If you want to lower your employees' stress levels, work on getting them more engaged in their jobs, new research finds.
A study from the Limeade Institute revealed a correlation between employee stress and engagement. Specifically, 57 percent of highly engaged workers reported low stress levels. Conversely, only 17 percent of unengaged employees had low levels of stress.
"One possible explanation is that employees who are highly engaged are immersed in their work and have high levels of energy and enthusiasm about their work; thus, they may not necessarily view their jobs as stressful," the study's authors wrote. "Alternatively, the organizations that have more highly engaged employees may be less stressful or may be actively helping their employees manage job stress."
Engagement positively impacts several other work-related aspects, including motivation, use of time, organizational citizenship behavior and absenteeism, according to the research. [See Related Story: 3 Steps to Eliminate Workplace Stress ]
Specifically, 96 percent of highly engaged employees were also highly motivated, compared to just 37 percent of employees who reported low levels of engagement.
In addition, 95 percent of highly engaged workers used their time wisely, with only 54 percent of disengaged employees doing the same.
The research found that 62 percent of the highest-engaged employees also had high organizational citizenship behavior, which refers to how committed they were to their employers. Just 45 percent of low-engaged workers had high organizational commitment.
Highly engaged workers were also the ones with the lowest rates of absenteeism.
"Our findings provide support to previous research showing a linear relationship between engagement and employee outcomes," the study's authors wrote.
The study discovered similar patterns when it came to stress. Employees with low stress levels were more motivated and made better use of their time, while those with high stress levels had low motivation and were the worst at effectively using their time.
"We found that higher stress was related to less positive employee outcomes," the researchers wrote.
However, low stress levels didn't have as much of an impact as engagement on how committed workers were to their organizations.
The study did find that the employees with the highest stress levels were also the ones who were absent the most. The authors said this is an indication that employee absenteeism is higher in high-stress settings.
The researchers believe the study's results can help organizations develop better well-being strategies for their employees.
"Instead of only focusing on such activities as meditation, breathing, and exercise for stress reduction, organizations should focus more on increasing employee engagement by providing employees with access to the right organizational and job resources," the study's authors wrote. "Such resources can help alleviate job stress while increasing job engagement, ultimately leading to better employee outcomes."
The researchers said there are various ways employers can provide their staff with the right resources.
"For example, organizations should try to ensure appropriate workload, improve the physical environment, provide employees with a chance for positive interactions with peers or customers, structure jobs in a way that uses a variety of skills, and offer employees control over their jobs or autonomy in how they do their jobs," the authors wrote.
The study was based on the assessment of 476,504 employees, of which the average age was 41. Organizations represented in the analyses ranged in size from small to large, were from different parts of the United States, and belonged to different industries, such as health care, retail and technology.