By Kathleen Federici, MEd

As I prepare to speak to my son’s fifth grade class on Career/College Day, I find myself reflecting on the state of stress among kids in school and how that translates to the workplace. Our school district superintendent just sent out a workshop for parents on stress in elementary and high school-age children. Harmful stress is everywhere. I started my career as a social worker for school-aged deaf children, then moved into a county supervisor of social services role, and then moved into the educational aspect of my career. Throughout this course, I have seen the nastiness of stress. Stress cultivated by unhealthy work environments does not remain in the workplace. It spills into family and personal spaces, influencing those relationships.

According to Mental Health America more than 50 percent of employees are “checked out” of their jobs. And 70 percent of those are searching for new jobs. An unhappy or unhealthy work environment is bad for a business’s bottom line and bad for employees’ mental and physical health. Those in unhealthy work environments tend to gain more weight, have more healthcare appointments, and have higher rates of absenteeism. Stress from work can also affect their family life, mental health, and even increase risks for chronic illnesses and heart attacks.

Workplace stress is reported to contribute to higher rates of absenteeism in the workplace. Some key factors contributing to stress are workloads and work expectations, team relationships, and staff management. Employees who perceive a lack of recognition, support, and structure in their workplace will experience higher levels of stress.

Research on workplace wellness confirms that work environments that provide positive recognition and reward and promote professional development generate higher levels of employee engagement, promote quality workplace performance, and increase organizational stability. In healthy workplaces, the presence of supportive and reliable leadership seemed to translate into a workplace culture that fostered supportive relationships among all coworkers, which decreased the amount of workplace stress. Be well, my friends.

Kathleen Federici, MEd, is IPMI’s director of professional development.