THE BLOG
04/30/2014 09:28 EDT | Updated 06/30/2014 05:59 EDT

Stressed Out Employees Stress Out the Organization

What if you were in a horrible job and it resulted in more visits to the doctor's office? What if the Western world was actually getting unhealthier as a result of unhappy careers and even unhappier workplace environments? What if there were health consequences to the predicament employees face in their current positions?

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I don't know about you, but I'm observing a growing crisis. The lack of workplace contentment and resulting employee disengagement is causing serious health issues in today's organizations. And those health issues are causing bottom line problems too.

We've all heard the adage, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." It originated from an 1866 Pembrokeshire proverb written by John Pavin Phillips:

"Eat an apple on going to bed, and you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread."

I must admit the original version doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but stay with me for a minute.

What if you were in a horrible job and it resulted in more visits to the doctor's office? What if the Western world was actually getting unhealthier as a result of unhappy careers and even unhappier workplace environments? What if there were health consequences to the predicament employees face in their current positions?

Peter Butterworth is an associate professor at Australian National University. In 2012, he published results in Psychological Medicine magazine suggesting those that hated the job they held were just as likely to have mental health issues as those who were unemployed. Those who were part of the study in the UK who indicated they had "bad bosses, difficult working conditions and a lack of control and job security" were just as likely to be stressed and under some form of duress as those who weren't even working.

So if you're gainfully employed but hate your job or career, you might as well quit and become unemployed because it would save you the hassle of having to wake up early, dressing in proper work clothes and suffering the agonizing commute to the land of cubicle Hell.

According to UK-based mental health organization Mind, one in six employees experience mental health problems, including stress, anxiety and depression. This is no laughing matter. In a survey Mind conducted with over 2,000 UK employees, they reported 34 percent of respondents found work itself to be the most stressful factor in their lives. That's right, more than one-third of employees find work itself to be the most stressful part of their actual lives. And according to an OECD report entitled "Mental Health and Work United Kingdom" mental illness costs the UK economy an estimated £70 billion per annum in lost productivity and social related benefits. If that's not an alarm bell sounding off I'm not certain what is.

What can a stressed out and arguably calamitous workplace cause in terms of additional costs to the organization? Unscheduled absenteeism is often an after effect of workers who are stressed out and suffering from workplace anxiety, mental illness or depression. Circadian -- a global workforce solution company -- discovered absenteeism costs an organization $2650 each year for every employee on salary and $3600 for every employee on an hourly wage contract. Additional costs come in the form of administrative, overtime or additional pay requirements for replacement workers and of course wages paid to those staying home on salary.

In 2013, the Conference Board of Canada reported the Canadian economy lost $16.6 billion due to absenteeism and from the 2011 Census, Statistics Canada indicated each full-time Canadian employee was absent for 9.3 days. If your organization consists of 1000 workers, that's 9000 days lost in part to actual illness like the flu but how many of them are due to workplace stress and mental duress?

If the people you lead are stressed -- or you're an employee and are stressed -- as a result of the job or workplace environment, and legions of costly absent days are being racked up, perhaps it's time to take stock of whether or not the working environment is in fact engaging. Perhaps it's time to ask yourself if the people on your team are in the right role.

Perhaps it's time to ask yourself if you're in the right role.

The Wall Street Journalfound employees who deem themselves content at work are twice as productive, stay five times longer in their job, are six times more energized and take ten times less sick days. Interestingly they also report that those same happy workers help their peers 33 per cent more than their least happy peers. These results continue to demonstrate both an organization and the worker benefit when the workplace environment is more harmonious than not. A workplace that is stress free adds to both the bottom line and the engagement of employees.

Organizations and leaders that hide their heads in the sand from stressed out workers probably aren't believers in the causal relationship between an engaged organization and improved profitability and earnings per share either. That doesn't surprise me though as it's likely those same leaders who are stressed out in the first place.

After all, 'stressed out people stress out the organization'.