Help managing stress is what workers want most from their wellness programs

Ever wondered what people want most from their wellness programs? Towers Watson, a global HR research firm surveyed over 2500 wellness directors to find out the answer. Take a look at this first graphic (figure 1) and you’ll see that the answer is no surprise: It was help with managing stress.

When I showed this same chart to Ryan Picarella, CEO of WELCOA, an Omaha-based non-profit that specializes in supplying wellness information, he said: “Yes and look at how stress is driving all the OTHER issues on the list.” Occupational Health Psychologist Dr. Leslie Hammer has a similar perspective as Ryan’s. She says: “stress is the cause of the causes.” What she means by this is stress not only has a whole bunch of health consequences in and of itself, it leads to other behaviors that have additional health consequences that most people DON’T associate with stress.

Stress is often the reason WHY people overeat, aren’t in the mood to exercise, make poor food choices, need a cigarette break, loose focus, don’t feel like working and abuse substances like alcohol and marijuana. Thus, stress may be a whole lot bigger problem to the health of your organization than you even realize.

Now take a look at this illustration from the same Towers Watson study (figure 2). This time they surveyed wellness directors and asked them how they allocated their resources.

Notice that helping employees reduce stress and anxiety appears at the bottom of this list. Obviously we have a major disconnect here between what employees want and what their wellness programs are providing. We have been hearing this from our customers for years. Whether they work in college counseling centers, internal EAPs or in wellness departments, they often tell us that when they conduct surveys about wellness program priorities, stress is almost always number 1 or number 2 on the list of what people want help with.
If you want to lower the stress in your organization, one good place to start is by conducting your own STRESS survey. JUST asking (anonymously of course) what people find stressful about working in your organization (What are the bottlenecks? What can be done to make your job less stressful?) can IMMEDIATELY lower the levels of stress. Why? Conducting a survey like this (especially if you are willing to act on it) is a surefire sign that your company cares about its employees.

Here’s a link to one of our surveys.