This post was originally written for the LifeDojo wellbeing blog. I’ve reproduced it below. You can see the original post here.
Stress-related health issues at work are too serious—too deadly—to ignore. When we look at the diseases most likely to harm or even kill us (like cancer, heart disease, or diabetes) we find that they are overwhelmingly made worse or even caused by high levels of stress. With the growing body of research showing the harmful effects of stress, HR leaders have been trying many approaches to help their workers.
The bad news? Many of the corporate wellness programs out there don’t directly address stress. Some that do address it don’t take into account the most effective, proven techniques for managing stress.
The good news is that there are evidence-based approaches to stress reduction that have already been found to work in the field of public health. These techniques can be brought to the corporate workplace world, and be used to help ease the pain of over-stressed employees. That’s where conscientious HR leaders have an opportunity to add incredible value.
Stress at work is painful
We now know without a doubt that stress affects nearly every modern office worker. According to Robert Sapolsky, a leading professor of biology, neuroscience, and neurosurgery at Stanford University, the stress that is a normal and healthy protective mechanism for keeping most animals alive has become a dangerous killer that is literally making us highly advanced humans sicker every year.
A survey by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the US federal agency responsible for making recommendations on the prevention of on-the-job injury and illness, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made these troubling discoveries:
40% of office workers describe their jobs as “extremely stressful.”
25% of workers surveyed described their jobs as the “number one” stressor in their lives.
The estimated cost of stressed employees is between $200-300 billion dollars per year.
That’s a lot of stress and a lot of money—which translates to a dangerously heavy burden on your business. Fortunately, there are proven steps employers can take to help reduce this burden.
The corporate wellness revolution
As more and more HR leaders become aware of the enormous costs of high stress in the workplace–they are beginning to explore ways of offering stress management as part of their suite of wellness programofferings.
There are many options of traditional wellness programs to choose from at all sizes and budgets, but there’s a lack of creative options when it comes to stress management in particular. It can be challenging to decide what exactly to offer your employees and how to begin to tackle stress in the office. Since there is a decided lack of available turnkey solutions, the task of wading through the extensive scientific literature and designing a company stress management solution falls on overburdened HR leaders and their teams
At LifeDojo, we’re passionate about solving complex wellness challenges, and we set about looking into what really works. After hundreds of hours of research and more than a few calls with world-class stress experts, we have zeroed in on 8 proven health habits that significantly reduce stress in a person’s life. Those specific 8 habits are the basis for our recently launched Stress Management program.
A new breed of mental wellness programs offers more comprehensive and engaging solutions than those found in a traditional corporate wellness. These include personalized, on-demand group or one-on-one live coaching for employees. These programs drastically reduce the cost to employers while increasing user engagement and benefits to employees.
The most successful stress management programs bring educational, motivational elements together with planning and specific action supported by offline social support. This formula is key to achieving long term healthy habit change. According to the Harvard Business Review, workplace wellness programs are more successful when they deliver messages about health in multiple ways, as well as placing the messages in a real-life context, making it more personal to each employee.