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Environmental and Workplace Health

Self-Assessment Tool for Measuring the Costs of Work Stress

Dr. Jean-Pierre Brun, Chair of Occupational Health and Safety Management at the University of Laval, has developed a self-assessment tool for measuring the costs of work stress. 

This tool is based on results of a literature review and a survey of participating organizations. It was designed to enable organizations to estimate the economic and non-economic impacts of work stress and, more specifically, the impacts in relation to absenteeism and presenteeism. Managers need only enter the required data (on absenteeism, presenteeism and common costs) in the appropriate fields.

As you enter information into the appropriate fields, the data in the output fields will be calculated and will update automatically.

It is important to note that, for the moment, the tool has not yet been validated in an authentic environment. However, a pre-test conducted within a participating organization did test the tool's functionality. The pre-test demonstrates the type of information that can be obtained by organizations when using a self-assessment tool such as this one to measure the costs of work stress.

1. Baseline Data

Start by collecting information on the following 14 indicators. This baseline data is needed in order to provide you with a general overview of work stress in your organization.  To produce results of the self-assessment form expressed in annual terms, it is imperative that your baseline data be in annual terms.

Required Information Explanation or Definition Data
Annual number of absences related to a psychological disorder Calculate the number of absences due to short- and long-term disability, specifically those related to psychological disorders. cases
Total annual number of absences Calculate the number of absences due to short- and long-term disability, taking into account all reasons. cases
Total annual number of days lost due to psychological disorders Track the number of days lost for absences due to short-term disability as well as for absences due to long-term disability, specifically those related to psychological disorders. days lost
Total annual number of days lost due to absenteeism (all causes) Track the number of days lost due to absences attributable to short-term disability as well as for absences attributable to long-term disability, taking into account all causes. days lost
Number of regular employees (FTE) within the organization Calculate the number of full-time employees (FTE) based on the following formula:
FTE = Total annual number of days worked/220 working days (or the number of working days for the organization).
FTEs
Total annual number of days worked Tabulate the total number of days worked by all employees within the organization during the year. days worked
Organization's average hourly wage Divide the average annual salary by the number of hours worked each year by a full-time employee (FTE). $/hour
Organization's annual sales Annual sales reported in the latest annual financial report. $
Organization's annual profits Profits reported in the latest annual financial report. $
Absenteeism rate This rate is calculated based on the number of days lost or the number of absences. It generally includes short- and long-term disability and, in some cases, sick leave (if data is available). days/worker
Turnover rate The turnover rate is calculated as follows: number of departures from the organization/annual number of employees X 100. days/worker
Internal mobility rate This rate shows the movement of staff within the organization itself. It equals: number of staff moves during the year / annual number of employees X 100. days/worker
Cost of staff turnover The cost of staff turnover can be linked to numerous factors (e.g. all costs involved in hiring a new employee, the total costs for training this employee, etc.). Therefore, the organization's definition will have to be taken into account in order to interpret the result. $
Prevalence of psychological distress Proportion of individuals who report frequent symptoms (related to depression and anxiety, cognitive problems and irritability) during the week preceding the measurements that is higher than the threshold set by your provincial health authority. %

Self Assessment Form

2. Absenteeism Costs

Next, determine the cost of employee absenteeism - often called sick days. Whenever possible, these cost indicators should be obtained for (or be linked to) absences related to a psychological disorder.

Indicator Definition Data (expressed in financial terms or otherwise)

Disability cost

  • External insurance
  • Self-insurance
  • Benefits
Workers' salaries, including benefits (QPP, employment insurance, etc.), paid by the employer during disablement periods due to a psychological disorder (self-insurance) and/or wage-loss insurance premiums paid to an outside insurance company by the employer. By knowing what percentage of absences within the organization are related to psychological disorders, it is possible to determine what portion of this premium is attributable to psychological disorders (if the insurance company does not provide this information directly). $
Premium for workers' compensation charged by your provincial workers' compensation board Cost of premium paid to your provincial workers' compensation board for workers with psychological disorders. $
Overtime Overtime worked by other employees in order to carry out the work of employees who are absent due to psychological disorders. $

Replacement workers

  • Human resource cost
  • Physical resource cost
Indicator that includes two components, the human resource cost (replacement worker's salary, cost of hiring and training a replacement worker as a result of an employee's absence due to a psychological disorder) and the cost of physical resources purchased for the replacement worker (for example, a desk and computer). $
Salary and benefit savings while the position was vacant Savings to the employer when a worker is absent due to a psychological disorder and is not replaced. The extent of these savings will depend on the company's disability plan (who pays for disability cases and resulting costs). $

