Do your employees have the tools to cope with stress?

September 4

Stress is everywhere. And everyone experiences stress at some point or another. There’s stress at home, at work, at school and in our relationships. Almost 10 years ago, a poll commissioned by The Globe & Mail found Canadians endure an average of 14 stressful episodes per week. While that poll hasn’t been updated, that number is likely even higher today. And, according to a Canadian Medical Association Journal study, stress-related absences cost Canadian companies about $3.5 billion each year.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, on a per-employee basis, employees who improve their ability to deal with stress can save their employers about $925 per year.

Stress may not be something that can always be avoided, but it is something that can be better managed by developing a positive relationship with it. Your employees’ relationship with stress can have a tremendous impact on their productivity and performance at work as well as their overall happiness and general wellbeing. Stress also carries several negative health consequences, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and immune and circulatory complications. And, stress can also contribute to behaviours such as smoking, over-consumption of alcohol and less-healthy eating habits.  As well as being a very unfortunate side effect for the employee, these medical and behavioural consequences also add to the cost for companies both directly and indirectly.

Proactive Stress Management

At Thorpe Benefits, we have built employee wellness programs around over 20 areas of health, including employee mental health and wellbeing. This is such a large and diverse topic that it requires a multi-faceted approach — one that is simultaneously proactive and reactive.

What do we mean by this? Taking a proactive approach to employee mental health is about raising people’s awareness about how to deal with stress, reactions, symptoms and triggers. It’s also about providing people with strategies to build resilience so that they are better able to cope with potentially stressful events in a more healthful way. And lastly it’s about creating a work environment that is less stressful and more supportive of psychological wellbeing.

This is not one-day education seminars or a single app for employees to learn and use on their own. This is a multi-faceted approach so that employees can together learn about the different layers of stress and mental wellbeing and implement the concepts in different ways to form new habits in their work and home life.

Perceived stress

It’s important to understand that stress is measured on a perceived scale. A person’s stress level is not based on what is happening in their lives but rather how they perceive these events and how they are coping with them. How one person perceives a stressful situation may be different than how another person perceives it—leading to a greater impact on the health and wellbeing of one person over the other. Therefore, it is crucial to focus on providing employees with tools to improve their perception of a potentially stressful event.

A Summary of Our Approach

We work with your employees to understand and manage stress, and increase resilience by:

  1. Raising self-awareness: Facilitating opportunities for employees to understand how much stress they are experiencing, their major causes of stress and how they are reacting to that stress. We help them connect the dots between the symptoms they are experiencing (e.g. nail biting, trouble sleeping or headaches) and the stress they may be under.
  2. Reducing stressful events: Often, sometimes unconsciously, employees are repeating situations in their lives that are causing them stress (e.g. their morning routine and commute). We provide a process for employees to put together a strategy for tackling and reducing some of their major stress triggers.
  3. Educating employees on proactive strategies to build resilience. Yoga, exercise, mindfulness, meditation, laughter, helping others, social connections…these are all examples of resilience building activities that allow people to cope with potentially stressful events that can happen. We educate on, and provide opportunity for, employees to experience these activities and build new habits around incorporating them in their lives.
  4. Enhancing the work environment: We analyze and put a strategy in place for creating a workplace that reduces stress, where possible, and builds resilience (e.g. regular manager appreciation of staff’s strengths and contributions).
  5. Providing in the moment stress reducers: We provide opportunities for people to experience strategies for reducing stress in the moment (e.g. deep breathing, mindful walking, curious detachment and diversion).
  6. Reframing perspectives: By working on reframing people’s perception of the stress response to understand its usefulness and by increasing people’s awareness of, and ability to, reduce negative self-talk, we can have a big impact on people’s perception of their stress.

Measuring Outcomes: The Perceived Stress Scale

Using a scientifically proven psychological instrument for measuring nonspecific perceived stress (The Perceived Stress Scale survey), our customized Managing Stress program has been proven to decrease employee stress scores by an average of 12.3% — a statistically significant number.

We love these outcomes, because when you decrease perceived stress and equip people with long-term tools for resilience, you increase overall happiness and start them on a path toward improved psychological and physical wellbeing

A workplace wellness consultant understands how to introduce such a program so that employees will want to adopt it. And they understand how to measure the success of such a program. But how do you choose the right workplace wellness consultant for your business? Read this checklist.

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