On April 2, 2014 we saw stress and violence manifest itself in the workplace with the shooting at Ft Hood, Texas. An enlisted man went on a shooting spree that left three people dead and 16 injured apparently due to a dispute over his request for time off.
High levels of stress can be linked to employee absenteeism, turnover and other issues including decreased productivity, poor morale and even workplace violence. Stress develops when a person is unable to cope with the demands being placed on them. Stress does not play favorites and at one time or another, most people are faced with stressors that are a direct result of the circumstances of their work-life.
According to the findings of the 2014 Work Stress Survey conducted by Nielsen (on behalf of Everest College), 80 percent of Americans are stressed by at least one thing at work. The top reasons of work-related stress are:
- Low pay
- Unreasonable workload
- Annoying coworkers
- Poor work-life balance
- Working in a job that is not a chosen career
- Lack of opportunity for advancement
- The boss
- Fear of being fired or laid off
Stress can manifest itself with the following symptoms:
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor judgment
- Anxious or racing thoughts
- Depression or general unhappiness
- Short temper
- Chest pains
- Sleeping too much (or too little)
- Using alcohol or drugs
- Nervous habits
As HR professionals and managers, it’s important to know what stress looks like in the office and not to allow it to reach to a tipping point. Many companies include access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in their benefits package. EAP’s generally include short-term counseling and referral services for long term help for employees and their household members. They employ trained professionals to help employees work through problems and develop a plan of action to address those issues. If your company does not have an EAP program, talk with your broker about the range of services that are available. Many EAP’s are a low cost benefit for the company with a very large return on investment for the employees. Another recommendation if you believe an employee is under pressure or stress, help them lighten their workload, offer the opportunity to take a day off, or even encourage the person to take a vacation.