Media releases

August 12, 2008

Workplace stress costing the Australian economy

New Medibank Private-commissioned research has found that stress in Australian workplaces is costing the economy $14.81 billion a year.

The Australian-first research, conducted in conjunction with Econtech, captures the direct cost of workplace stress to Australian employers, as well as the indirect costs that occur when the effects of stress flow through the economy, causing changes to capital investment and other impacts to upstream and downstream industries.

Workplace stress occurs when the demands placed on an employee are not matched by their capacity or skill to complete that activity.

Craig Bosworth, Medibank Private Industry Affairs Manager, believes that the findings demonstrate how negative stress at work can significantly impact productivity and impose a heavy economic burden on businesses and the Australian economy as a whole.

"The Medibank research has found that stress related presenteeism and absenteeism are directly costing Australian employers $10.11 billion annually. Perhaps more applicable is the finding that 3.2 days per worker are lost each year through workplace stress. Even for a small business with only ten employees, this adds up to more than a month in lost productivity.

"At a micro level the research shows that stress is an important issue for employees and employers in Australia, and suggests we should all be doing more to address negative workplace stress. At the macro level, the cost of $14.81 billion to the economy highlights just how big the problem of workplace stress is.

"Productivity losses incurred through negative workplace stress reduce overall business productivity and lead to lower GDP, private consumption, investment, imports, exports and industry production.

"It's important to differentiate between good stress and negative stress. Good stress is motivating. But as an employee's stress level increases it reaches a tipping point where it starts to be detrimental and has a negative impact on an employees work. That tipping point will vary person to person based on personality attributes, such as the ability to cope with pressure, as well as job factors and aspects of the work environment," Mr Bosworth said.

In addition to affecting employee productivity, negative workplace stress can also impact employee health and has been linked to a wide range of mental and physical health issues including nervousness, tension, anxiety, depression and heart conditions.

Medibank Private's latest research follows the release of its 'Sick at work' report last year which found that six working days, equating to $25.7 billion of productivity, are lost per year per employee due to presenteeism.

For more information contact:
Sarah Chibnall, 0423 76 26 76 or James Connors 0433 992 677.

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