Managing stress in the workplace - The simplest way to improve profitability

23 November 2018

As health and wellness become increasingly ingrained in every aspect of our lives, from how we live and travel to what we consume and where we work, the USD4.2trillion global wellness industry has caught the attention of many employers looking for unique ways to attract and retain talent, manage HR costs and increase efficiency.

Understanding the marketplace and consumer trends spearheading the wellness industry’s trajectory is important in structuring an effective wellness management programme which best caters to their employees' needs.

 

Follow JLT as we explore Asia’s evolving wellness trends, utilise expert insight and provide fresh perspective to help employers navigate the wellness industry’s offerings to create conducive work environments which cultivate longevity, inspire growth and generate impact.

If this year’s World Mental Health Day achieved anything, it is that it has highlighted the poor psychological state of the global workforce. A recent finding from The Healthiest Workplace Survey by AIA Vitality found that in Hong Kong 64% of respondents reported at least one aspect of work-related stress, in Singapore 43% and in Malaysia, 53%. This provides an opportunity for the world to come together to discuss what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide, and most importantly within the workplace.

2018 also saw the release of a new report from the Global Wellness Institute that suggested the economic burden of an unwell, unproductive and crucially disengaged workforce is costing 10-15% of global economic output. And it highlighted a stark truth in that the way in which we work is changing, and it’s having huge repercussions on our physical and mental wellbeing, in particular, our levels of stress.

For employees working in stress-filled environments, the effects can be catastrophic, sparking a multitude of health conditions ranging from headaches, fatigue and anxiety to high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Whilst standard healthcare insurance policies do provide coverage for some of these physical illnesses, the insurance industry is still a long way from providing adequate coverage for mental healthcare costs. “We’re starting to see some insurers in Asia provide extensions to cover costs to treat anxiety and mild clinical depression, however, the dollar limits are not adequate for long term treatment.” Richard Roper, Managing Director, Employee Benefits (Asia).

How our leaders can help manage workplace stress

Fortunately, while workplace stress cannot be eliminated completely, it can be managed effectively through cultivating a healthy work environment and encouraging staff to prioritise their own physical and mental wellbeing. Here are some suggestions:

Managing expectations

According to the World Health Organization, research has found that the most stressful type of work revolves around unrealistic and excessive demands and pressures, an environment that offers little opportunity to exercise flexibility, choice or control, and a lack of support or understanding from supervisors and co-workers.

In light of this, employees are less likely to experience work-related stress when their expectations are more closely aligned with their abilities, they feel as though they have control over the work they are carrying out, and they receive support in doing so.

Encourage Communication

A lack of communication is also one of the most common causes of stress in the workplace. Whether that means uncertainty regarding what a certain role or project entails, who is the correct point of contact for discussing personal and professional issues or simply the feeling that an expression of personal thought or emotion isn’t welcome.

In fact, establishing a workplace climate where people can share their emotions and be their authentic selves can lead to better performance, greater engagement and a boost in overall wellbeing.

According to Nancy Fechnay, Founder of The Inspire Movement – a global community that encourages individuals to be vulnerable and share their lowest moments – “as individuals, we benefit from sharing vulnerable moments because it breaks barriers and brings us closer to those we choose to share our personal stories with.” So, integrate clear lines of communication from the top down, keep employees up-to-date with changes and developments and encourage an open door policy that’s free from judgement.

“As part of their Employee Assisted Programmes (EAPs), a few of our clients have employed in-house counsellors to enable their employees to seek help in a confidential setting. These counsellors help employees manage their work-related stress and also, other problems which affect their performance at work.” Peter Whittington, Director, Employee Benefits (Asia).

Offer Healthy Activities

Providing subsidies or benefits for employees to attend meditation sessions, yoga classes, run clubs and other stress-busting activities can all help to recharge, and in turn, lower the production of the stress hormone cortisol. However, the key is to allow individuals to choose the type of wellness activities that appeal to them.

People have different motivations, so organisations should offer a wide range of initiatives. There’s no silver bullet, but by empowering employees to take control and responsibility for their own wellbeing, the whole process becomes more engaging.

At wellness company Technogym’s headquarters in Italy, staff are given a two-hour lunch break to use the gym, go for a walk around the grounds or take a class, while LinkedIn’s HQ in Singapore provides staff with a wellness programme that covers a variety of different elements: mobility and movement, rest and recovery and nutrition and hydration. The overriding message? Keep things flexible and fun!

Create a Healthy Space

Greenery, natural light, materials, vibrant colours and shapes and improved air quality can all have a positive impact on wellbeing, by helping to reduce anxiety and stress.

In a study carried out by The Well Living Lab, a collaboration between Delos and the Mayo Clinic, findings showed that “when employees found their conditions unfavourable, it caused them to feel less happy and energetic, more distracted, and it took more energy for them to go about their day-to-day lives.”

So, encourage staff members to bring markers of life into the workplace –– that way they can tap into the de-stressing power of nature.

Implement Support Systems

Global initiatives like Mental Health First Aid Training can help employees to develop the skills they need to look after their own and their co-workers’ wellbeing, as well as help to embed positive, long-term changes across an organisation. But something as simple as the implementation of mindfulness tools can also help to alleviate stress among employees.

Headspace for Work is just one example. Featuring targeted meditation sessions that focus on stress, the app is easy to integrate into daily life and has been proven to significantly increase positive mood whilst reducing negative attitudes. It does so by helping people regulate emotions, changing the brain to be more resilient to stress, and improving stress biomarkers.

“Mindfulness training is especially compelling as a wellness initiative,” according to a White Paper by Headspace, “because it can have an impact on stress almost immediately, while also maintaining positive effects long-term.”

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JLT specialises in providing employee benefits consultancy, insurance placement, and health and wellness services to our corporate clients around the world. Our services range from a simple life cover in a single country, to designing and implementing a global employee benefits strategy. Our focus is to help our clients manage and reduce their healthcare costs, attract and retain employees and increase productivity by creating a healthier and happier workforce.

If you would like to learn more about our services, please contact Richard Roper, Managing Director, Employee Benefits (Asia).