Originally posted February 12, 2014 by Michael Giardina on http://ebn.benefitnews.com
Are Americans accepting ways to cope with ever skyrocketing stress levels that can make them more productive to employers? New research finds that traditional pressures continue to rise and more needs to be done to relieve this strain.
The American Psychological Association’s annual survey, released Tuesday, finds that stress continues to plague American adults. According to its Stress in America report, 42% say that stress levels have increased and 36% state that these levels have remained constant over the past five-years.
On average, despite reporting that a healthy stress level is 3.6 on a 10-point scale, survey respondents state their stress level is 5.1. APA says that only 10% of these adults actually make time for stress management activities.
Dr. David Ballard, who heads up APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence, explains that in stress “there is a sizeable gap of what people think is healthy and what they are experiencing.”
Ballard notes stresses related to money, work and the economy seem to support this year’s growth among the 2,000 adults who participated in the nationwide study. While “not unusual,” Ballard says the industry needs to act.
“[Employers] have a workforce…trying to be productive and engaged [but] who is overwhelmed,” Ballard says. “To have more than two-thirds of their workforce say that work is a major source of stress for them, it’s clearly something that employers and employees alike need to deal with.”
Individual stress interventions such as relaxation trainings, meditation, exercise or yoga classes and teaching time management skills are just some options for employers.
“The organizations that do take steps to address work stress typically are focusing on individual-level intervention….but this individual level approach by itself typically won’t be enough to prevent the stress from occurring in the first place and keeping it from being a problem,” Ballard continues. “The key is adding…organizational level things that can be done because when you look at what work stress really is, it’s a mismatch between the demands that employees are facing to the resources that they have available to cope with those demands.”
Previously, in February 2013, APA found that 31% of Americans who categorize themselves as suffering from high stress never discuss stress management with their health care provider. Moreover, 32% of Americans say they believe it is very or extremely important to talk with their health care providers about stress management, but only 17% report that these conversations are happening often or always.
In this year’s study, APA lists that stress impacts both sleep and exercise habits. Ballard says that employers can get ahead of the curve by first instituting hiring practices that find individuals who are a “good fit for the job and the organization.” He adds that additional training and development can help to handle conflicts that arise from positions, ambiguity of work tasks and the handling of high workloads.
Also, employers should assess social and work environment issues that can address team compatibility and workplace organization from both the social and physical dynamic, he says.
“When organizations understand that the health of their workforce and the performance and success of the company are linked together, then they’ll take steps that are both for the wellbeing of the worker and for the organization’s performance,” Ballard explains. “This isn’t just about doing the right thing and taking care of your workers, that is all true and it’s important, but it’s also smart business.”