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A Stress-Free Start To The New Year

Posted 12/28/2017 by UHBlog

Ring in the New Year at your company by developing stress reduction programs that improve health and well-being. Talk to us about proven programs that work.

Smiling co-workers at meeting

The New Year is an ideal time for your organization to evaluate whether your employees' definition of taking a stress test is simply showing up for work. If that's the case, you may want to make minimizing stress a priority in 2018.

Why? Because job stress not only impacts your employees' well-being, it's also estimated to cost American businesses approximately $300 billion a year in health care costs, absenteeism and workplace productivity.

“The World Health Organization calls stress the health epidemic of the 21st century,” says psychiatrist Francoise Adan, MD, who is medical director of University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. “When harnessed correctly, stress can be a motivator to complete tasks quickly and effectively. However, when stress becomes too great, it can adversely impact workplace performance and negatively affect an employee's health and professional and personal life.”

According to Dr. Adan, stress has a tremendous direct and indirect impact on businesses. An estimated 80 to 90 percent of primary care doctor visits are related to conditions caused and/or exacerbated by stress. These health conditions include:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Stomach problems

The beginning of a new year is a good time to develop an employee wellness program, Dr. Adan says.

“As people head into 2018, they're coming off a holiday season filled with stressors like out-of-town travel, the dynamics of family gatherings, large meals, extra bills and work deadlines,” she says. “This is the time for employers to push the reset button and embrace the opportunity to promote workplace wellness and stress-reduction programs. These efforts will allow employees to start the year with a clean slate and a commitment for a healthier mind and body.”

To minimize employee stress in the New Year, Dr. Adan offers these six suggestions:

  1. Lead by example. “When implementing a wellness program that includes activities such as exercise classes, healthy eating programs, relaxing breathing exercises and mindful meditation, employees respond best when senior leadership is also involved in these activities,” she says. “This encourages team building, camaraderie and positive interaction between all levels of staff.”
  2. Set realistic goals. Even if employees work long hours, they can only fit so much work into one day. Having unrealistic expectations for what employees can accomplish sets them up for failure and increased stress.
    “Employers should encourage their staff to achieve small, manageable goals that are sustainable,” Dr. Adan says. “Constantly setting the bar too high leads to tremendous stress and employee burn-out.”
  3. Take a break. Whether it's going for a walk, doing breathing exercises, listening to music or walking down to the lunchroom for a healthy snack, employees should be encouraged to step away from their desks or computer screens for designated breaks.
    “This gives staff time for a brain reset, which can improve health and productivity over the course of a day,” Dr. Adan says.
  4. Ask for employee input. Encourage employees to give feedback on the company's health and wellness programs. In the process, they will be building and shaping a workplace wellness program that meet their needs.
  5. Celebrate achievements. Dr. Adan encourages employers to create an environment where staff can celebrate their accomplishments and be proud of each other's achievements.
    “It's also important for employees to have an attitude of gratitude for all the good things in their lives,” she says. “Gratitude is a tool anyone can use, it's free and has no side effects. Taking time to focus on all the things to be grateful for can go a long way in reducing stress at work and in all aspects of life.”
  6. Use targeted stress reduction programs. A targeted program can teach employees stress resiliency by giving them techniques they can use to control the impact of stress on their lives. University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network offers several of these types of programs, including Stress Management and Resilience Training (S.M.A.R.T.) – recognized as a 2016 Crain's Health Care Hero for improving the lives and health of those in Northeast Ohio – and mindfulness, yoga and meditation classes.

If you're interested in stress management training for your workplace, connect with University Hospitals Employer Solutions for more information.

Francoise Adan, MD is a psychiatrist and the medical director of University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Dr. Adan or any other doctor online.

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