The pressures and difficult situations that many of us have faced at times in our lives will undoubtedly have caused stress. However, work-related stress is an alarming problem that HR leaders need to acknowledge and address. A quarter of people cite work as the biggest stressor in their lives with 83% of workers suffering from work stress, and 77% of employees reporting experiencing work-related stress in the last month alone.

Everyone responds to stress differently, but when it is so widespread throughout the workforce, it significantly affects physical health, emotional wellbeing, and business performance. Research indicates that stress is the cause of more than 120,000 deaths each year and accounts for approximately 5-8% of annual healthcare costs. Moreover, of those employees who report experiencing the negative impacts of stress at work, 19% say it results in a lack of effort at work, 32% feel emotional exhaustion, and 44% suffer physical fatigue.

A holistic benefits ecosystem that provides mental health support, includes women's and family health benefits, and fosters supportive work environments are essential to improve workplace culture, reduce stress, and help employees develop coping skills. Here’s how HR and benefits leaders can manage stress in the workplace effectively with robust strategies and comprehensive benefits.

Understanding stress in the workplace

Successful workplace stress management relies on HR and benefits leaders having a sound understanding of the specific stressors that are common within the workplace and the organizational behavior that compounds them.

The causes of workplace stress

Many stressful situations can arise in the workplace. For example, 41% of employees cite heavy workloads as a cause of stress, 32% report issues with other people such as co-workers, managers, and customers, and 9% feel job insecurity causes stress. A 2020 study by Perkbox identified the top ten causes of stress for those surveyed. Work-related politics, lack of communication, client satisfaction levels, working long hours, poor company culture, and work performance were all listed.

In addition, nearly one in five employees find juggling increasing workloads and their personal lives stressful. Common stressors that cause working parents to feel overwhelmed include:

  • Family problems
  • Childcare issues
  • Elderly care issues
  • Financial worries
  • Health concerns
  • Time management

The impact of stress on employees

The way people handle stress and how it impacts each individual varies. However, overall, stress can adversely affect mental wellbeing and physical health. It also has a significant impact on business outcomes.

According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress can cause a range of physical and mental health issues including:

  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
  • Increased risk of hypertension, heart attack, heart disease, and stroke
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Immune disorders
  • Depression
  • Gut diseases
  • Loss of libido, sexual dysfunction, and impotence
  • Exacerbated menstruation and menopause symptoms
  • Decreased reproductive health

When employees feel stressed, it also negatively affects their work performance and therefore, the performance of the business. For example, 34% of employees say they lose an hour or more per day in productivity as a result, and 57% of those with high stress levels report being disengaged at work.

It can also cause absenteeism and employees to leave their jobs altogether. 54% of workers say stress causes them to miss one to two days of work per year and 15% of employees are absent for more than six days. More than a third of employees say they have considered leaving their position due to stress and studies have found that workplace stress increases the risk of actual turnover.

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Maven’s State of Women’s and Family Health Benefits 2024

Strategies for stress management

Stress management is essential for maintaining employee wellbeing and productivity. HR leaders play a pivotal role in promoting strategies that create a healthy work culture, promote stress reduction, and support employees in managing stress effectively.

Promoting a healthy work environment

Creating a culture of support and open communication is paramount in mitigating stress levels among employees. Studies have found that effective communication from leadership is associated with lower work stress.

HR leaders can encourage managers to cultivate an environment where employees feel comfortable to talk about their concerns and seek help when needed. By fostering a sense of belonging and trust, organizations can reduce associated stigma and promote proactive approaches for how to cope with stress.

Implementing flexible work arrangements is another effective strategy for reducing stress. 39% of employees given the ability to work flexibly see a noticeable improvement in their mental health.

Offering options such as working remotely, flexible hours, or four day workweeks allows each employee to better balance their professional and personal home life in the way that's best for them.

Stress management programs and initiatives

The development and promotion of stress management programs and initiatives can significantly contribute to a happier, healthier workforce. Successful programs should not only look to reduce stressors but also identify ways to help employees cope when they feel stressed.

Strategies can be as simple as employees taking regular breaks and providing them with a comfortable staff area to do so. They can also include initiatives such as fitness classes, mindfulness workshops, or paid leave.

Further, providing resources specifically tailored to mental health is essential for comprehensive stress management. Offering mental health days, employee assistance programs (EAPs), and access to virtual counseling services demonstrates organizational support for employees facing psychological challenges.

