Floridians’ Stress Levels Rank High Among U.S. States
According to a recent study by WalletHub, Florida is the 11th most stressed state in the country. But there’s more to this story. In determining stress levels, researchers analyzed the following criteria: average hours of work per week, the percentage of adults getting adequate sleep, percentage of adults in fair/poor health, job security, median credit score, housing affordability, percentage of the population living below the poverty line, divorce rate, crime rate per capita, and psychologists per capita.
The good news is that work-related stress in Florida is less than average; we were just 30th on the list (of 50 states and the District of Columbia). Money-related stress ranked us at 21. Thus, these numbers thankfully reduce the overall level of stress here in Florida.
So why are we Number 11 on this list? One of the major contributors to Florida’s overall high-stress ranking is plainly attributable to Florida coming in third in the country in divorces and second in the nation in family-related stress. Family-related stress includes the divorce rate, the percentage of single parents, the cost of childcare, parental-leave policies, Head Start Program enrollment and funding, and general wellbeing.
A Chain of Stress—Can We Break It?
There is no question that divorce and family issues are stressful. There is also no question that stress at home is brought into the workplace every day by our employees, not purposefully, of course, but because it can’t be helped. Sometimes, the impact of this stress is subliminal. A normally easy-going supervisor is impatient and yells at his employee, who has no idea why. Both of them spend the rest of their day fuming, and possibly take their upset out on other workers. A co-worker snaps at others on his team for no obvious reason. They whisper about what caused his outburst and worry about his mental health, instead of focusing on their jobs. They therefore work more slowly than usual, which impacts their production levels.
Tragic Consequences of Unhandled Stress
Sometimes the trauma caused by an employee’s situation at home can cause more than just workplace anxiety. A corporate representative consulted with me recently about an employee who had committed suicide. This employee had been a star for 22 years, eventually working his way up to a role in management, and he was not just well-liked, but, as she described him, beloved in their 400-employee workplace. During the year since his wife had left with his kids and sued him for divorce, he had begun to drink more than just socially and had become more and more depressed, calling in sick when he simply couldn’t face coming in to work. In addition, there were numerous occasions when he had to use personal or vacation time so that he could attend mandatory court appearances.
When he didn’t show up, other employees often volunteered their own time to stop by his house to check on him, to offer him their support, and to try to ease his suffering. Sometimes, an office supervisor would send an employee over on company time, with the employer’s full support. Everyone in his workplace wished this guy well and wanted the best for him.
One day, he didn’t show up and he didn’t call in. There was anxious discussion among his closest friends at work. Had he had yet another court appearance? If so, what had happened? Had he called in sick? Had he gone on another alcoholic binge? Had he discovered that his wife had told their kids more horrible lies about their dad?
As the work day closed, one of his co-workers left work early, stopping at his home to do what he could to ease his pain. Instead, he found him dead on the floor, a bullet through his head.
The entire workforce went into shock. Management offered counseling, but there was little that could be done to alleviate the aching hole his death had left in his workplace. Its reverberations were felt in 400 families, too, sometimes more and sometimes less, but in all of them.
What We Can Do to Help Reduce Stress in the Workplace
How can we reduce the stress in the workplace caused by employee divorce and family issues? How can we create a more positive environment for our employees?
While we may not be able to lower the divorce rate, we can all change the way in which families get divorced. Unlike in litigated divorces, in collaborative divorces, a team of professionals guide spouses to restructure their families in a nurturing and supportive environment. Spouses explore their highest priorities when considering possible resolutions. They are transparent in their negotiations. They act respectfully and maturely in the collaborative context. They learn how to better communicate with one another, to brainstorm and problem solve, and to co-parent more effectively. Not only does this help during the negotiations, but the spouses learn valuable lessons to take away into their lives post-divorce.
A Less Stressed Divorce
Collaborative divorces typically take only a few months and are much less expensive than litigated battles. Reducing the length of time and the expense of the divorce process also mitigates the spouses’ stress levels.
Collaborative divorce also reduces the opportunity for children to feel that they are being pulled into the middle of their parents’ divorce. The negative effect of divorce on children is greatly diminished when parents work together to determine what is best for them, rather than making them feel that the divorce is somehow their fault.
If divorce is inevitable, the collaborative process decreases the amount of stress involved. As more and more people learn about this kinder, gentler way for families to resolve domestic disputes, the less stressed our employees will be. And the less stress, the better!