Stress usually isn’t a good thing. Excessive stressors can lead to a number of ailments such as heart disease, obesity, and mental health issues. Naturally, employers should be doing the best they can in offering programs or resources to reduce the amount of stress. At the end of the day, what may seem like a waste of money on employees could be what keeps them happy, focused, and productive— all good things for a company.

NPR, in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, released a poll that found 57% of the surveyed who worked 50+ hour weeks felt that “their job had a bad impact on their stress level”. The poll also found high numbers of workers who felt it negatively impacted sleep and eating habits, too. However, there was some good news: just over half (51%) of respondents indicated that their employers had a wellness or health improvement program in place.

The plans themselves vary. Forbes published a list of the 10 most and least common health and wellness programs that employers provide, and there seems to be a divide between resource-based initiative and material help. For instance, the most common programs include wellness resources and info, access to a wellness publication, and the vague “wellness programs” general. Other programs— like subsidized gym equipment nap rooms, and vegetable gardens,—are far less traditional, although a small number of companies do offer them.

But even though more companies are offering these health programs, less than 40 percent of individuals are actually enrolled in them. That shouldn’t stop employers from offering the programs because these measures do save companies money. Those higher stress levels can translate into illness, and at the end of the day those rising healthcare costs become the employer’s issue.

Another simple measure companies can take to improve employee wellness is keeping better tabs on workloads and expectations. Downsizing may make a company feel like it is becoming more efficient, but the extra workload employees receive can have stress-related consequences. Part of the reason that so much paid time off goes on used is because employees feel that their workload won’t allow them to step away from the desk.

black and white image of stressed woman

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Making sure employees can use their vacation days should be a priority. After time away, you feel refreshed and can approach work with a renewed vim and vigor. If that weren’t enough of a reason, all that unused vacation time costs American businesses billions of dollars.