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Employee stress a main concern for businesses

Companies can take steps to relieve workplace stress by enacting employee rewards and recognition programs.

Continued economic uncertainty, employee concerns about job loss and financial struggles have made stress the top health risk facing organizations.

A survey of 500 employers by Group Risk Development (GRiD) found that 21 percent of companies consider stress and mental health issues to be their businesses' main health risk. Prolonged periods of tension can cause high blood pressure, insomnia, headaches, chest pains and loss of appetite in employees. All of these symptoms reduce workers' efficiency and make them more susceptible to larger health problems, such as heart attacks or strokes.

Creating stress-busting programs
Companies can take steps to relieve workplace stress by enacting employee rewards and recognition programs. These initiatives provide outlets for stress by encouraging workers to participate in fun, social activities to create a relaxed office environment. For instance, rewarding employees for taking part in 5K fundraisers can build camaraderie and offer exercise, which is a great way to relieve stress. Participation in activities outside of work is also an effective way for staff members to maintain a good work/life balance, which ranked third on the list of leading concerns for business, behind stress and family issues.

"In times of increased economic pressure it is important for employers to consider firstly the wellbeing of their employees and what wider implications are suggested by high levels of stress or other mental illness, and secondly what provisions they have in place to ensure both the employee and the employer are provided with coping mechanisms and are also adequately protected in case of long-term absence," Katharine Moxham, spokeswoman for GRiD, said in a statement.

Reducing medical costs
Creating employee rewards programs geared toward wellness initiatives could save organizations thousands in insurance expenses. In addition to relieving stress, these initiatives can encourage people to stop smoking, eat better and exercise more. A recent study by Harvard University found that every dollar spent on workplace health incentives reduced employee medical claims by $3.27.

Lower insurance costs, as well as increased morale and productivity, are encouraging more businesses to tackle workplace stress and employee health through organizational initiatives. GRiD found that 31 percent of the firms surveyed plan to make managing workplace stress a top priority for 2013, a 5 percent increase from last year. Companies that utilize reward programs may be able to see higher participation and better results.

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