Stress: The Often-Uncovered Killer of Productivity

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.netWe all handle stress differently.  As a result, it can manifest itself in different ways.  For some of us, stress may take a toll on us physically with symptoms like frequent illness, headaches and low energy.  For others, it may create a feeling of being overwhelmed, moody and irritable.   While for others, stress may show up in the form of eating or sleeping issues or even memory problems.   The Stress in America Report, APA 2015, found that undiagnosed stress causes 60% of all illness and disease, and is costing organizations billions in lost productivity and medical costs each year.

“Stress is one of the most common, yet most unaddressed killers of productivity in today’s workplaces,” said Bill J. Bonnstetter, chairman and founder of TTI Success Insights (TTI SI).

Don’t misunderstand.  Some stress, usually in small amounts, can be positive.  Think of the last time you were trying something new or you were up against a deadline.  Positive stress can spur us into action to meet the challenge.  However, excessive, negative stress can be debilitating, affecting us physically and emotionally.  Sometimes it can fester just under the surface, while other times this buildup of uncontrolled emotions can cause us to explode. (Not a pretty sight.)

Like a disease, stress can spread, affecting team dynamics, productivity, employee engagement and morale.   High levels of workplace stress can lead to high levels of absenteeism and staff turnover.  Left unaddressed, organizations may see an increase in customer complaints and a negative impact on their bottom line profits.

In a 2013 survey by the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence, experts found that one-third of working Americans reported experiencing chronic work stress.  Just 36 percent said their organizations provide sufficient resources to help them manage that stress.  What should organizations do?  With the cost of stress continuing to rise in the billions, ignoring it, not surprisingly, is not working.

The first course of action is to identify and measure stress in your organization.  You should be looking at:

  • Where is it coming from and what is it impacting?
  • The intensity of stress levels and stress hot spots
  • Job design and demands
  • Workplace meaningfulness, engagement and empowerment
  • The impact of organizational change and communication around change
  • Management and colleague support
  • Job security and career opportunities, and;
  • How stress is manifesting itself in your organization.

Tools like TTI SI Workplace Stress assessment help companies recognize and measure stress in their organization.   Understanding the type and source of stress in your workplace allows you to design a strategy to address it.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at