Stress at work takes heaviest toll on job performance
By Dan Berman
Workplace stress contributes more to poor job performance than worries about finances or problems at home, according to a study released Wednesday by the Integrated Benefits Institute.
Relying on employees’ self-reported ratings of how often the employee was not careful, had difficulty concentrating, got less done than others and at times got no work done, IBI reported that the ratings declined as stress on the job increased.
Of those who reported a stress-free workplace, 68 percent worked at or above the average of those studied; 41 percent of those who reported an often stressful environment performed worse than the average worker.
“Employers are between a rock and a hard place in dealing with workplace stress. On the one hand, the challenging economy translates into employees working longer hours and experiencing more stress at work. On the other hand, employers want a high-performing workforce,” IBI President Thomas Parry said in a statement.
The study, based on data from 6,437 employees, also looked at the link between worker health and stress, finding a direct correlation between the two.
Nearly a third of employees in excellent health (27 percent) never experienced stress at work, while 9 percent in that group said they felt permanent or continual stress. For those in fair or poor health, 15 percent said they experienced stress, compared to 6 percent in that category who said they were stress free.
“Chances are, employers in the near term aren’t going to demand fewer hours from their employees, create stress-free work environments or change the economy,” the report said.
However, it noted that while employers have no control over stress at home, they could take steps to ease workplace pressure. It directed business owners to “Stress at Work,” published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Among the steps the department recommends for starting a program to reduce stress are:
- Building general awareness about job stress (causes, costs, and control);
- securing top management commitment and support for the program;
- incorporating employee input and involvement in all phases of the program;
- establishing the technical capacity to conduct the program (e.g. specialized training for in-house staff or use of job stress consultants).