Workplace Stress, Worker Health and the Bottom Line – Part I

Massage Therapy

In the era of downsizing, Canadian workers have increased their workloads to keep up with diminishing budgets and fierce competition in all industries.  There are physical, mental and social costs to these workers, with resultant financial and human resource costs on employers’ bottom line.

According to data from the 2003 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), nearly one in three employed Canadians, about 5.1 million, reported that most days at work were “quite” or “extremely” stressful.  Work-related stress costs Canadian taxpayers an estimated $2.8 billion annually in physician visits, hospital stays, and emergency room visits.[1]
A report commissioned by Health Canada on work-life conflict found that more than half of the 31,000 people surveyed reported high levels of stress. One in three suffered high levels of burnout and nearly 20 per cent rated their physical health as just fair-to-poor.
It’s no surprise that employees who are anxious and overloaded aren’t nearly as productive as those in good mental health. Stress, depression, and burnout are linked to increased absenteeism, and greater use of prescription medications and employee assistance programs. And chances are, the higher the level of stress within an organization, the lower the level of creativity and innovation which…has a negative impact on its bottom line and ability to compete.[2]
A 1992 United Nations report called job-related stress “the 20th Century disease”.  Job-related stress syndromes cost $16 Billion/year in Canada…the equivalent of 14% all net profits, and a conservative estimate figures job-related stress is responsible for:
• 19% absenteeism
• 40% turnover (employee replacement costs 150-250% of their yearly salary)
• 55% Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
• 30% short term and long term disability costs
• 60% of the total costs related to workplace accidents
• 10% drug plan costs are for psychotherapeutic prescriptions

“Stress generally has more of an impact on white-collar workers, on employees lower in the organizational ranks, in the services sector, and on women.  Everyday small stressors are generally the most damaging. Each one of these stressors catalyzes 1,400 chemical reactions in your body, some of which continue for hours after the stressor that caused it has passed.

Individuals affected by stress smoke more, eat more, have more alcohol and drug-related problems, are less motivated, have more trouble with co-workers, and have more illness.  Stress impairs the immune system and can result in more infectious diseases, chronic respiratory illnesses, high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, depression and cancer.[3]


[1] Ariganello, A. CPA http://www.cga-canada.org/en-ca/AboutCGACanada/CGAMagazine/2009/May-Jun/Pages/ca_2009_05-06_network_reflections.aspx

[2] ibid

[3] Tangri, R: Stress Costs Stress Cures, 2003.  P 24

Workplace stress can devastate a company’s primary asset…their workers.  In Part II we’ll look at workplace wellness programs as a strategy for dealing with job-related stress.