Asking employees about stress level can boost wellness program participation: Mayo Clinic

Employers should offer programs around stress management, work-life balance
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 09/08/2011

Asking employees to rate their current stress level may help identify individuals who could benefit from wellness programs to reduce stress and improve resiliency and overall health, according to a study by Mayo Clinic.

Many organizations offer wellness programs for employees or members they can help cut health-care costs and boost productivity. However, many people drop out or decline to enrol, said Mayo Clinic.

"Wellness programs and centers typically initially focus on physical fitness and weight loss," said Matthew Clark, the study’s lead researcher and a clinical psychologist at Mayo Clinic. "Perhaps by addressing other domains of wellness — stress management, work-life balance, spirituality and resilience — employees might gain the confidence and skills to truly achieve better overall wellness."

Mayo Clinic researchers surveyed 13,198 United States employees who joined a Mayo Clinic employee wellness center when it opened in 2008. Employees rated their stress levels on a scale of zero (as bad as it can be) to 10 (as good as it can be) and answered questions about quality of life, fatigue, exercise, diet, smoking and health problems.

High stress levels (zero to three) were reported by 2,147 employees. When compared to other employees, high-stress employees reported a lower quality of life, poorer health, less support and more fatigue. They also were more likely to have high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and to be overweight. The high-stress group had less confidence than their non-stressed peers in their ability to make changes to improve their overall health, found the Mayo Clinic.

The study showed the biggest differences between stressed and non-stressed respondents were in fatigue levels after a regular night's sleep and in current quality of life.

So, instead of expecting tired, stressed participants to run off pounds on the treadmill, Clark suggests organizations could offer them yoga, tai chi, meditation, stress management classes or sessions with a personal wellness coach that would help them reach overall wellness goals.

"There is no one best approach to manage stress — we are all unique," said Clark. "But by bolstering resiliency, employees may be able to successfully make lifestyle changes and achieve wellness."

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