Extensive and prolonged workplace stress can cause physical harm, including high blood pressure, muscle tension, stomach problems, and headaches. It can also take a toll on a worker’s mental health, potentially contributing to depression, anxiety, irritability, and sleeping problems. Left unchecked, stress can also be detrimental to an organization’s success, leading to burnout, increased injuries and accidents, lower productivity, increased absenteeism, low morale, and high turnover. Managing workplace stress is hardly a new challenge, but the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many existing stressors, created some new ones, and left employers scrambling to find ways to better support their workers. Employers needed quick access to educational resources on mental health issues and strategies for addressing workplace stress. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration rose to that challenge and tasked ERG with developing a workplace stress toolkit to be made available to employers on OSHA’s website.
ERG met with stakeholders in the mental health field to identify existing information gaps and gain a better understanding of the kind of tools and resources employers and workers needed. Then, we developed a slogan, logo, and framework for a one-stop-shop online Workplace Stress Toolkit that helps employers understand the problem, provides guidance and tips to address the issue, identifies training resources, offers examples of real-world workplace stress reduction solutions, and features a repository of outreach materials. We also developed fact sheets, posters, checklists and “getting started” guides to disempower stigma-filled myths, build compassion, share coping strategies, explain how to support co-workers, raise awareness about signs of distress, and identify pathways for getting help.