Workplace stress can cut productivity and costyour company thousands of dollars annually. Harvard Business Review writer A. Perkins, advisesthat 60-90 percent of medical problems areassociated with stress. Princeton, NJ insurancecompany Foster Higgins Co., reports that 45percent of corporate after tax profits are spenton health benefits.

CEOs and stockholders across America would beexcited by a jump of 45 percent in annualearnings. But this calculation only reveals costsassociated with health care costs.

To get a true analysis of the cost of stress inyour company, you need to include the expensesassociated with absenteeism and temporaryreplacement employees or the over-staffing thatfills in for absent workers. You also have tocalculate the cost of on-the-job accidents andworkplace injury deaths (3.7 per 100,000 workersaccording to the National Safety Council.

Forty-six percent of workers report that their jobis very stressful, according to Northwestern LifeInsurance Company. And a 20-year study from theUniversity of London reveals that unmanagedreactions to stress are more dangerous riskfactors for cancer and heart disease than eithercigarette smoking or high cholesterol foods.

Forty percent of job turnover is related to stress(Bureau of National Affairs), When you add in thestress related costs associated with qualitycontrol, customer service, sales, andadministration, you'll find that stress is takinga healthy bite out of your bottom line.

Bill Wilkerson, CEO of Global Business andEconomic Roundtable on Addiction and MentalHealth, conducted a survey to find the top tenworkplace stressors. In a report to theIndustrial Accident Prevention Association,Wilkerson listed the following:

"The treadmill syndrome" - employees have too muchor too little to do. Some have too manyresponsibilities and work around the clock - evenwhen away from the workplace. Others fill theirdays with unproductive busy-work, feeling thestress of knowing they could be more productive.

"Random interruptions" - telephones, walk-invisits, demands from supervisors. Goal settingand time management strategies can increaseproductivity and alleviate the stressfulness ofincomplete projects.

"Pervasive uncertainty" - market conditions,company problems, unsatisfactorily explained andannounced change. Economic fluctuations,off-shore job displacement, terrorist attacks, andmarket conditions all affect stress levels andproductivity.

"Mistrust, unfairness, and vicious officepolitics" - keeps everyone on edge and uncertainabout the future. Poor morale and esprit de corpsincrease stress levels and consume energy thatcould otherwise be directed at job relatedactivities.

"Unclear policies and no sense of direction in thecompany" - undermines confidence in management. Development of sound policies is the first step. Management must then keep these policies updatedand follow through to insure compliance throughoutthe ranks. Employees are easily stressed when itappears that management is out of touch.

"Career and job ambiguity" - a feeling ofhelplessness and lack of control. "How can Isucceed if I don't know what's expected of me orif my job here is uncertain?" Stress levels areaffected by far reaching market conditions,challenges by competitors, life-cycle of products,and societal influences as well as vaguenesswithin management.

"No feedback - good or bad" - prevents people fromknowing how they are doing and whether they aremeeting expectations. Stress related to thisissue is typically one of management misperceptionas to the amount, importance, and effectiveness offeedback to employees. Whatever the cause,employees are easily stressed by lack ofcommunication in this area.

"No appreciation" - lack of recognition generatesstress that endangers future efforts. Humannature requires that we demonstrate appreciationfor jobs well done. Inadequate demonstration ofappreciation results in lowered productivity.

"Lack of communications" - up and down the chainof command leads to decreased performance andincreased stress. As with feedback, leaderssometimes misunderstand the adequacy andeffectiveness of their communications. There aredozens of ways to improve communications, andemployees will usually tell you of shortcomings -if they are asked.

"Lack of control" - the greatest stressor in theworkplace because employees feel that they have nocontrol over their participation or the outcome oftheir work. Employees recognize their lack ofcontrol when they are held responsible withoutauthority. Stress levels are reduced whenemployees are involved in setting the course ofthe organization, developing policies andstrategies, and creating workplace expectations.

Leaders who recognize the high cost of workplacestress can tackle each of these problems. Goodstress control gives employees a more pleasant andhealthier place to work and puts money on thebottom line.

An informal, conversational survey of your ownemployees can help you identify the majorstressors in your organization. Professionalassistance is available to target all of theseissues and develop a strategy to overcome the topten workplace stressors.

Start with the information you can gather on yourown, and work your way forward. Employees willappreciate your efforts and stockholders willthank you with increased investments.

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Author's Bio: 

Dale Collie ( speaker,author, coach, and former US Army Ranger, CEO,teacher at West Point. Selected by "Fast Company"as one of America's Fast 50 innovative leaders. Author of "Frontline Leadership: From War Room toBoardroom," and "Winning Under Fire: Turn Stressinto Success the US Army Way" (McGraw-Hill)

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Title: Workplace Stress - Expensive Stuff
Length: 829 words
Author: Dale Collie
Category: Workplace stress/Business/Leadership/Motivation
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