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With almost 50% of workers complaining that their jobs are very stressful, it is no surprise that more than two-thirds of all medical problems are stress related.

Each day, workplace stress is credited with more than a million absences and at least 40% of all personnel turnover. Studies show stress is a primary cause of accidents, quality control problems, medical claims, and lost productivity.

Some people debate the exact percentage of stress related costs in each catagory, but few can object to the raw data or the results you see as you take action to control stress and improve productivity throughout your company.

Here are some practical ways to benchmark current stress levels and monitor future conditions.

1. Absenteeism - Require strict reporting of absences for any reason. It isn't unusual for people to shade the truth to get a day off. Some research indicates that 54% of illnesses phoned in are actually for reasons other than medical. Compare your numbers with the same period last year. Chart how absences coincide with business cycles.

2. Presenteeism - Keep track of those who show up sick and risk spreading their illness. Maybe they've used up their "sick days" because of stress and can't afford to stay home when they really should. If people miss work when they are well or if they feel too stressed to miss work when they are sick, stress control strategies are essential.

3. Tardiness - Develop daily reports and weekly summaries. Are some departments worse than others? Are people arriving late because they dread workplace stress?

4. Medical claims - Seek generic information from your health insurance company on the number and expense of medical claims. Categorize information by type of ailment and observe how the frequency of visits compares to major corporate activities or stressful times of year. You might find that stressful periods coincide with or precede increased medical claims.

5. Complaints and grievances - Keep records by department. Those with a greater numbers of complaints are probably ready for some stress- control strategies. Each grievance can cost you untold hours or more productivity.

6. Accident reports - Analyze reports from the perspective of stress involvement. Research how stress might have been the root cause of accidents. It has been said stress related accidents cost nearly twice as much as other mishaps.

7. Errors in judgment or misstatements - Develop a log of individual errors in judgment and misstatements - clear stress indicators. If employees are prone to making misstatements, they are prone to errors in judgment. Monitor decision-making ability and evaluate the cost of these mistakes.

8. Personal relationships - Note changes in the way people relate to each other and the actions that cause some people to become more argumentative. You can use this information to control stress for the entire organization or for individuals who are more sensitive to stressful situations.

9. Customer service problems - Review problems from a stress perspective. Reducing stress can lower the number of errors in order taking, preparation, shipping, and invoicing and improve customer relations.

10. Quality problems - Include a description of stress-related activities occurring before and during the period of concern in your quality reports. Watch for trends among certain employees or departments. Look for causes of stress and what can be done to control the stress reactions.

Corporate leaders and managers sometimes erronously manage stressed people by using increased demands and closer supervision. Instead, you should use stress-reducing techniques to manage the stressors. Benchmarking will help you prioritize and allocate assets to stress control.

Good managers understand the importance of positive stress in maximizing accuracy and productivity. And they know how to control the negative stress for the benefit of those involved and the bottom line.

Outside consultants and trainers can help you evaluate current stress levels and train everyone involved. Remember, stress control is a leadership responsibility.
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