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3 reasons individual stress is bad for business...and particularly projects

There are lots of good business reasons for tackling the causes of stress at work and providing support for your teams, including having a duty of care for people's mental health, having a reputation as an employee of choice and better employee engagement.

But in this blog, I'm going to focus on the 3 slightly 'grittier' or 'hard' reasons,

Individual stress is bad for business as it results in

  • Increased cost

  • Disruption (decreased productivity)

  • Decreased performance and productivity

1. Increased cost

This (frankly quite alarming) Deloitte report includes lots of information that makes the case for actively investing in your employees' mental health.

The report was issued in January 2020 and I dread to think what may happen to the figures in the next few years following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

You can read the report for yourself, but I’d like to highlight a couple of key points from it

The cost of mental health increased since the 2017 report and the average is over £1,650 per employee in the business

From a business point of view, that cost could be put to much better use if it were used to provide more support early on as….

Early intervention gives a higher return on investment than reactive support

The report indicates that early interventions provide a return on investment of at least 6:1 compared to 3:1 for reactive support.

Providing ongoing, on-demand support for your employees and actively encouraging them to use it if they begin to feel stressed is a good option for them and for the business.

"Kill the beast while it’s little, before it turns into a monster"

2. Disruption (decreased productivity)

If people take time off or leave because of mental ill-health, it causes disruption to the business. The time and effort of covering for absence or finding a replacement adds extra work for the people left behind which means they will struggle to deliver against their objectives...which all has a knock-on impact on overall productivity and increases the risk of even more stress.

On projects, the effect can be even more damaging given the

  • constant time pressure on deliverables,

  • dependencies between different parts of the project,

  • loss of knowledge and expertise, and the difficulty of bringing a new person up to speed without impacting time or quality.

3. Decreased performance and productivity

When we get stressed, our bodies go into ‘survival mode’. It’s like a bear’s just come into our cave and we get ready to fight, flee or freeze.

From a business point of view, the most significant point about that is that blood moves away from the part of our brain that does our ‘higher level’, logical thinking and reasoning.

Our IQ drops and we become less able to regulate our emotions.

We begin to resemble a rather grumpy shaved ape.

All bets are off as to the quality of our thinking or how we’re going to react to any challenges.

In this state, we’re unlikely to come up with great solutions, make good decisions or find clever or quick ways to resolve or get around issues. And we’re not going to be very nice to work with.

Being stressed is simply not good for business and particularly not for projects, where constant deadlines and frequent new challenges mean that people need to be productive and thinking at their best all the time.

If people stay stressed over time, other stress responses begin to show (thanks to my Barefoot coaching course for this information). Here are some that I have witnessed in the workplace

  • Concentration and attention span decreases

  • Distractibility increases

  • Memory deteriorates

  • Response speed becomes unpredictable

  • Ability to plan and organise deteriorates

  • Error rate increases

  • Changes take place in personality traits

  • Depression and helplessness appear

  • Self-esteem falls sharply

  • Absenteeism increases

  • Energy levels are low

  • Cynicism about clients, colleagues and the business/project increases

  • New information is ignored

  • Responsibilities and blame are shifted onto others

  • Problems are ‘solved’ at an increasingly superficial level

  • Bizarre behaviour patterns appear


Loss in performance and productivity and increased business or project risk!

If you

  • care about controlling cost, minimising risk and maintaining the performance and productivity of your team, and

  • would like to understand what you can do to create an environment where your team can avoid unhealthy levels of stress and think and work at their best,

please book a free call. I'd love to discuss it with you.

And if you'd like to make sure you see all of my blogs, sign up here for my monthly email.


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