Earlier this morning, I Googled news stories about “holiday stress,” and found page after page of stories with titles such as “Handling Family Stress During the Holidays,” “How to Make the Holidays Less Stressful” and “Tips for Helping Employees Deal with Stress During the Holidays.”
So I guess you could say the timing of Workplace Options’ latest press release—which arrived in my email inbox yesterday— about the significant jump in stress, anxiety and depression levels in the workplace is quite appropriate.
Workplace Options, a leading provider of employee-assistance programs, recently analyzed three years’ worth of global EAP data involving 100,000 employees (from 2012 through 2014) and found a dramatic increase in the number of those who are reporting serious mental and emotional health concerns.
According to the analysis, the number of cases dealing with personal emotional health issues (general work/life balance sorts of things) remained fairly constant over the past three years. Instances of employee stress, anxiety and depression, however, rose at a particularly alarming rate during that period.
Among the findings …
The number of cases dealing with employee depression increased 58 percent between 2012 and 2014.
- The number of cases dealing with employee anxiety increased 74 percent.
- The number of cases dealing with employee stress increased 28 percent.
Combined, employee depression, stress and anxiety accounted for 82.6 percent of all emotional health cases in 2014, compared to 55.2 percent in 2012.
Looking at geographical regions, the rise in depression-related cases was extremely high in Asia (73 percent), while the increases in anxiety-related cases in EMEA and stress-related cases in Central and South America were substantial, at 84 percent and 41 percent, respectively.
I spoke yesterday with Workplace Options CEO Dean Debnam, who just returned from a five-week trip around the world in which he met with hundreds of clients and HR leaders, and asked him to share his thoughts on the key drivers.
At the top of the list, Debnam said, is the relentless push for greater productivity and performance.
In EMEA, he noted, unemployment is still high, but one reason it’s high is because of the pain and expense employers in that region had to undergo not that long ago to downsize. “When the economy started to rebound, they were much less likely to fill positions … because making a firm commitment [in the region] was way too hard to get out of.” So this, in turn, has led to greater levels of anxiety among workers, he told me.
As to the lessons here for HR leaders, Debnam suggested that “just because workers appear to be OK doesn’t mean they are OK.” In response, he added, “you need to give them outlets such as flexible work schedules, you need to be training managers how to identify stress, and you need to do stress audits of your workforce and see where it’s occurring.”
Advice well worth remembering as we enter the New Year and strive to meet a fresh set of new business objectives.Twitter It!