Mayo Clinic Study Suggests One Simple Question Regarding Stress Could Help Employers Tailor Wellness Programs and Improve Participation

Many organizations offer wellness programs for employees or members. The programs can cut health care costs and boost productivity. However, many people drop out or decline to enroll.

Mayo Clinic researchers surveyed 13,198 employees who joined a Mayo Clinic employee wellness center when it opened in 2008. Employees rated their stress levels on a scale of 0 (as bad as it can be) to 10 (as good as it can be) and answered questions about quality of life, fatigue, exercise, diet, smoking and health problems.

The study showed the biggest differences between stressed and non-stressed respondents were in fatigue levels after a regular night’s sleep and in current quality of life.

So, instead of expecting tired, stressed participants to run off pounds on the treadmill, Dr. Clark suggests organizations could offer them yoga, tai chi, meditation, stress management classes or sessions with a personal wellness coach that would help them reach overall wellness goals.

“There is no one best approach to manage stress. We are all unique,” Dr. Clark says. “But by bolstering resiliency, employees may be able to successfully make lifestyle changes and achieve wellness.”

The Mayo Clinic study did not examine any correlations between work performance and stress levels. Dr. Clark cautions about making any assumptions on who might be experiencing stress that’s “as bad as it can be.”

“Stellar employees can be stressed about meeting exceedingly high personal expectations,” he says. They may be top performers, but their quality of life is diminished. “Surveys have shown that stress is a common workplace problem,” says Dr. Clark. “Our research acknowledges that stress affects many aspects of health, and it’s possible to easily identify who might benefit from resiliency training.”

The study was co-authored by Beth Warren, Philip Hagen, M.D., Bruce Johnson, Ph.D, SarahJenkins, M.S., Brooke Werneburg, M.S., and Kerry Olsen, M.D.