In 2012, stress ended up costing U.S. employers approximately $350 billion. In 2015, we saved – it “only” cost us $300 billion. Want to save more?
First, you have to be able to recognize it – early. Stress is a money pit. It doesn’t always manifest itself clearly, so if you don’t know what to pay attention to, you might not realize it until it’s too late and you’ve got an ulcer or an employee holding people hostage. Not joking – it happens. And by that point, it’s expensive.
Next, you have to understand what takes a person from simple stress to ticking time bomb. Blame brain chemistry, for one thing. Stress causes lots of physical symptoms, which in turn cause the brain to pump out extra endorphins – our natural pain killers – to dull the symptoms. Unfortunately, they also dull cognitive processes like decision-making and the ability to pick up on details.
We can also blame the whole “fight or flight” thing. Most job stress isn’t caused by physical threat, so that reflex is an impractical one. Since there’s not an actual danger to flee from, stress instead can increase aggression, hostility, frustration – all fighty stuff – and the tendency to think and feel only extremes. Harassment, discrimination, and whistle-blowing all increase with stress. We stop playing well with others and start counterproductive behaviors. People may do anything – from a general goofing off to outright sabotage or violence.
(Incidentally, Harvard Business Review reported just last year that when employees observe rudeness or hostility at work, they intentionally decrease their productivity, and over a third also decrease their quality of work.)
Finally, take responsibility. People may be affected by personal things, but rarely do those actually affect work. Work stress is stress from work, which affects work, and which people often take home from work. Businesses are more aware than ever of the effects of stress, yet very few have taken any steps to minimize stress and relieve burnout, even when they’re responsible for causing it. Sorry to burst your bubble, Mr. Corporate, but I can almost guarantee you that if you’ve got more than ten employees, you’ve done things that either create or contribute to stress.
Now, time to fix it. Do something to help take care of symptoms and address what your company is doing to cause so much stress in the first place. Anything less, and it’ll cost you more. In the meantime, take a look at this free download to see what you can start doing to manage stress right now!