How is stress taking a toll on your employees?

September 14, 2016
| United States

by Tom Davenport and Jeff Levin-Scherz, MD MBA FACP

In 1789, Benjamin Franklin famously wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” We who toil in the 21st century might add a third certainty: workplace stress. About 60% of American workers say work is a significant cause of stress in their lives.

Researchers at Harvard and Stanford estimate that workplace stress contributes to at least 120,000 deaths each year and accounts for as much as 5% to 8% of annual health care costs in the U.S.

The senior HR managers who participated in Willis Towers Watson’s 2015/2016Global Staying@Work Survey identified stress as the number one risk to employee health and productivity.

In this Perspectives, Willis Towers Watson consultants Tom Davenport and Jeff Levin-Scherz, M.D., examine:

  • The definition of stress
  • How employees cope with stress
  • What organizations can do to address workplace stress

Figure 1. Top five causes of stress — employers versus employees

Towers Watson Media

Source: Willis Towers Watson's 2015/2016 Global Staying@Work Survey,, and 2015/2016 Global Benefits Attitude Surveys (GBAS), U.S. data (GBAS sample: full-time employees with employer-based health care)