An Epidemic of Anguish

February 12, 2020
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller

Amidst all the news coverage around the coronavirus, there is a much bigger epidemic at work that deserves equal attention.

Just look at these numbers: 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress and 63% are ready to quit their jobs as a result.

My friend Jeffrey Pfeffer recently wrote an article, “How to Redesign Jobs to Improve Employee Health and Company Performance,” in which he cites information from the American Institute of Stress. Their 2019 report, “42 Worrying Workplace Stress Statistics,” brings together information from a variety of sources, including Gallup, Korn Ferry and the American Psychological Association.

Dr. Pfeffer shared a few of the report’s statistics in his article, but, in addition to the ones above, here are a few I found particularly troubling:

  • During 2019, 80% of workers in the US were stressed as a result of ineffective company communication.
  • 54% of workers report that stress from work affects their life at home.
  • During 2018, 76% of US workers said that workplace stress affected their personal relationships.
  • Over a quarter of employees are at risk of burning out in the next 12 months.
  • In 2018, a third of US-based respondents visited a doctor for something stress-related.

I once told a group of CEOs that they are the cause of the healthcare crisis. If, as this report states, work-related stress causes 120,000 deaths and results in $190 billion in healthcare costs yearly, I’m sadly right.

As I wrote in a lengthy LinkedIn article, one of the profound truths we’ve discovered at Barry-Wehmiller is this: The way we lead impacts the way people live. Statistics like the ones above continue to validate the importance of that message and the need for substantial change.

Dr. Pfeffer and I share a lot of the same thoughts on the subject of wellbeing in the workplace. In his book, Dying for a Paycheck, he explains in detail how the workplace is contributing to the healthcare crisis. Last year, we both participated in a joint webinar on the subject.

Dr. Pfeffer’s article contains a number of suggestions of the change organizations can make to begin to move the needle when it comes to the health of their people. I highly suggest you read it.

There are no excuses we, as leaders, can make. Our actions are adversely affecting the health of those we lead. It’s unacceptable. We can’t wait for a consultant’s study of the financial impact of caring. As I asked in the LinkedIn article referenced above, “What is the ROI for caring?”

It’s having team members who are healthier because they feel valued and understood by their leaders and teammates. When they feel fulfilled by the time they’re spending away from their homes and families, they are inspired and energized instead of stressed. And when they go home to their loved ones, they share that joy and fulfillment instead of the stress and bitterness of feeling unappreciated and insignificant.

Statistics like those from the American Institute of Stress show that a sense of value and fulfillment isn’t happening for most people in the workplace. It’s time for us as leaders to begin to make it a reality for everyone.

You can read Dr. Pfeffer’s article, “How to Redesign Jobs to Improve Employee Health and Company Performance,” here.

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