As just about everyone knows, stress is a part of everyday life. In small doses, it can even be a motivator in a workplace environment, since a little anxiety can encourage creativity and keep everyone striving to do their best. However, constant stress can ultimately do much more harm than good, both in and out of the workplace. In fact, three out of every four American workers describe their work environment as overly stressful.

Three Dimensions of Stress

Statistics show that three dimensions—life situations, work problems, and personal issues—contribute to employees’ levels of occupational stress. According to a U.S. Department of Labor survey, 10 percent of people who are married or living with children younger than 18 experience severe work-family conflicts. Another cause of workplace stress is one’s workload, considering employees now work the equivalent of an extra month more each year than they did 25 years ago.

One final culprit for intense stress at work is aggression or violence in the workplace. According to the U.S. Justice Department, about 500,000 employees miss time on the job because of workplace aggression, which costs employers $55 million in lost wages every year. While passive forms of aggression such as not responding to phone calls or memos and being late to meetings may not seem like a big deal, they can actually do great psychological harm to employees over time and result in a loss of personal and organizational productivity.

The Price of Stress

The physical effects of excessive amounts of stress tend to manifest in both physical and psychological illnesses. Heart attacks, strokes, gastrointestinal disorders, and frequent colds, as well as depression and anxiety attacks are just a few common issues that over-stressed employees experience. Unfortunately, the sicker employees are, the more work they tend to miss and the less productive they are while at work. In fact, 60 percent of lost workdays each year are directly related to stress, and 75-90 percent of doctor visits are because of stress-related conditions, which results in increased healthcare costs for employers.

Stress can also affect the way employees handle their jobs, which ultimately causes them to make more mistakes, have difficulty concentrating, become disorganized or angry, or stop caring about their work entirely. According to The Wall Street Journal, one-third of employees surveyed considered quitting their jobs because of extreme stress and 14 percent of employees actually did quit.

In the midst of a difficult economic climate, almost everyone is more stressed than they probably should be. However, taking the time to encourage your employees and offering them any support you can are excellent ways to help ensure your company remains stable—and even thriving—during stressful times.

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