HR | Atlantic - Positive Change at Work

Employers struggle to influence workplace stress

Oct 16, 2012


A recent Towers Watson report,  Staying @ Work, reveals that while more and more employers are aware of the impact of stress on workplace productivity, few have yet to have confident that their efforts are having an impact.  The survey reported that less than 10% of companies say their actions have produced significant success.It is interesting to note that the survey showed Canadian companies having some successes in addressing inadequate staffing, fears about job loss and lack of supervisor support. Nevertheless, most North American respondents reported that their actions had only some positive impact, and significant reported  little or no impact.

Why is this the case? The Towers Watson analysts suggested that the “disappointing results might be due, in part, to a lack of direct evidence of success”.  This certainly aligns with the Conference Board of Canada’s findings in Making the Business Case for Investments in Workplace Health and Wellness (June 2012) that few employers have any measurement or evaluation system in place to assess the impact of workplace wellness programs.

Another possible explanation is the fact that workplace health and wellness involve a complex calculus of factors and a time lag between the application of an intervention and observable and sustainable changes in behaviours.  Some unhealthy or counterproductive behaviors may be driven by the work environment, others may be rooted in the personal coping skills and perceptions of stress of employees.  Hence, some factors are within the employer’s control to address (workload, mismatched jobs and skills, supervisory training), other factors may require personal growth and development that can be supported by employers, but must be driven by individual awareness and desire.

“There’s no doubt that companies must identify stress reduction solutions that work for their organizations — or suffer the business consequences of increased absences, presenteeism and unwanted turnover.” (Towers Watson)

While there are a variety of employee satisfaction or engagement surveys available on the market.  Few assess the risk level for stress and burnout in an organization, and fewer still attempt to drill down to determine the root causes for workplace stress.  However, the TalOp® Quality of Work Life Benchmarking Study answers these gaps in the market.  Drawing from well-established research findings and validated scales, this confidential on-line survey tool not only offers a relatively fast and easy way to benchmark of the workplace’s risk for stress, but also the likely sources of those risks.  The detailed analytical report that is generated from this tool also offers management with insights into the stress sources so that focused interventions can be brought to bear.  The benchmarking exercise can then be repeated on an annual or biannual basis to track changes, offering a set of metrics and a means of calculating the return on investments the organization makes between benchmark studies.

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