Stress is a Lifesaver. And a Killer!

“I’m really stressed out today,” you might say to a colleague after a particularly harrowing drive to work. “A lot of crazy drivers out there.” Or “I’m really stressed out today,” you might think to yourself when you realize you don’t have the money to pay your rent. “Now, what am I going to do?”

These are different kinds of stress, and each will affect you differently.

What’s wrong with her?

In my book, The New Productivity Engine, I compare positive, good stress – acute stress - and negative, bad stress – chronic stress. Acute stress can save your life, like when a bee flies in the car window as you’re hurling down the expressway. Adrenaline surges, brain is on high alert, blood pressure jumps. You pull over safely and get rid of the insect. Recovery is fast and soon the body is back to normal.

Chronic stress (negative stress) is when you have financial or personal problems that grind away for days or weeks at a time, you are in stress mode continuously and everything suffers including your personality, physical and mental health. Co-workers and family might ask each other, “What’s wrong with her?”

Money is a top source of stress.

Stress is such a major factor in our lives that I devote an entire chapter to the subject in my book. Positive stress can help increase athletic performance and plays a vital role in motivation, adaptation and our relationship and response to the world around us. Excessive levels of negative stress can increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, high cholesterol, ulcers and depression. It’s like a list of bad news.

Here are some disturbing statistics I included in the book.

48 percent of Americans stay up at night worried about finances.

71 percent of people say money is their top source of stress.

Here’s how I describe chronic negative stress:

“It’s like your brain is keeping your body’s accelerator to the floor and the engine is roaring around the clock even while parked.”

Stressed out workers are not productive.

I also list the 50 common signs and symptoms of employee stress including neck and back ache, heartburn, frequent or wild mood swings, increased irritability and excuses to cover up bad work. And it’s not as if you can hide the symptoms. Others – family, friends, colleagues at work – take notice and may also take evasive action to avoid you.

For the employer, stressed workers are not productive. In fact, the cost of stress in the workplace in terms of turnover, absenteeism, health costs, and loss of productivity is in excess of $300 billion a year according to research from Statistic Brain. Fun facts: $300 billion would buy 1.875 million bottles of the world’s most expensive wine (a 1787 Chateau Lafite), or 60,000 24-carat gold toilets, or pay the annual salaries for 8.8 million dental assistants.

The brain loses focus and the body loses health.

One solution for reducing negative stress in the workplace is an employee benefit program that I call “financial wellness.” It combines financial education that instructs and helps modify behavior, motivational strategies that include gamification and online competitions, real-world financial solutions, along with other financial tools including an online financial dashboard.

Negative stress caused by personal financial problems inhibits productivity because it hijacks both the brain and the body. The brain loses focus and the body loses health.

Employees want a financial wellness program.

According to stats in The New Productivity Engine, 19 percent of employees come to work more than six days a year too stressed to be effective. If you, as an employer, could relieve that chronic stress on your employees with an affordable and easy financial solution that was administered remotely by a third party, that your employees could utilize online in a few minutes – why wouldn’t you do it? You do the math. If you have 1,000 employees, you could gain over 1,100 days a year of additional productivity with minimal investment.

The real question is: What could you do with the additional productivity and resulting income?

Employees want a financial wellness program. In The New Productivity Engine, I quote a recent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) report: “Despite the many benefits employers provide… employees are asking for… help managing their money.” I also quote an Alliant Credit Union report, Financial Wellness in the Workplace 2015, “Financial wellness programs are proliferating in companies around the United States as businesses realize that helping their employees achieve and maintain financial wellbeing is a win-win for their people and their organizations.”