Return to work

  • Gradual return
  • Assignment
  • Relapse
  • Accommodation
Gradual return: Aggregate costs of an employee's gradual return to work following an absence due to a psychological disorder.  A gradual return involves an employee's progressive reintegration into their position. For example, someone who was absent due to a psychological disorder could work two days a week for the first two weeks following their return and gradually increase their work time to three or four days a week, and so on. $
  Assignment: Aggregate costs of a temporary assignment when an employee returns to work following an absence due to a psychological disorder. A temporary assignment allows an employee to return to work even though they may not have completely recovered from their medical condition (in this case, a psychological disorder). At this point, the employee may either be assigned tasks other than those they usually carry out or tasks that are part of their regular work but that will be modified for a given time period. $
Relapse: Aggregate costs of a relapse suffered by an employee who was previously absent due to a psychological disorder. In other words, the relapse in this case is characterized by the fact that an employee was off work due to a psychological disorder, returned to work for some time and was again off work due to the same psychological disorder.   $
Accommodation: Aggregate costs of accommodation measures taken when an employee returns to work following an absence due to a psychological disorder. Accommodation measures can vary but they are essentially designed to allow an employee to return to work by taking their specific condition into consideration. For example, training an employee for a position other than the one they normally occupy (if they are unable to return to their regular position due to a psychological disorder) can constitute an accommodation measure. $

Information management system for absenteeism data

  • Technical cost
  • Human resource cost
Indicator that includes two components, the technical cost of managing disability cases (aggregate costs of computer system for managing absenteeism data) and the human resource cost (time devoted by an individual or individuals to managing absenteeism data). By knowing the percentage of absences within the organization related to psychological disorders, it would be possible to determine what proportion of these costs is attributable to psychological disorders. $

Costs of managing disability cases

  • Administrative cost
  • Human resource cost
Indicator that includes two components, the administrative cost of managing disability cases (communication, administration and follow-up) and the human resource cost (time devoted by an individual or individuals to managing disability cases). By knowing the percentage of absences within the organization related to psychological disorders, it would be possible to determine what proportion of these costs is attributable to psychological disorders. $
Medical expertise Cost of medical expertise sought following an employee's absence due to a psychological disorder. $
Quantitative work overload for colleagues Assessment of the quantitative work overload for colleagues resulting from the absence of an employee due to a psychological disorder (not to be confused with overtime). $
Indirect harm to work team Impact on the work team when an employee is absent due to a psychological disorder. $
Sick leave Cost of sick leave taken due to a psychological disorder. $
Reduced work time Estimated number of hours not worked each day due to the occurrence of a psychological disorder (for example, an employee who leaves two hours before the end of their shift). $
Loss of intellectual capital Cost of expertise lost due to the departure of an employee (temporary absence or permanent departure from the organization) due to a psychological disorder. $
  Absenteeism Costs

3. Presenteeism Costs

Next, determine the costs associated to presenteeism. Presenteeism is when an employee is at work, but is performing below expectations because of a work-related mental health problem. These cost indicators are important, but can be difficult to measure.

Indicator Definition Data (expressed in financial terms or otherwise)
Increase in errors Cost associated with the fact that the employee is at work but their performance is below expectations (increase in errors) due to a work-related mental health problem. $
Decrease in quality of production Cost associated with the fact that the employee is at work but their performance is below expectations (decrease in quality of production) due to a work-related mental health problem.  $
  Presenteeism Costs:

4. Costs Associated with Both Absenteeism and Presenteeism

Finally gather data that is associated to both absenteeism and presenteeism. In certain situations, the cost linked to these indicators should be obtained for (or be linked to) an absence due to a psychological disorder and/or for an employee who is at work but whose performance is below expectations due to a workplace mental health problem. 

Indicator Definition Data (expressed in financial terms or otherwise)
Health insurance premium (individual or family plan) associated with the use of psychotherapeutic drugs. Portion of health insurance premium paid by the employer, specifically for psychotherapeutic drugs. $
Health insurance premium (individual or family plan) associated with alternative care. Portion of health insurance premium paid by the employer for alternative care (massage, naturopath, etc.). $
Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Overall cost of running the EAP. The reasons for consultations within the scope of this assistance program could help determine the proportion of costs attributable to mental health problems in the workplace. $
External expertise Cost of external expertise (for example, stress audit) aimed at preventing, assessing or addressing mental health problems in the workplace. $
Union leave time Amount of time union authorities devote to mental health in the workplace. $

Time devoted to mental health issues in the workplace

  • Meetings
  • Intervention
  • Prevention
Amount of time various stakeholders devote to mental health in the workplace. This time may be spent in meetings or on intervention and prevention.

