How does Stress Affect Productivity at Work? Is There a Solution?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Stress-related sick leave and reduced productivity are costing the Australian economy $14.81 billion a year.  And the direct cost to employers has been assessed at $10.11 every year.  Fortunately, avoiding this type of unnecessary cost is exactly why ergonomics was created and it's revolutionising the contemporary Australian business sector.

Maximising productivity

The whole focus of ergonomics is maximising productivity through optimised work conditions.  It's a globally recognised practical science that emerged from rigorous military research that was later developed and refined by the designers of spacecraft. As applied to the workplace the goals are:

  • Low absenteeism
  • Low injury rate
  • High staff retention
  • High job satisfaction
  • Maximum productivity

Causes of psychological stress

Research studies consistently prove that most work-related stress is caused by these conditions – a lack control over the way their work is organised, too much responsibility, unrealistic objectives, poorly defined job responsibilities and poor communication between departments/workers/management.

From an employer's point of view this means dissatisfied workers with poor concentration, work-related injuries, tension between co-workers and individuals who feel anxious and indecisive.  An ergonomics consultant can assess the factors that are causing psychological stress and reducing productivity and help you re-organise your workplace to remove these obstacles to efficiency.

Stress-related illness

Workers reporting high levels of job stress have a greatly increased risk of developing a serious medical condition.  In particular, work stress is known to cause high blood pressure which, if left untreated, leads on to cardiovascular disease, stroke, angina pain and heart disease. 

In addition, the early symptoms of work-related stress cause severe headaches, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, loss of appetite, insomnia and a number of other conditions which increase absenteeism and poor performance. Because when workers continue to attend work with even minor medical symptoms, their efficiency suffers.

In-house health initiatives
Ergonomics consultants can arrange periodic employee health screening days to identify any health problems which need medical treatment.  In particular, they identify employees who are suffering from job stress/high blood pressure/high cholesterol/obesity, who may need to consult their doctor for treatment which will get them back to normal health.

In addition, ergonomics consultants provide effective stress treatments such as counselling and alternative therapies which have proved very successful in the field of stress management.

Flexible working hours and work-life balance

Employers have direct control over the levels of work stress that employees have to deal with.  For example, work overload, shift patterns and irregular working hours which interfere with healthy sleep patterns and personal relationships. An ergonomics assessment and overhaul will rectify all of this by listening to the employees themselves and getting to the root of the problem.

Ergonomics consultants are trained in communications and cognitive behaviour therapy and can quickly identify and resolve issues.  Some of the causes of stress may be related to management techniques, which can be improved by an ergonomics specialist.

Physical environment

The physical environment provided by the employer is also a common cause of absenteeism from stress or physical damage like strained muscles.  These factors include the volume of noise in the workplace, poorly designed office space, inadequate lighting, lack of natural light, uncomfortable chairs, badly positioned shelves and even the lack of foot rests and telephone head-sets.

These completely avoidable factors can lead to muscle strain and pain like head, neck, shoulder and back ache.  Repetitive strain injuries are easily avoided, too, when you let an ergonomics consultant assess and overhaul workstations for increased comfort and efficiency.

Optimised workplace

Preventive measures are needed if you want to reduce the high costs of occupational stress, injury and disease. Employee Health Assessment days, Injury Prevention programmes, ergonomic chairs and other equipment can be easily provided to allow your employees to get on with their job in comfort and without obstacle.

The intervention of an ergonomics consultancy can completely transform the health, morale and job satisfaction of any workplace and happy workers definitely do work harder.


Happily too, for employers, an ergonomics assessment and overhaul is one of the most cost-effective ways to invest in increased productivity and a sustainable future for your business.  The typical return on investment is at least $2.00 for every $1.00 spent on making your workplace worker-friendly and stress-free.  Which means it's also the best kind of investment – completely risk free!

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