[New Report]: Workplace Stress is at an All-Time High. What Does That Mean for HR/Benefits Teams?

Workplace stress is at an all-time high—and that’s something organizations can’t afford to ignore.

After rising steadily for more than a decade, stress at work reached a new peak in 2022, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce: 2023 Report.

Beyond the moral implications of seeing employees struggle at work, the impact of workplace stress reaches far and wide: it’s linked to decreased productivity, employee retention, and ultimately your organization’s bottom line.

HR/Benefits teams in particular play an important role in addressing the issue. But what exactly can they do to curb this alarming trend? Let’s start by digging into the report’s most important findings to help see the path forward.

What does the report show us about today’s workplace culture?

Gallup’s report does more than compile raw data. Ultimately, it tells us a story about what workplace culture looks like today, and what opportunities exist for organizations to make it better. Here are the most important parts of that story you need to know.

Stress at work is on the rise

When asked about their stress levels, 44% of employees said they experienced “a lot of stress” the previous day. This is the second year in a row worker stress reached record levels, continuing a trend more than a decade in the making.

Managers play an outsized role in the stress workers feel

Ever had a bad boss? Most people know first-hand how difficult it can make their jobs feel. Unsurprisingly, Gallup’s report found that the largest factor contributing to employee stress can be attributed to manager-employee relations.

When employees either don’t have adequate trust in their managers, or don’t have the proper channels to voice their concerns, stress can grow unchecked. Conversely, if managers fail to recognize the signs of burnout, or fall short in offering a safe, supportive environment to talk through concerns, stress will continue to mount.

Stress is leading to costly disengagement and quiet quitting

The figures emerging from this report around stress levels are alarming enough. But when coupled with the impact that this stress has on employees and their organizations, all HR/Benefits teams should feel compelled to act.

Quiet quitting isn’t just a buzzword—it’s a reality organizations can no longer afford to ignore. Defined, quiet quitting is “what happens when someone psychologically disengages from work,” according to Gallup’s report. This is one direct consequence of high workplace stress.

The report found that nearly six in 10 employees fell into this category. In other words, about 60% of the global workforce feels like they lack the purpose, support, and/or motivation they need to thrive in their work.

Low engagement costs the global economy $8.8 trillion dollars, or 9% of the world’s GDP. Looked at through this lens, helping employees manage their stress is not just about making the “nice” choice, it’s about making the right one to keep your organization thriving.

What can HR/Benefits teams do to address employee stress levels?

Helping employees manage stress at work is something many organizations struggle with. Fortunately, once you’ve identified it, you can address it. Here are 3 actionable things you can do right now to help your team mitigate workplace stress:

1. Offer empathy training to workplace leaders

Gallup’s 2023 report showed what employees have long known: managers have an outsized role in creating or destroying healthy workplace cultures. To that end, managers need to be equipped with the proper tools and training in order to be successful.

Empathy skills for workplace leaders can look like showing genuine care for their teams’ wellbeing, proactively asking questions, and listening to their concerns. Proper training can help leaders become more attuned to employee’s stress and engagement levels. By being able to proactively recognize the signs of stress, organizations can help curb quiet quitting and burnout before they happen.

2. Take real steps to mitigate the stigma around mental health

It’s not enough for organizations to say they care about employees’ mental health. Today’s workers want to see real action to show them it’s a priority.

92% of workers say that it is either very or somewhat important to them to work for an organization that values their emotional and psychological well-being. At the same time, 43% of employees worry that if they told their employer about a mental health condition, it would have a negative impact on them in the workplace, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2023 Work in America Survey.

What does that tell us? Organizations need to walk the talk.

Some immediate, impactful ways organizations can show their compassion around mental health include:

● Encouraging leaders to open up about their own personal struggles, if comfortable
● Offering paid time off for mental wellness
● Reviewing company policies around PTO requests
● Reviewing and redistributing information on resources provided by your EAP (if you already have one)

3. Offer a people-first Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

EAPs are many employees’ favorite option for managing stress at work for several reasons.

First, they’re confidential. Especially when it comes to mental health concerns, employees are more likely to use resources that let them bypass any potential stigma that comes with raising their hand for help.

Second, many options—like Carebridge’s comprehensive EAP solution—offer a broad suite of services to address employee’s specific challenges. These can range anywhere from providing support in the face of tragedy, to mindfulness practice, and many other things in between.

However, not all EAPs are built the same. When vetting options to offer your employees, ask these questions at a minimum:

● Does the EAP offer licensed clinicians to provide immediate, in-the-moment support?
● When can employees access resources? (i.e. only certain hours or days in a week, or 24-7?)
● Does the EAP give employees the option to connect directly to a person for support?

For many organizations, EAPs are not just “benefits,” they’re a necessity to retain employees and ensure that both they and their organization can thrive. For more information, connect with a member of our team today.