Employees are experiencing chronic stress response to job uncertainty, which in turn impacts them both physically and psychologically — while also reducing productivity for the employer.

Job-insecure individuals reported work loss days of greater than two weeks, bed-ridden days of greater than two weeks, worsening of general health and greater work-family life imbalance in the past 12 months, according to a new study from Ball State University’s College of Health.

Things such as layoffs, plant closings, outsourcing, mergers, replacement of full-time permanent positions with short-term contracts could all cause employees to feel insecure about their jobs. Those who experience job insecurity are more likely to be obese, sleep less than six hours a day and smoke every day, as well.

Bloomberg/file photo

“What happens is people either misperceive or there is a real threat to someone’s job and that keeps them in a state of stress and that stress, when it's chronic, becomes anxiety, depression. Once people have those disorders, you can see physical signs of anxiety,” says BSU’s health education professor and lead author, Jagdish Khubchandani.

Long-term signs of anxiety include ulcers, weight gain, smoking and drinking, diabetes, hypertension, chest pain and coronary heart disease. Emotional disturbances, reduced organizational trust, increased intention to quit, lower job performance — including tardiness and absenteeism — are all ways job insecurity influences an employee’s mental state.

“When people have gone from mentally not on the job to physically not on the job, people start quitting because they feel insecure and they’re always running for different types of jobs. That hurts the employers because it’s a higher amount of turnovers. Then, you have to bring in someone new, train them again, and that’s a loss of productivity,” says Khubchandani.
Job insecurity is higher in males, African-Americans, Hispanics and those that are divorced or separated and those paid by the hour, while those with government jobs and employees of large organizations reported much lower instances of job insecurity. People with lower educational attainment and annual household incomes were more likely to perceive job insecurity than those with higher education and household incomes.

Relief
Flexible work hours, management of shifts, good communication and defining the role of people are ways that employers can relieve workplace stress. Khubchandani also suggests companies offer counseling services, lifestyle and wellness coaches to employees.

“Employers need to learn that they need to invest in employees. That investment doesn't have to be health insurance only. It can be investment on professional development, stress management, anger management and good communication,” says Khubchandani.

Khubchandani suggests companies should put more effort toward preventative care by periodically having screenings of employees’ BMI, tobacco- use habits, alcohol habits and stress management.

“Each organization should look at healthcare costs at the end of the year and then identify what are the top five causes of why they are paying so much. Then start negotiating with the benefits industry,” says Khubchandani.

The study consisted of 17,441 working adults, where 75% were white, 51.5% female, 73.3% worked for a private company and 82.6% were 25 to 64 years old.

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