Approximately 15 to 20 percent of adults in the U.S. report high levels of stress. Among the highest stress-level jobs are firefighters, police officers, pilots, and nurses.
A new study by the Mayo Clinic identified stress as a major problem employees face, particularly in the medical industry, leading to negative health behaviors. With rising stress levels in the workplace for nurses, many companies are looking to integrate, engage, and enroll employees in wellness programs.
The study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, measured stress and health behaviors (exercise, nutrition, sleep, etc.) by a series of annual surveys administered to employees of the Mayo Clinic who have access to a wellness center. A significant relationship was found between the stress levels of an employee and four domains of quality of life: poor physical health, low mental health, poor nutritional habits, and lower perceived overall health. Employees who reported high stress levels and perceived poor quality of life also reported the lowest usage of wellness programs.
What Employers Can Do
Teach employees to monitor their stress levels over time and practice effective, ongoing stress-reduction strategies, such as getting involved in wellness programs. "This will in-turn help health care employees live a happy and health life,” said Matthew Clark, Ph.D., lead author of the study and resiliency expert at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program.
Many companies are taking note of staff burnout and job strain and have created wellness centers, offer stress reduction programs, provide wellness coaching and healthy sleep programs for employees in an effort to reduce stress, job strain, and burnout. In addition to mental health, physical fitness and exercise are important to achieving wellness.
Encourage employees to monitor their stress levels and to engage in daily resiliency practices, such as exercise, time with family and friends, meditation or gratitude journaling, to help reduce stress levels and improve quality of life.
Given the significance of stress in the workplace, the Mayo Clinic researchers noted that more should be done to explore ways to effectively engage high stress employees into wellness programs. Increasing awareness of wellness programs will increase the quality of life of employees and lead to less staff burnout.
As workplace wellness programs are becoming more widespread throughout the country, the buzz is catching on. Less stress and better health leads to fewer calls out from work, better productivity, and greater job satisfaction. Programs range from simply offering information to workers, to subsidized healthy lunches, fitness education, or a company gym.
When employers invest money in wellness programs, they will experience a multitude of returns, including lower health care costs. Employees are the most valuable assets to any company. By providing workers with these services, companies are improving wellbeing and job satisfaction, as well as raising retention rates. The welfare of employees has a direct impact on the success of the company.