Women’s health and family benefits should also be a key component of your company’s stress management approach as they help address the unique stressors faced by employees and working parents. Offering comprehensive healthcare coverage, maternity and paternity leave, and fertility, pregnancy, parenting, and menopause support demonstrates a commitment to promoting employee wellbeing throughout all stages of their lives.

By investing in employee wellness in this manner, organizations can enhance individual employee health and cultivate a positive work culture centered around holistic wellbeing.

The role of women’s and family health benefits

Understanding the need for inclusive benefits

Recognizing the diversity of family structures and life stages is essential for designing comprehensive health benefits that help employees reduce and manage stress. Modern workplaces encompass individuals from various backgrounds, each with unique needs and responsibilities. By acknowledging and accommodating these, organizations can foster inclusivity and improve employee and business outcomes.

For example, reproductive health issues can cause significant stress and lower workplace productivity. Issues such as infertility, pregnancy complications, and menopause symptoms can take a toll on employees' physical and mental health. Offering tailored benefits to address these concerns demonstrates a commitment to supporting employees' health and alleviating not only workplace but personal life stressors.

Examples of effective women’s and family health benefits

Providing fertility and preconception resources is crucial for individuals navigating stress caused by reproductive health challenges. Access to fertility treatments, counseling services, specialist advice, and educational resources can empower employees to make informed decisions about their reproductive health journey.

Comprehensive maternity and paternity leave policies are essential for supporting employees during the major life transition of becoming a new parent. Offering generous leave options and flexible return-to-work arrangements enables new parents to balance their professional and personal responsibilities effectively which can help them manage stress and anxiety.

Menopause support programs are increasingly recognized as vital benefits for women experiencing this significant life stage. Providing access to educational materials, wellness resources, and healthcare support can help employees navigate menopause symptoms, reduce stress, and improve overall wellbeing.

Best practices for implementing and communicating benefits

Tailoring benefits to meet the specific needs of employees is key to ensuring their effectiveness. To be able to do this, you must focus on understanding the pressures your workers experience and find out from them which resources and programs will be most useful in helping them reduce and cope with these stressors.

Once you have designed and implemented your employee benefits package, you should ensure employees have clear information about the available benefits and how to access them. Employees also need to feel confident that their privacy will be respected when using these benefits and that they can easily and confidently get the help they need.

Leveraging technology for stress management

Digital tools and platforms

In today's digital age, a plethora of apps and online resources offer valuable support for stress management and mental health. From mindfulness meditation apps to virtual therapy platforms, these digital tools provide accessible and convenient solutions for wider mental health support.

Additionally, integrating health and wellness platforms that cater to women's health and family support, like Maven, can further enhance employee wellbeing. By leveraging technology, organizations can empower working parents and parents-to-be to proactively manage their stress and prioritize their health, ultimately fostering a more resilient and productive workforce, and driving business success.

Previous research from Maven and Great Place to Work found that companies that invest in their working parents experience 5.5x the revenue growth of peers. And 33% of Maven members report they benefited from improved mental health support, and over 40% of members report finding emotional support through Maven’s high-touch 1:1 mental health coaching.

The importance of data and feedback

Regularly reviewing and updating benefits based on employee feedback and industry best practices is essential for maintaining relevance and effectiveness. Organizations should prioritize ongoing evaluation and adaptation to ensure that their benefits offerings remain competitive and responsive to the evolving needs of their workforce.

Conduct regular pulse surveys and focus groups to gather feedback and identify areas for improvement. Leaders should also analyze benefits usage to see which are utilized and which have little uptake. With these insights, you can modify your benefits packages to ensure they continue to address the diverse needs of your employees and accurately target the sources of stress at work.

Supporting a thriving workforce with Maven

Workplace stress is a significant issue that impacts the physical and mental health of the workforce and affects job performance. However, just focusing on work-related stressors will only go so far in improving individual and business outcomes. For stress management strategies to be effective, HR leaders must recognize that employees can feel stressed for other reasons, including health concerns, parenting pressures, and life transitions.

HR leaders are critical to creating a supportive and healthy workplace environment that equips all employees with the skills to deal with stress no matter where it originates from or what stage of life they are in.

Reviewing and enhancing your women and family health benefits is a great place to start if you want to create a robust stress management strategy and better support your employees' mental health. Maven’s pioneering model sets a new standard of care for women and families that allows employees to easily access the support they need when they need it. By offering Maven, employers can improve health outcomes and lower health-related costs while delivering a 4:1 business return on your investment. Book a demo today to find out more about how Maven can make an impact at your organization.

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