Each year, May is Mental Health Awareness Month allowing us the opportunity to start yearlong initiatives in the workplace. With the current evolving changes to the workplace, including social distancing and more people working from home, now is the ideal time for companies to think ahead and plan what initiatives they want to implement when employees either return to the physical workplace or have to continue to remain at a distance from co-workers.

In 2015, workplace stress was estimated to cost between 200 and 300 billion dollars annually, however some of the stressors are addressable through a variety of approaches and policies that companies can introduce and employees can take onboard. In fact, job stress is the main source of stress for American adults and is more strongly associated with health complaints than financial or family problems.

A 2013 survey by the APA Center for Organizational Excellence also found that “more than one-third of working Americans reported experiencing chronic work stress and just 36 percent said their organizations provide sufficient resources to help them manage that stress.” This presents employers with a great opportunity to address this growing problem and reverse the trend. There are numerous factors that can trigger stress such as:

  • Long hours
  • Pressure from supervisors
  • Unfulfilling projects
  • Job insecurity
  • Not being recognized for a job well done
  • Being excluded from decision-making

When stress is ongoing with no relief it becomes chronic, creating a cascade of symptoms including anxiety, a compromised immune system, and sleep disorders, that affect an individual at work and at home. Overcompensating for any of the symptoms, or trying to mask them, can manifest as the overconsumption of alcohol, overeating, unhealthy living, and even misusing drugs.

Stress-management is an ever-growing area and can often be woven through existing wellness programs and comprise physical elements as well as educational components. With the ever-changing landscape of the working environment, new areas such as social isolation and loneliness may also need to be addressed. Current well-being topics can include the following:

  • Financial wellness
  • Sleep-management
  • Physical programs
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Mindfulness and stress-management

Consider what areas within your own organization may contribute to stress and what initiatives you can initiate to support employees this year.