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Why Now is the Time to Build Employee Resilience to Stress

Why Now is the Time to Build Employee Resilience to Stress

March 27, 2023
Stress may not appear on a spreadsheet, but burnout, turnover, accidents and low morale indirectly impact the bottom line.

Your employees are stressed 

Whether they work on the factory floor or in an office setting, employee stress has become an epidemic across the US. According to a recent Gallup poll, US workers are among the most stressed in the world, and a staggering 83% of US workers suffer from job-related stress.

Manufacturing is a High-Stress Industry

The nature of manufacturing brings stress to workers. Fluctuating shift work and managing production quotas can be stressful. In addition, manufacturing relies heavily on the economy's health, so stress surrounding job security can be exceptionally higher in times of recession. Workplace injuries in manufacturing, including unreported injuries, tend to increase when perceived job security is low, according to a study from Washington State University.

Stress is costly 

According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, employees who experience high stress take more sick leave, miss work more often, and have lower job satisfaction. Stress can also lead to physical health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.

Workplace stress is estimated to cost American companies more than $300 billion annually in health costs, absenteeism, and poor performance. Here are a few more stress-related costs to consider:

  • 40% of job turnover is due to stress. Replacing an employee can cost up to twice the position's salary.
  • Healthcare expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers experiencing high stress levels. 
  • Insurance data indicates insurance claims for stress-related industrial accidents cost nearly twice as much as non-stress-related industrial accidents.

While these statistics are troubling, they're not a reason to lose hope. Stress happens. Having the right tool makes dealing with stress easier. Manufacturers can help their teams learn skills and build resilience to the everyday challenges that increase stress levels.

Building Resilience is the Key

The Mayo Clinic defines resilience as "being able to adapt to life's misfortunes and setbacks." 

Resilience isn't putting up with something unacceptable: it is about building the skills to keep functioning physically and psychologically. Resilience skills include seeking support from others and taking steps to address situations thoughtfully. Problems don't go away because someone is resilient, but resiliency builds an ability for people to move through difficulties and better handle the stress they live with every day. People can learn and develop resilience skills with the proper training and tools.

Help Your Employees Build Resilience to Stress

Companies can make a big difference by offering training, wellness programs and cultures that embrace resilience skills; your manufacturing business can help your teams build resilience and manage everyday stress.

Build a Wellness Culture

Poor health contributes to stress. Often people facing everyday stress lean on unhealthy habits for relief, such as smoking, overeating and avoiding exercise. A Delamere study ranked Manufacturing fourth in the top five industries with the worst health and wellbeing. It's essential to take measures that make it easier for your team to choose healthier options. Here are a few ways you can build a wellness culture:

Help Employees Quit Tobacco

It's a harsh reality for employers in the manufacturing industry that many employees use tobacco, and it's often hard to understand the true scope of your company's problem. 

According to a recent survey on smoking in the manufacturing industry, almost two-thirds of manufacturing employee respondents admitted to avoiding revealing tobacco use to their employer (63%) and stated that even their health plan did not know about their tobacco use (23%). 

Ensure your wellness program offers tobacco cessation assistance and that your employees know it's there for them. There are supportive platforms designed specifically for employer benefits programs that can make a big difference in successful quitting. It's a myth that nicotine calms people down and helps relieve stress; nicotine helps users feel short-term relief but doesn't address the causes of underlying stress. Even worse, nicotine withdrawal can increase stress levels. Nicotine use is a vicious cycle, and ending it will build health and stress resilience.

Encourage Exercise

The Mayo Clinic tells us that exercise in almost any form can relieve stress. Being active can boost feel-good endorphins and provide stress relief for the body. It can also positively affect the cardiovascular, digestive and immune systems by helping protect from the harmful effects of stress. Consider offering gym memberships, in-house fitness classes, walking clubs, or exercise equipment to encourage movement.

Support Healthy Eating

According to WebMD, a healthy diet can help counter the impact of stress by shoring up the immune system and lowering blood pressure. Some foods reduce stress, such as a bowl of warm oatmeal, which boosts serotonin levels, a calming brain chemical. Stress can lead to overeating which causes new health issues. Consider providing nutrition guidance or classes to help your employees learn how to eat healthier. Instead of donuts, soda and pizza, support your employees with healthy food options in the breakroom and cafeteria.

Provide Mindfulness and Stress Reduction Programs

Offer your team technology and supportive alternatives to encourage building resilience skills. Companies have incorporated meditation rooms and quiet spaces where employees can take a break. Yoga, meditation and Tai Chi classes can be offered on-site. Stress and meditation apps are great options. While many apps focus solely on meditation, there are middle-of-the-road programs offering proven tools, and some even provide personal counseling. 

Thoughtful Workplace Communication Increases Stress Resilience.

According to a recent Gallup poll, only 24% of US employees feel strongly that their organization cares about their wellbeing, the lowest percentage in almost a decade. This finding should be a wake-up call to organizations that they need to take employee wellbeing seriously. It's more critical than ever to build resiliency for employees and organizations. 

 The same poll shares how companies are successfully creating resilient cultures through communication, including:

 Create a Supportive Workplace.

Social wellbeing, the extent to which an employee feels a sense of belonging at work, is often overlooked by employers. People spend most of their waking hours at work, so businesses can't afford to neglect social wellbeing. Research recently published in the Academy of Management Journal finds that feelings of loneliness relate to lower job performance. In addition, coworkers perceived lonely employees as less approachable and less committed to the organization. More than one-third of employees don't feel a sense of belonging in the workplace. Making all employees feel seen, supported and connected is essential to building resilience.

 O.C. Tanner Institute’s 2022 Global Cultural Study showed that when employees have strong social connections, they show a 202% increase in odds of coping better in stressful situations. The odds of burnout were 664% greater for employees who didn't feel connected. 

 Leaders can build community by:

 Focusing on coaching and helping employees develop

  • Empowering employees as much as possible in their role
  • Promoting collaboration and inclusion
  • Connecting people to purpose, accomplishment and one another
  • Showing employees they're valued through appreciation
  • Embracing flexible work environments and finding different meanings for flexibility depending on the type of work

And remember, leaders need support too. A Harvard Business Review survey reveals 58% of people say they trust strangers more than their boss. Ensure your managers have the tools and training to create successful, stress-resilient cultures.

Stress Resilience-Building is Good Business.

It's true that unmanaged stress negatively impacts businesses and employees. Stress may not appear on a spreadsheet, but burnout, turnover, accidents and low morale indirectly impact the bottom line. Building resilience by supporting employee wellbeing reduces organizational risks and creates healthier employees. It's smart business to pay attention to your employees' wellbeing and avoid the unwanted costs that stress and burnout can bring.

David S. Utley, M.D., Founder and CEO of PivotBefore starting Pivot, Utley was the first employee and Chief Medical Officer for BARRX Medical (GI endoscopy, acquired by Covidien in 2012) from 2003 to 2014.

About the Author

David Utley | Founder and CEO of Pivot

Dr. Utley graduated from Harvard Medical School (' 92) and completed his surgical training in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, as well as facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, at Stanford University Medical Center, where he was subsequently appointed to the faculty as clinical assistant professor of surgery (1992-2003). He has over 25 peer-reviewed publications related to GI, plastic and reconstructive surgery, and otolaryngology.

Before starting Pivot, Utley was the first employee and Chief Medical Officer for BARRX Medical (GI endoscopy, acquired by Covidien in 2012) from 2003 to 2014.

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