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  • Esther Orioli 8:01 am on April 24, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    European Union tackles workplace stress with new campaign 

    The European Union recently launched a campaign to counter stress in the workplace.

    Workplace stress is an issue that employers around the world are working to improve. According to the latest poll from the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work (EU-OSHA), over half of workers say that stress is common problem in their place of employment, and four out of 10 employees say that the issue is not handled well within their organizations. 

    To improve the situation of workers in European Union member states, EU-OSHA recently launched a two year campaign called Healthy Workplaces Manage Stress. The inter-governmental agency is calling on public and private employers to recognize that worker health and safety is essential for organizational productivity. 

    "Workplaces cannot afford to ignore work-related stress, which increases absenteeism and lowers productivity," László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, said in a press release. "[...] A positive working environment is not only important for enabling employees to work longer, it is also important to ensure that when workers do retire, they are still in good health."

    One goal of the campaign is to show that stress in the workplace can be handled similarly to other occupational health and safety issues. As a part of the program, the EU has provided employers with information about how to manage the risks that cause workplace stress and ideas for how to deal with them. 

    As a stress expert I'm thrilled that the EU recognizes and is taking action to help organizations, and the people in them, manage stress through programs specifically targeted to address it.  Before implementing any solution however I would advise them to start with assessment. This does two critical things. It gives individuals a personal stress and resiliency profile allowing each to pinpoint his or her unique stress strengths and vulnerabilities for self-improvement. It gives organizations a baseline measure of their workforce stress and resiliency levels so they can target interventions based on need, and track progress to measure impact and ROI. When it comes to organizational stress, like so many things, if you can't measure it, you can't manage it.

  • Esther Orioli 7:55 am on April 24, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Are wearable devices the key to improving employee wellness? 

    Wearable technology - what isn’t your bracelet telling you?

    Wearable technology is quickly becoming incorporated into many corporate wellness programs. According to a study conducted by research firm Canalys, 8 million activity tracking devices, like heart rate monitors and step counters, are expected to ship by the end of 2014. The group predicts that the number will reach 23 million by 2015 and 45 million by 2017. Many companies are using the devices in their health programs, because they are inexpensive and many administrators see them as a way to reduce healthcare costs. 

    According to a recent CIO Magazine article, however, many experts in the employee benefits field are questioning how beneficial wearable technology is for a company's bottom line. Daniel McCaffrey, a behavioral scientist with the consulting firm Endeavour Partners cited the following reasons why health devices may not be effective:

    • Although they are less expensive than full medical devices, wrist bands and step counters can get pricey, especially when a company is buying hundreds of them. It may take years for these products to get down to a price at which companies see a significant return on investment.
    • Basic fitness programs are typically not beneficial for employees who are already very physically active and workers who express no interest in participating. It's usually a very small percentage of employees who are ready for a major behavior modification. 
    • Some employees will be wary of using these health-related devices due to privacy concerns. 

    So while wearable devices and the information they provide may be useful to some, these studies point out critical limitations for offering them as part of employee health and wellness programs. The main problem being that they focus almost exclusively on the physical with little regard for the mental, emotional and behavioral aspects of stress which is what most companies are trying to impact in the first place.

    The #1 issue for employees in the workplace is stress, something that is not directly measured with these devices. If organizations truly want to help employees with health and wellness, and decrease their healthcare costs, they've got to go beyond  "eat your broccoli and take the stairs" and look for solutions that assess stress and build resiliency through a whole person – body, mind, emotions and behaviors – approach.

  • Esther Orioli 6:53 am on April 24, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Survey: Pay and commute are top sources of workplace stress 

    Low pay and long commutes are contributing factors to workplace stress, according to the survey.

    Eight in 10 American workers are stressed out due to low pay and long commutes, according to a new survey conducted by Nielsen on behalf of Everest College. The career-focused education company's 2014 Work Stress Survey found little improvement in the well-being of workers since 2013. 

    In addition to long commutes and less-than-desirable salaries, survey respondents said that an unreasonable workload, poor work-life balance and job uncertainty were top contributors to stress in the workplace. 

    According to the survey, income also plays a significant role in the factors that contribute to stress. Among survey respondents with a household income less than $35,000, the top stressors were low pay and no opportunities for advancement. Individuals who earn more than $100,000 are more likely to cite a long commute and an unreasonable workload as their biggest work problems.

    "When it comes to stress at the workplace, low pay and a long commute is a double whammy for American workers […]," Wendy Cullen, vice president of employer development for Everest College, said in a press release. Cullen added that because work occupies such a large portion of the lives of many individuals, keeping workplace stress under control is necessary for the success of any business.

    With more and more studies and surveys reporting what people in the workplace already know – stress is a problem! – what's an organization to do? Implement a stress solution that measures stress and builds resiliency.

    Why haven't they done this already? Companies often see stress and resiliency as nebulous, hard-to-gauge issues, so they focus instead on trying to manage its symptoms, like obesity, anxiety, depression, inactivity, smoking and substance abuse.

    How do we know this doesn't work? Because the traditional health and wellness programs have been in place for 40 years and the survey results and healthcare costs are not getting any better. Plus these types of "eat your broccoli, take the stairs" kind of programs ignore a large part of the employee population who are already physically fit or have no interest in these types of programs.

    It's time to respond to stress with programs that speak directly to the people, ones that help them measure their unique stress and resiliency strengths and vulnerabilities and make improvements that are most important and of interest to them. Without that, when it comes to stress, companies will just be spinning their wheels.

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