The troubled economy and the volatile stock market have many people worried - not just about their 401k, but about what a prolonged economic downturn will mean to everyday concerns. Many are struggling to make ends meet. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, in June of this year, more than 4 million Americans were at least one month behind on their mortgages and a record 500,000 had entered the foreclosure process.
A recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association reveals that 8 out of 10 Americans report economy-related stress. Money and the economy jumped to the top concern cited by respondents, with economic anxiety jumping from 66% to 80% since the last survey six months ago. Of those responding, 60 percent reported feelings of anger and irritability, 53 percent reported fatigue, and 52 percent said they lie awake at night.
In addition to sleep disruption, stress and anxiety can also lead to unhealthy coping behaviors such as overeating, drinking, and gambling. It can also have more serious consequences. Many counselors are reporting that they are seeing more people crushed by economic stress - and some reports point to an increase in suicides and violence: "The Samaritans of New York have seen calls rise more than 16 percent in the past year, many of them money-related. The Switchboard of Miami has recorded more than 500 foreclosure-related calls this year."
Communicate with your employees
When employees are hurting, productivity suffers too. And in a difficult economy, employers need to be at the top of their game. Wise employers will utilize their EAPs preemptively to help mitigate potential deleterious effects of financial stress in the work force. Alert your managers to watch for heightened signs of depression, stress or related problems among the employees they supervise. Remind managers of your EAP as a resource and review referral procedures.
Check with your EAP to get a refresher on services that might be helpful for dealing with stress - many EAPs offer financial and debt counseling, stress reduction, help hotlines, family counseling, and other resources. Ask about any communication resources your EAP may be able to provide - such as articles on debt or stress that could be included in company-sponsored newsletters or intranets; brochures on service availability that could be distributed with paychecks; or seminars on stress reduction or violence prevention. Your EAP should be willing to work with your organization in risk management planning to help your employees get through troubled times.