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Alight named by Fortune as one of the ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ in 2024

Stressed employees – five steps employers can take now to improve wellbeing

By Laine Thomas Conway

There is continued evidence of the mounting stress on today’s employees at home and at work. Recent data from the Alight International Workforce and Wellbeing Mindset Study also found that 73% of employees in the U.S. and western Europe rate their current stress levels as moderate or high.
Recently Alight sponsored a SHRM webinar – Is Stress the Next Epidemic? – where five steps were shared for employers to consider when supporting employee stress.
No matter where your company is on its wellbeing journey, these steps will help employees manage life’s stressors and reduce the potentially devastating effects on their lives and on the business:

1. Consider flexibility in a new light

With greater work flexibility employees can alleviate stress, take care of their needs and be more productive when they are working. Remote work, hybrid work and returning to the office are all being considered by employers, but employees may need even more than you realize. According to our wellbeing mindset study, a better balance is the #1 answer from employees when asked what could improve their wellbeing the most. But it’s not just about balance. It’s about doing things that matter to their mind, body, wallet and life. In fact, one third of employees also said they were spending more than 5 hours every month each on financial, physical, and mental health tasks while working. What if we thought out of the box to give them that flexibility and time – like a shorter work week, additional wellness hours or a designated day of the month just for wellbeing.

of employees said they wouldn’t even consider a job that provided less flexibility than they have today
of employees say they can effectively balance work and home

2. Embrace digital tools for employee stress

Embracing digital tools is important in two ways. One is giving people digital access to all you offer, especially with a mobile-first approach. 90% of people want a one-stop shop for all benefits and wellbeing benefits and 87% also think mobile access if important. Secondly, think creatively about the digital tools you offer because people want more ways to help alleviate that stress. Providing digital tools can be helpful for a lot of audiences. When it comes to stress, the value of mental and emotional health apps is 59% for all employees (regardless of whether they have it or not). It goes up to 69% finding it valuable if they know it’s offered by their employer, and jumps all the way to 88% citing its valuable if they used it.

Almost half of employees (43%) said they wished their employer offered more resources and/or time off for mental health

3. Activate, not just educate

40% of employees report that their employer has actively communicated more about stress and mental health in the past year. But, that means there is still a long way to go. For those who have started it needs to go beyond mere awareness of support and instead really help activate or propel people into taking action. Self-reporting of seeking counseling has more than doubled in the past 4 years, but there are so many programs and resources that employers are offering which are simply being underutilized. We know the value is there, so employers have to think creatively about how to get their people to make the effort, sign up and try things. Because if they do, they are almost guaranteed to like it.

of people who had emotional health apps available used them
of people who had stress management resources available used them

4. Leverage managers and business resource groups to communicate about stress and mental health

Go beyond communicating directly and use your additional channels. Traditionally, managers have communicated around pay and performance when it comes to HR programs. But, 50% of people say they have spoken openly with their manager about their job-related stress. So, wouldn’t it be helpful if managers felt more knowledgeable about what the company offered to help in that area? Another innovative way to get the word out is through business or employee resource groups (ERGs). Wellbeing support can be an area to help colleagues. 47% of employees said that when they are stressed, they have a coworker to reach out to for help. Many of these ERGs can be a great conduit for that.

of employees said they’d welcome more training or resources on programs available for job-related stress. 

5. Rethink corporate culture

Finally, you may want to rethink corporate culture around employee stress. It’s great that 46% feel they can speak openly at work about mental and emotional health challenges without fear of consequences. But, if a third of all employees dread going to work and 44% are experiencing at least one symptom of burnout, we can’t ignore how the overall employee experience is impacting our people’s mental and emotional health. That value prop of how we reinforce wellbeing within our culture and walk the walk, and not just talk the talk will continue to be critical when it comes to retaining and engaging employees.

of people agreed that their company genuinely cares about their wellbeing
of employees feel their company would truly have their back if they were faced with a wellbeing or health challenge

Related reads

The epidemic of stress

According to Alight’s 2022 International Workforce and Wellbeing Mindset Report, 73% of employees in the U.S. and western Europe rate their stress levels as moderate or high.

Healthy balance: Empowering employees to better manage stress

This report from Alight provides steps employers can take to help workers manage their stress and improve their wellbeing.

Stressed employees – five steps employers can take now to improve wellbeing

No matter where your company is on its wellbeing journey, here are five steps employers can take now to help employee stress.