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How Employee Burnout Increases Healthcare Costs

Employee burnout is the new crisis of the global workplace. According to O.C. Tanner’s Global Culture Report, 79 percent of employees are suffering from mild, moderate, or severe burnout, with 40 percent falling in the moderate to severe category. H.R. professionals can’t help but notice this disturbing trend as 95 percent say burnout makes it difficult for them to retain employees. Not only is the epidemic contributing to high turnover rates for employers, but it’s also wreaking havoc on peoples’ health and healthcare spending.

Poor management, lack of appreciation, negative workplace culture, and job stress can all play a role in staff burnout. The report attributes 120,000 deaths per year and $190 billion in healthcare spending to burnout. Physical and mental exhaustion, dread, stress, and anxiety all contribute to the development of chronic diseases, absenteeism, and an increase in trips to the emergency room.

Increased Risk for Disease

Stress can take a toll on your mental well-being as well as your physical health. Additional research cited in the report found that burnout causes an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, high cholesterol, and even death for employees under the age of 45.

Stress hormones in your body can affect glucose levels when activating your fight-or-flight response. To give you the strength to fight in any given situation, glucose levels in your bloodstream rise. If you can’t convert the glucose into energy, it builds up in the bloodstream.

Chronic stress has also been linked to a wide range of harmful effects on the heart. It’s been suggested that stress triggers inflammation, a known instigator of heart disease. It’s also human nature to reach for unhealthy comfort foods like pizza and desserts when stressed. High-fat, high-cholesterol foods contribute to the artery damage that causes heart attacks and strokes. Other harmful coping mechanisms like smoking or drinking too much can also damage your heart.

Absenteeism Costs 

Chronic diseases, stress, fatigue, and depression all affect employers’ revenue. The CDC Foundation says productivity losses linked to absenteeism cost employers $225.8 billion annually in the U.S.—about $1685 per employee.

To remain competitive and productive, employers must encourage safer, healthier workplaces. It’s in their best interest to help employees prevent illnesses and to promote their health and well-being by fostering a positive work culture.

A Culture of Wellness is Essential

Like it or not, every employer is in the healthcare business. Why? Because the way employers operate affects the physical and mental health of their employees. Facilitating wellness, longevity, and a happier workforce requires exceptional planning and a top-down approach. There are some behaviors management can encourage to help set the right tone.

  • Unplug after-hours – Leave tech in the office if necessary, and limit emails after hours.
  • Take vacation days – Don’t work while on vacation.
  • Show appreciation – There are times when working long hours to complete a project is inevitable. When this happens, make sure employees know their effort is seen and appreciated.
  • Be strategic – Get a clear picture of the time and human resources necessary to complete a project before you start, so employees don’t feel like they’re always treading water, and long hours don’t become the norm.

It’s essential to remember positivity goes a long way. Laughter lowers levels of stress hormones, reduce inflammation in the arteries, and increase “good” HDL cholesterol. Empower your team to make changes as needed and encourage open dialogue and collaboration between management and coworkers. Eliminating risk factors for burnout helps employees and employers save on healthcare costs in the long run.

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