Stressed workers costing employers billions

COLUMBIA, S.C. (March 14, 2019) — Employees are bringing stress and worry into the office each day along with their laptop, coffee and ID, according to a Colonial Life study of 1,505 full-time U.S. employees.

And it’s costing U.S. employers billions of dollars each week. 

More than 20 percent of workers spend more than five hours on the clock each week thinking about their stressors and worries, according to the survey. An additional 50 percent of employees said they lose between one and five hours of work to stress each week. Learn more in the infographic

With 128.5 million full-time employees earning an average of $21 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that means billions of dollars are spent on employees who are unproductive or disengaged.

“Employers should pay close attention to the emotional wellbeing of their employees. Stressed employees are not productive or engaged in the work that they do,” said Laurie Mitchell, assistant vice president for global wellbeing and health for Colonial Life.

The stresses topping the list for employees, according to the survey, are not surprising: jobs and finances. But three of the top six are health-related, including the employee’s health, the health of a spouse/ partner/ children and the health of an elderly family member.

Employees know they’re not at their best when stressed. The survey showed:
41 percent said it made them less productive.
33 percent said it made them less engaged. 
15 percent admitted to looking for a new job because of stress. 
14 percent said it made them absent more frequently.

Employees have a lot of ideas about how their employers can help alleviate the stress, leading with additional salary and paid time off. Other top requests are additional retirement contributions, more flexible work schedules, additional medical coverage, more flexible work locations and wellness programs and discounts.

“There are a variety of ways that employers can help their workers manage their emotional wellbeing and mental health,” Mitchell said. 

According to Mitchell, these can include:
Enhancing referrals to available services such as an Employee Assistance Program;
Providing telehealth services for behavioral health, mobile health apps for mindfulness and stress reduction, fitness centers and financial wellbeing programs; 
Promoting work-life balance through use of flexible work arrangements, PTO and other paid leave programs such as paid parental leave;
Ensuring optimal treatment for those employees who would benefit; and
Prioritizing a supportive and psychologically safe work environment.

“Employers should ensure they are using effective communications that engage employees in all the resources an employer has to offer,” Mitchell said. “Nothing works well if employees don’t know about it.”
About the Study
Colonial Life worked with Dynata to conduct a survey of 1,505 full-time U.S. employees between 18 and 70 years of age between Jan. 28 and Feb. 1, 2019.