February 12, 2020
Stress. It’s the scourge of the modern workplace. While work has always been demanding, the always-on nature of today’s business landscape has seen pressure levels increase to record levels.
Research by Towers Watson has revealed that 98% of UK employees are affected by stress, with 97% admitting to struggling with work-life balance. It’s little wonder then that some experts consider stress to be the most significant risk to workplace health currently. That’s why reducing stress is at the top of most HR departments’ 2020 to-do lists, especially as the results of a stressed workforce can take a significant chunk out of the bottom line.
More than 25% of employees miss between three to six days of work per year due to stress, with the associated lack of productivity, disengagement, and negative mentality shown by stressed employees costing their company around a third of their annual salary per year.
Absenteeism and presenteeism are just one high cost. The effect of stress is even bleaker when the burn and churn of overextended employees are factored into the equation. Incredibly, 70% of employees have been touched in some way by burnout – personally or through a colleague or family member. And while the situation seems grave, workplaces that have introduced health and wellbeing programs that include employee coaching have proven that it is possible to turn the tide on the stress epidemic.
1. Identifying the reasons for stress
Just as a doctor wouldn’t be able to treat a patient without diagnosing them first, coaching can help employees start to identify and understand the underlying causes for their stress. The process isn’t easy, as stress is usually a result of external and internal factors. Still, many employees focus on the environmental and situational factors that they can only impact minimally, instead of the cognitive and personality factors that they can affect.
So often, the first coaching session is about why an employee feels stressed. Coaching is about recognizing and understanding what’s causing employees to feel stressed. An intuitive coach can guide you to pinpoint the psychological or emotional sources of stress and then decide whether you want those to define you.
2. Bringing the whole self to work
In Sara Lynn’s experience, the most significant underlying cause of anxiety is a misalignment between an employee’s values and how they’re expected to act – or how they think they’re supposed to act – in the workplace. This is why specific customer-facing roles, where employees are forced to put on an act for long periods, record the highest rates of stress and burnout.
Whether we’re feeling dissatisfied with our work, feel like our talents are going to waste, or even are just having a really tough time outside of work, many of us feel like we need to slap a smile on and get on with things, else we’ll be considered unfit for the role.
“Although I think all managers would benefit from going through a coaching program, this isn’t a manager’s role. Coaching is a more holistic look at the whole person – not only the employee,” explains Sara Lynn. “Having that safe, regular check-in with someone you trust but is outside your professional or personal space is empowering.”
Even more so when people are going through those momentous transitions that seem to be increasingly regular in today’s fast-paced world, be that promotion, a company reorg, a new manager or even moving house or a sick relative.
“Coaching provides the opportunity to develop. It provides permission to speak. People don’t want to stagnate. They want to evolve, not survive.”
Providing employees with space and the tools to evolve within your organization makes them much more likely to stay with you for the long-term.
3. Investing in employees
Put simply, providing employees with the tools and opportunities to develop, grow, and deal with their issues as people, not only workers, shows you care. When companies care about employees, employees overwhelming care more about their companies.
Three-quarters of companies with health and wellness programs, including coaching, say that these programs have had a positive impact on employee engagement. Beyond seeing big smiles and high-fives in the hallways, the whole C-suite should care about employee engagement because tonnes of literature supports the case that increased employee engagement leads to:
- Reduced absenteeism and presenteeism
- Increased productivity
- More sales
- Higher levels of creativity
- Boosted company reputation
- Access to a broader, deeper talent pool
- And… reduced employee turnover. Which brings with it savings in hiring, recruiting, onboarding, and training.
4. Planning for the future
Dealing with stress and pressure head-on today is an investment in the future of both your employees and your company. After all, a great deal of anxiety is founded in worries about what’s still to come. That’s where coaching is at its most potent.
Sara Lynn explains: “If therapy deals with the past, coaching uses the past to create a vision of the present and future. People increasingly feel lost or stuck and coaching can help with that appetite for constant growth and development. We all have the answers within us, but a good coach knows how to ask the right question at the right time.”
Modern companies know how important it is to plan for the future and to evolve constantly, which is why there are departments of analysts and strategists creating road maps. Coaches can help individuals create personal road maps for their lives on the whole. “It’s not a single session solution. At CoachHub, we try to establish a six-to-twelve-month relationship between the coach and coachee. It’s an ongoing process of questioning and accountability.”
IBM discovered that employees who felt unable to develop in the company and fulfill their professional goals were 12 times more likely to leave. So, having a workforce with a clear vision of their future helps companies too.
Companies are increasingly hip to the importance of physical health benefits for employees, but mental wellbeing is just as, if not more, relevant and influential. Of employers who have wellness programs in place, 60% report improved employee retention as well as seeing a positive impact on company culture. So, if you don’t add coaching for your employees’ sake, do it for your bottom line. But do it for your employees!