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March 27, 2014
3 steps for developing a stress-reduction program

According to a recent survey, 62 percent of employees report high levels of stress, leading to extreme fatigue and feeling out of control. Highly stressed workers are less likely to eat healthfully, exercise, and get enough sleep.

These problems can lead to productivity losses, higher healthcare costs, and more. According to ComPsych Corporation, a leading provider of employee assistance programs, more than a third of workers lose an hour or more per day in productivity due to stress. And about the same number miss three to six days a year, also as a result of stress.

Some people find that some stress motivates them to get things done. But for others, workplace stress can be overwhelming, causing them to constantly worry about a boss or a project, take on more than they should, or feel that they’re being treated unfairly. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury.

Whatever your employees’ stressors, designing a stress management program can help. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends the following three-step method for developing a system to help your employees manage their stress.

Step 1: Identify the problem
Strategies to understand the scope and causes of stress differ according to the size of the organization and available resources. Group discussions with managers, safety committee members, labor representatives, and employees may be enough to identify the issues. In larger workplaces, these discussions can provide input for the design of employees. Make sure you capture data including employee perceptions of job conditions and perceived levels of stress, health, and satisfaction. Objective metrics like absenteeism, illness, and turnover rates, and performance problems should also be examined.

Step 2: Design and implement interventions
Once the sources of stress have been identified and the scope of the problem understood, the next step is to design and implement an intervention strategy. How formal the process is typically depends on the size of the organization. You may find that some stressors (like excessive workload) exist in some departments but not others. Others require institutional change such as communication strategies or stress management training.

Step 3: Evaluate the interventions
Evaluation is an essential step in the intervention process. The goal is to determine whether the intervention is having the desired result and whether changes in direction are needed. You’ll want to conduct short- and long-term evaluations, as many interventions produce initial effects that may not persist over time. Measure employees’ perceptions of their job conditions, stress, health, and satisfaction. If possible, add objective measures such as absenteeism and healthcare costs.

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