very connected to our health, but its not just our physical health. Stress wrecks havoc on our mental health and causes burnout and a lack of desire to show up to work. An employee who is chronically impacted by work stress will be less likely to show up for their shift, more likely to come late and leave early. Yet, can you blame them? When the organizational environment is in the state that it is in right now, people are merely trying to survive. They are not worried about company profits and how happy the customer is. They are just trying to get through the day.
Cost of Stress: Productivity loss
Productivity Loss is the second most studied Key Performance Indicator when it comes down to stress, yet we massively underestimate the impact. The biggest reason why this happens has to do with approaching stress management reactively versus proactively. When we act reactively as we are in most companies today, we are simply trying to measure how much productivity has dropped when an employee or a team has been under prolonged stress. Yet that is not how we need to be optimizing performance. When regulated, stress acts as a performance enhancer. When there is the right amount of stress with a correlating recovery, we perform better than in the absence of stress.
The other misunderstood component of the impact on productivity is employees’ number of mistakes. Stress creates tunnel vision in our brains and forces us to be less analytical and creative. Employees become less self and situationally aware. These facts make them commit more mistakes than they would otherwise while being prone to seeing better solutions to problems. Then they have to waste precious time fixing the mistakes they committed. This inefficiency is just one example of how stress becomes a snowball effect. Over time it consumes the employee and the team.
Cost of Stress: Turnover
Do you know the exact number that it costs for you to hire a new team member? If not, it would explain why you are looking at investing in stress management for your team as a cost. Turnover is one of the most costly things to companies. The more specialized the role, the more expensive the turnover becomes. If the role involves a significant amount of internal training, then the cost truly becomes astronomical. The number one reason team members leave is leadership. Leaders have to learn to lead in a more humanly sustainable way. They must understand how everything has to be designed with a human first mindset, but they need more training as the world has shifted, and it is not an easy thing to do.
As people will read this article, many will be thinking that they do not think that stress is a problem in their organization. That is because there is a lack of connecting symptoms to root causes. People try to solve symptoms of stress problems and often end up chasing their tail because they never address the root cause. If you are ready to invest in your organizational behavior, please set up a free consultation with the representative from Prospective Force to find out how we can help.