This indicator does not include time already tracked in previous indicators.
$

Legal costs

  • Legal disputes
  • Grievances

This indicator includes two components:

  • Legal disputes: legal and administrative costs associated with an absence due to a psychological disorder and/or with an employee who is at work but whose performance is below expectations due to a workplace mental health problem (presenteeism).
$
Loss of productivity Estimated loss of productivity resulting from mental health problems in the workplace. This loss of productivity can be expressed in terms of aspects such as production objectives or deadlines that are not met, unfinished projects, production deficiencies (e.g. errors), service retakes and customer complaints.  $

Prevention

  • Training
  • Intervention
  • Programs
Cost associated with the prevention of work-related mental health problems within the organization (cost of prevention activities and freeing up staff). This cost can be related to training activities (e.g. managing work attendance), intervention and other programs designed to prevent mental health problems within the organization. $
  Costs Associated with Both Absenteeism and Presenteeism

Results Obtained Using the Self-Assessment Tool for Measuring Work Stress Costs: Your Organizational Management Scorecard

While work stress is a serious health problem, it is an economic problem for many people, organizations, and for society in general. Reports estimate that the total cost to Canadian industry of issues related to mental health is $35 billion annually. Whether it be in the form of disability costs, expenses resulting from workers compensation claims, an employee's reduced productivity due to a health problem (presenteeism), or other more indirect impacts of an employee's absence (for example, overtime for colleagues), organizations must assume the cost of work stress economically.

Finding the results by using this tool will help your organization obtain a more accurate and detailed estimate of the money spent on work stress. This Management Scorecard can help your organization make decisions related to work stress; in particular, how your organization can improve in the area of prevention.

5. Results of Absenteeism Costs

Costs associated to employee absences (short and long-term disability, sick leave, etc)

Indicator Result

Disability cost

  • External insurance
  • Self-insurance
  • Benefits
no data provided
Premium for workers compensation no data provided
Overtime no data provided

Replacement workers

  • Human resource cost
  • Physical resource cost
no data provided
Salary and benefit savings while the position was vacant no data provided
Return to work (Gradual return) no data provided
Return to work (Assignment) no data provided
Return to work (Relapse) no data provided
Return to work (Accommodation) no data provided

Information management system for absenteeism data

  • Technical cost
  • Human resource cost
no data provided

Costs of managing disability cases

  • Administrative cost
  • Human resource cost
no data provided
Medical expertise no data provided
Quantitative work overload for colleagues no data provided
Indirect harm to work team no data provided
Sick leave no data provided
Reduced work time no data provided
Loss of intellectual capital no data provided
Absenteeism Costs

6. Results of Presenteeism Costs

Costs associated to employees at work whose performance is below expectations due to a workplace health problem. 

Indicator Result
Increase in errors no data provided
Decrease in quality of production no data provided
Presenteeism Costs

7. Results of Costs Associated with Both Absenteeism and Presenteeism

Indicator Result
Health insurance premium (individual or family plan) associated with the use of psychotherapeutic drugs. no data provided
Health insurance premium (individual or family plan) associated with alternative care. no data provided
Employee Assistance Program (EAP) no data provided
External expertise no data provided
Union leave time no data provided
Time devoted to mental health issues in the workplace
  • Meetings
  • Intervention
  • Prevention
no data provided
Legal costs
  • Legal disputes
  • Grievances
no data provided
Loss of productivity no data provided
Prevention
  • Training
  • Intervention
  • Programs
no data provided
Costs Associated with Both Absenteeism and Presenteeism

8. Total Costs due to Absenteeism and Presenteeism

Absenteeism Costs
Presenteeism Costs
Costs Associated with Both Absenteeism and Presenteeism
Total

9. Organization profile: Baseline data summary

Required Information Results
Annual number of absences related to a psychological disorder no data provided
Total annual number of absences no data provided
Total annual number of days lost due to psychological disorders no data provided
Total annual number of days lost due to absenteeism (all causes) no data provided
Number of regular employees (FTE) within the organization no data provided
Total annual number of days worked no data provided
Organization's average hourly wage no data provided
Organization's annual sales no data provided
Organization's annual profits no data provided
Absenteeism rate no data provided
Turnover rate no data provided
Internal mobility rate no data provided
Cost of staff turnover no data provided
Prevalence of psychological distress no data provided

10. Graphic Results Obtained Using the Self-Assessment Tool

no data provided