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Reducing stress may reduce workplace injury

The health epidemic of the 21st century, according to the World Health Organization, is stress. Stress costs American businesses around $300 billion a year. Nearly 30 percent of all disability claims in the workplace stem from behavioral disability claims, and the associated costs are up more than 300 percent in the last 10 years. More than 70 percent of visits to family physicians revolve around stress-related illnesses, doctors surmise.

North Carolina employers should be on the lookout for this issue that may be holding the American workforce back from utilizing its full potential. Stress can cause diminished productivity, worker absenteeism and even hostility between colleagues. Stressful work environments can even lead to workplace accidents, injuries or even fatalities, depending on the working conditions.

The prevalence of stress in the workplace could be explained by many factors, such as the increasingly high levels of unemployment and job uncertainty. Structural changes to the economy, such as a smaller workforce tackling the same amount of work, also increase the pressure on existing workers.

A survey of 2,500 workers at a company that provides employee assistance programs demonstrated that 14.9 percent of workers missed work due to stress, and 14.4 percent arrived late to work because of it. An alarming 66 percent of employees claim they find it difficult to focus on their jobs because of stress.

In order to deal with an escalating problem that has the potential to get even worse, employers may be wise to find methods to address workplace stress, such as employee assistance programs. Programs such as life service assistance, counseling and interpersonal skills development have been shown to be effective at reducing stress.

A less stressful and more interactive workforce may increase productivity and alertness and decrease the number of accidents incurred on the job.

Source: Fox News, "Employees reveal how stress affects their jobs," March 29, 2012

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