Assisting your employees

Stress and its consequences

Stress is ubiquitous. Even if some professions may be harder hit than others, the times where we thought extreme pressure was limited to the health-care professionals, air traffic controllers, or brokers are long gone. Stress is further reported worldwide, studies frequently claiming the highest levels being in the USA, others in the UK and yet others in European countries such as Switzerland. Several such studies indicate that a quarter of the Swiss workforce report that their work-related stress is overwhelming (SECO, 2016). This is detrimental to their health and happiness. For the business, it will also cause absenteeism and presenteeism, resulting in reduced productivity; which in turn translates to worsened company reputation and investor relations and loss of profit for the business. Considering the impact of stress on both the company and its employees, most large companies today offer wellness services to their staff or at least have some stress management program in place for their employees.

What decision-makers all too often fail to realize is that there is no universal effect of stress. There is good stress and there is bad stress; and people are affected in different ways by the same stressors. For instance, weekly reviews with the boss may help a grounded and calm person stay on top of work duties (good stress/eustress), whereas the same intermittent meetings can cause counterproductive pressure for an individual high in trait anxiety and lead to consistent heightened stress levels due to this perceived increased work pressure (bad stress/distress). In fact, consider anxiety disorder alone, which is the most common of mental disorders and is estimated to affect more than 5% of the EU/EEA workforce (Wittchen, 2010). This disorder is highly predictive of how threatening an individual interprets a given situation. Because it is perceived stress that matters, and not just the stressor itself, we believe that one-size-fits-all stress management programs are far from cost effective and suggest instead to identify individuals that are more prone to stress and provide them with extensive support in the workplace.

With increased work pressure and choice, Burnout is has become a much-too-common stress related illness, and it has devastating effects on tens of thousands of people in across Europe each year, many of whom continue to struggle with physical symptoms and associated stigma in years to follow. Geographical differences are seen both between countries and within regions of countries: for instance, the centre- and Eastern side of Switzerland shows a lower job uncertainty (a high risk factor), according to the workers' union Travail.suisse. Some professions are harder hit than others, especially "people helping professions". Other factors go hand in hand with burnout regardless of industry, such as unmet expectations, lack of resources, feeling underappreciated and not having an influence of one's position. Some of these predictors can be flagged by scoping the workplace. Others by placing the spotlight on the individuals themselves. For instance, there is a well-established link between burnout and the personality trait self-efficacy, and this may be down to a need for external validation of one’s own effort.

So, whilst employees generally expect organisations to recognise and reward good performance, some have a stronger need for such reassurance than do others and this can be quantified, and predicted. This also depends on the domain and hierarchy of the work. However, burnout ultimately involves a person-environment relationship between employee and their work. In other words, to study and prevent burnout in the workplace one must consider not only the employee and work settings individually but also how staff perceives the work environment and organisational constraints or threats to their personal resources, which involves quantitative and qualitative methods, individualised to the business or organisation. In our final report we provide a fingerprint of your business with full metrics of your current standing, together with recommendations for actions to take in order to decrease probabilities of burnout from occurring in the workplace, and how to comply with Swiss labour laws (LTr).

There are several reasons why questionnaire testing are unfortunate. Questionnaires are time-consuming and they are plagued by desirability issues. But more importantly, it is not always the case that people themselves are aware they are about to undergo a burnout. Even though people, including CEO's speak of "suddenly" having a burnout, this is a disease that develops over time, and so too may other illnesses. It is for this reason that we speak of chronic stress as a silent killer: its effects can sneak up on the individual, who often does not realise the impact until it’s too late.

Based on our own research we have developed a test-kit (patent-pending) that combines behavioural data with the stress hormone cortisol. Hormone data will not be affected by the same biases as questionnaire data, and we can use it to check whether levels are unsustainable over prolonged periods of time. We propose to the business to purchase a test-kit to each of their employeesEmployees can decide whether to disclose their results to management or not; either way they will receive personalised advice on how to deal with their stress levels, which has the added value of reducing probability of stress-related absenteeism, productivity and employee turnover. The business will receive actionable advice based on test results. However, please note that Persometrics can not, and will not, compromise anonymity of test takers

Our business package can be offered remotely. Your company receives a preferential price for our hormone test kits so that each employee receives their personal test kit. For a description of the test-kit, stress hormone test kit. Employees receive their individual results with advice on how to handle their personal "stress fingerprint" based on scientific evidence. They also answer questions that regard the business (leader style, resource availability, etc). In this way, your company reduces the risk of burnout and other diseases both directly and indirectly. First, the company receives descriptive statistics in a full stress report with suggestions as to how to improve work conditions. Second, the employees are given an instrument to take their health into their own hands and reduce their own illness proneness.

We can also offer an onsite presentation with a stress consultant who explains risks of stress and gives demonstrations of the test-kit. This is offered in English or French, and in Switzerland only. Please contact us for a quote.