The Study

The CDC recently released a report from researchers at Washington University in St Louis reviewing the latest science on workplace stress management programs.

After reviewing more than 10,000 studies, the Wash U scientists identified 37 that reported outcomes on the effects of workplace stress interventions. The majority (73%) of these studies occurred in white collar jobs and in a handful of industries (e.g., healthcare, education). Ninety percent were individual level strategies as opposed to environmental/workplace strategies.

Our Take

The focus of the science poses important challenges for employers looking to bring evidence-based solutions to their pressing workplace health needs.

Behavioral medicine has long known that multi-level strategies are more effective than those targeting only the individual, yet we have little science on what makes for an effective workplace level intervention for stress. As the popular literature in wellness and employee health increasingly focuses on designing physical workplaces differently, this scientific “crater” is a meaningful one. We really don’t know what workplace or environmental-level approaches work to help manage or reduce stress.

In addition, the robust science on the importance of social determinants of health (conditions where we live, work and play), makes the lack of science on interventions to benefit blue collar workers and employees in geographically dispersed workplace locations worrisome.

What does this mean for employers?

Despite the lack of scientific evidence on the benefits of workplace level strategies for managing employee stress or the importance of workplace stress interventions for blue collar workers, we have no reason to believe that these are not important. The robust science on the benefits of individual and workplace interventions for health outcomes in general indicate that this should continue to be an area of emphasis.

To see how Interactive Health’s stress management program was able to help one of its members, click here.

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