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Build Your Career Work-Life Balance

What Stress Really Does to Your Workforce

What Stress Really Does to Your Workforce
Credit: ra2studio/Shutterstock

Stress seems to be the default mode of the modern workforce. Asking someone how work is going almost always yields a response of "busy," "crazy" or "hectic," and it's not hard to understand why: With the 24/7, always-on mentality created by mobile devices, many of today's employees feel like they can never escape the office.

Workers likely don't expect that every day in the office is going to be a breeze, but too much stress can have a detrimental effect on both your staff and your company as a whole. According to a new survey by workforce stress management platform meQuilibrium, 78 percent of workers put their stress levels at medium to very high, and some of them have missed a day of work (31 percent) or even quit their jobs (40 percent) because of it.

Some common excuses employees admit to using when they're too stressed to come to work include:

  • Being sick (81 percent)
  • Needing a mental health day (32 percent)
  • Dealing with a family emergency (20 percent)
  • Having a household issue or car trouble (18 percent)
  • Having a doctor's appointment (14 percent)

When employees do come to work under stress, they deal with that stress in very different ways. Sixteen percent take extra breaks during the day, and 28 percent work their normal hours and avoid extra work. Both of these approaches mean employees are less productive overall. However, most employees (56 percent) simply work overtime to meet their deadlines and requirements, which ultimately leads to employee burnout.

It's clear that employee absenteeism, low morale and reduced productivity are the true cost of a high-stress work environment. So how can managers and employees combat this? Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, said the answer is to help employees develop resilience. According to an article she wrote on meQuilibrium, resilience requires belief in yourself, a sense of realistic optimism, control over your impulses and feelings, and the desire to aim high and carry on in the face of rejection or failure. [3 Big Changes to Beat Workplace Stress]

"In a demanding work environment, resilience is one of the most critical responses to ongoing change and high levels of stress, which surprisingly, is the number one issue for which employees want help coping," Bruce told Business News Daily. "Resilience helps employees reframe a challenge, minimizing their stress-related effects and empowers them to ultimately improve performance and become more engaged in their work, creating the foundation of a better, more productive workplace."

While employers can and should help their employees handle stress at work, there are certain things employees themselves can do to cope in the meantime. Bruce advised focusing on what elements are within your control, and what your purpose is in the workplace. Becoming aware of your thoughts and managing them allows you to neutralize stress, without needing to run from your problems, she said.

"Notice when your body and emotions are heading toward that stressful point, and bring these emotions into your awareness," Bruce said. "Next ... trace the stressful feelings to the initial thoughts causing you to feel overwhelmed. Finally, challenge the thought. You are in control of your reaction in that moment. Always remember your purpose in the pressure cooker, and reconnect to the people and situations that matter to you."

Nicole Fallon Taylor

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.