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Healthcare: The True Cost of Stress

Healthcare: The True Cost of Stress

Corporate Adviser via Yellowbrix

Stress in the workplace can have devastating effects on employees. Sam Barrett finds out what adviser solutions can and can’t do to help

In today’s tough economic climate, employees are coming under increasing pressure. Employers must take steps to manage stress in the workplace to safeguard their employees and their businesses.

“Companies are putting employees under more and more pressure,” says Colin Bullen, head of health and risk benefits at Hewitt Associates. “If the company’s downsized, employees might be struggling with a heavier workload. There could also be financial worries and fears about job security. It can all lead to more stress in the workplace.”

In some instances this increased pressure can have particularly unpleasant consequences. This was the case at France Telecom earlier this year when it hit the headlines as the suicide rate among its employees soared.

The firm, which had made 22,000 people redundant between 2006 and 2008, has experienced 24 suicides in the last 20 months. Although it claims this isn’t an unusual suicide rate for a company of its size, it has put further restructuring on hold and introduced a suicide hotline and psychological counseling.

No one is suggesting that introducing a range of products would have stopped this happening. But providers do offer a range of solutions from employee assistance programs (EAPs) to cash plans and medical insurance that claim to help an employer combat stress in the workplace.

Success isn’t guaranteed though. In work carried out by the Health & Safety Executive in the late 1990s on stress in the workplace, it categorized the types of stress intervention as primary, secondary and tertiary. While primary and secondary interventions are proactive and include reducing exposure to stress and training employees in stress management, employee benefits are classed as tertiary interventions.

“When it comes to managing stress in the workplace, employee benefits are much more of a reactive mechanism,” says Ann McCracken, chair of the International Stress Management Association (ISMA). “By the time you use them it’s often too late as someone is already suffering from stress. You need to be more proactive and look at preventative steps too.”

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