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A stressed out man talking on his cell phone.

One out of six employees find their workplaces unhealthy, and those workplace environments account for 20 percent of total health care costs, according to a 2004 report.

Why am I feeling so stressed?

Seeking help when your workplace is unhealthy

By Lisa Dau

From Brief, June 30, 2004; updated December 6, 2004

Have you ever taken classes on stress management? Have you been told by some professional that when you are stressed out, you should exercise, relax, and eat healthy foods?

Most of us have probably heard about these strategies and even use them to help manage the stress in our lives. It's important to take a healthy-lifestyle approach to dealing with stress.

But what happens when you feel tapped out on managing stress because each day you go into a work environment that doesn't feel healthy or supportive?

Workplace health impacts personal productivity and health significantly. One out of six employees find their workplaces unhealthy, and those workplace environments account for 20 percent of total health care costs, according to a 2004 report by researcher and consultant Graham Lowe.

High levels of stress, burnout, work/life imbalance, interpersonal conflict, increased workloads, non-supportive supervisors, and job insecurity all contribute to the creation of unhealthy work environments. Researchers are beginning to recognize the need for organizations to help employees deal with stress but also address the underlying workplace problems that lead to that stress.

The biggest sustainable gains in employee health and productivity, according to Lowe, result from changes in the overall work environment.

Trust, respect, emotional and physical safety, good interpersonal communication, work-family balance, job security, effective supervision, autonomy, and a friendly or helpful atmosphere all help to create a healthy overall work environment, according to Lowe. When any of these conditions are missing, employees perceive their workplace to be less than healthy. Many studies document the benefits of healthy work environments: improved physical, emotional, and social well-being, higher job satisfaction, lower absenteeism and turnover, improved job performance, lower accident rates, and reduced health benefit and worker compensation costs.

If you feel you are working in an unhealthy work environment and need some guidance on addressing or coping with the situation, the University offers the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which provides confidential and free consultation for any work or personal issue you may be experiencing. If you are a supervisor, manager, or leader at the University, the EAP also provides consultation and assistance to help you assess and address unhealthy workplace issues.

Contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at 612-626-0253 or, or look on the Web at . Another source of help is the Faculty and Academic Staff Assistance Program; contact Jim Meland at 612-625-4073.

In addition, consultation about work and personal issues are available at locations on each campus:

Crookston: Northwest Mental Health Center, 218-281-3940

Duluth: St. Luke's Employee Assistance Program, 218-249-7077

Morris: Stevens Community Health Center, 320-589-1313

Rochester and the Twin Cities: Twin Cities Employee Assistance Program, 612-626-2053

Lisa Dau is a counselor at the University of Minnesota Employee Assistance Program, Twin Cities campus. Reference Lowe, G. (2004) Creating healthy, productive organizations. Journal of Employee Assistance. 2nd Quarter, pp. 7-9.

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