The Pulse

Stressed Workers Costing Employers Billions – Weekly

More than 70% of employees spend work time worrying about finances, jobs and health

A new Colonial Life study examines the financial impact of stressed workers on employers

March 14, 2019 — COLUMBIA, S.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Employees are bringing stress and worry into the office each day along with their laptop, coffee and ID, according to a Colonial Life study of 1,505 full-time U.S. employees. And it’s costing U.S. employers billions of dollars each week. More than 20 percent of workers spend more than five hours on the clock each week thinking about their stressors and worries, according to the survey. An additional 50 percent of employees said they lose between one and five hours of work to stress each week.

With 128.5 million full-time employees earning an average of $21 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that means billions of dollars are spent on employees who are unproductive or disengaged. “Employers should pay close attention to the emotional wellbeing of their employees. Stressed employees are not productive or engaged in the work that they do,” said Laurie Mitchell, assistant vice president for global wellbeing and health for Colonial Life.

The stresses topping the list for employees, according to the survey, are not surprising: jobs and finances. But three of the top six are health-related, including the employee’s health, the health of a spouse/ partner/ children and the health of an elderly family member.

Not At Your Best When Stressed

Employees know they’re not at their best when stressed. The survey showed:

  • 41 percent said it made them less productive.
  • 33 percent said it made them less engaged.
  • 15 percent admitted to looking for a new job because of stress.
  • 14 percent said it made them absent more frequently.

Employees have a lot of ideas about how their employers can help alleviate the stress, leading with additional salary and paid time off. Other top requests are additional retirement contributions, more flexible work schedules, additional medical coverage, more flexible work locations and wellness programs and discounts.

“There are a variety of ways that employers can help their workers manage their emotional wellbeing and mental health,” Mitchell said.

According to Mitchell, these can include:

  • Enhancing referrals to available services such as an Employee Assistance Program;
  • Providing telehealth services for behavioral health, mobile health apps for mindfulness and stress reduction, fitness centers and financial wellbeing programs;
  • Promoting work-life balance through use of flexible work arrangements, PTO and other paid leave programs such as paid parental leave;
  • Ensuring optimal treatment for those employees who would benefit; and
  • Prioritizing a supportive and psychologically safe work environment.

“Employers should ensure they are using effective communications that engage employees in all the resources an employer has to offer,” Mitchell said. “Nothing works well if employees don’t know about it.”

Excerpts from the Colonial Life research ‘Employee Stress Can Cost Companies Billions’

Many employers will assume poor results, absenteeism and missed deadlines are indicators that an employee isn’t right for the job or is a bad fit for the company. While it’s challenging to diagnose the cause of performance issues, it’s critical for employers to consider a factor that has, until recently, been overlooked: employee wellbeing.

The stresses topping the list for employees, according to the survey, are not surprising: jobs and finances...

The concerns and stress that employees are bringing with them to the workplace could be affecting their overall morale and productivity.

This year, Colonial Life released survey results that analyzed 1,506 U.S. consumers working full-time January 29 to February 1 that revealed:

  • More than 70 percent of employees spend valuable work time worrying
  • More than 20 percent of full-time workers responded that they spend more than five hours thinking about what makes them stressed
  • An additional 50 percent said they lost at least an hour of work per week due to stress

These results helped us conclude that with 128.5 million full-time employees earning an average of $21 per hour (numbers taken from the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics), it totals to billions of dollars spent on employees who are unproductive or disengaged.

If you’re alarmed by a trend of behavioral and staffing issues, you need to look beyond the performance and see what types of solutions you can provide to refocus and engage your workforce.

Making Wellness A Priority

So, how are you able to help? Giving everyone a raise or bonus while also trying to manage costs isn’t always realistic. The good news is that there are cost-effective solutions to help keep your employees well and engaged.

It all starts by you making wellness a priority in the workplace. You could already be aware of employees that are financially struggling or have gotten feedback about employees not understanding their benefits. If that’s the case, there should be a shift in focus to ensure your employees have the resources they need to be financially well.

Next, you should consider what educational resources you have. To set your employees up for success, there must be communication to help bridge the gap between their wellness needs and your expectations. This can be accomplished with an anonymous survey or the establishment of an employee committee. The goal is to open a communication channel in order to improve overall financial wellness.

If you already have a benefits provider, you can reach out to them and request an assessment of your current benefits offerings. They can help you identify any gaps that your current coverage creates. They should be able to provide you with personalized benefits options, which could even include non-traditional programs such as telemedicine, that can support your employees’ wellness while adding little to no cost to your plan. In fact, many voluntary benefits are paid for directly by employees.

Implementing benefit counseling sessions can also help ensure your employees are making the most of their current benefits and guide them to what best addresses their stressors. A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers explains, “When it comes to getting help with personal finances: 54% say, ‘I want to make my own decisions, but want someone to validate that decisions.”

The next time you notice a team member becoming disengaged at work, consider that it may not be a simple performance issue. Provide them with resources to address their personal needs, and partner with a benefits specialist who can help you steer them in the right direction. You’ll be helping your business and setting your employees up for success.





About the Study
Colonial Life worked with Dynata to conduct a survey of 1,505 full-time U.S. employees between 18 and 70 years of age between Jan. 28 and Feb. 1, 2019.
About Colonial Life
Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company is a market leader in providing financial protection benefits through the workplace, including disability, life, accident, dental, cancer, critical illness and hospital confinement indemnity insurance. The company’s benefit services and education, innovative enrollment technology and personal service support nearly 100,000 businesses and organizations, and 4.5 million of America’s workers and their families. For more information visit or connect with the company at, and Colonial Life is a registered trademark and marketing brand of Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company.