Article by Jackie Richards 01.08.16
Not that old chestnut again, I hear you cry! But this problem is not going away, in fact it seems to be getting worse!
According to research from Russam GMS, 80% of senior executives say the workplace is a more stressful place than five years ago, with three quarters blaming mobile technology for creating a more stressful environment.
60% of those respondents stated that their employers expect them to answer emails outside of work hours and a fifth of respondents said that “switching off from work at home” is their biggest challenge in terms of looking after their health.
Other contributors of stress included more demanding financial targets, the pressure to be on call 24/7 and email which ‘makes things relentless.’
At the same time, more than 80% of senior executives said their company has no procedures in place for recognising stress in the workplace.
Fewer than 15% of organisations reported they openly discuss stress in the workplace and/or offer stress counselling or mentoring programmes.
Failing to look after the health and wellbeing of employees has been shown to contribute to stress. The Health and Safety Executive report that 11.3 million working days were lost to stress, depression and anxiety in 2013/14, an average of 23 days per case and the Centre for Economics and Business Research has suggested the cost of work related stress to the economy is £6.5 bn!
70% of the respondents said that a company would be a more attractive employer if they offered more health benefits, and almost a quarter said they would prefer more health and well-being benefits to a pay rise.
However, many of Britain’s workplaces are failing to offer even basic health benefits with a quarter of companies offering no benefits at all. Almost two thirds (65%) don’t encourage employees to take regular breaks from their desks.
According to the research, the top health benefits people would like are measures to encourage cycling, running or walking to work, mindfulness sessions, fitness classes at work, meditation and yoga sessions, plus more health advice available on the intranet. Of those that do, the top four benefits are private health insurance, cycle to work schemes, encouraging lunch breaks and subsidised gym membership.
Ian Joseph adds: “Putting benefits in place to help employees be healthier and less stressed is crucial. These don’t have to be complicated or expensive. Initiatives such as having fruit in meetings, encouraging people to take regular breaks from their desk and allowing them time to visit the gym can contribute to people’s good health and support their well-being.
“If organisations are going to be fit for the future, leaders need to recognise the issue of stress and do something about it. Setting expectations about the use of mobiles and unplugging from emails during holidays is something senior executives should be doing as matter of course and leading by example.”
People Management published an article in July this year entitled ‘Mental Health: it’s crunch time’, in which Tony Irwin, MD of Priority Wellbeing Centre claimed that “A French worker works four days a week to produce the same amount as a British worker produces in five, despite – or because of – France’s much shorter working hours”.
I have always viewed a culture of long working hours as being counter-productive. Business owners should be improving efficiencies and utilising their staff in different ways (for example, job share, flexible working, homeworking) to help maintain their health and wellbeing and hence increase productivity within their organisations.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.
Jackie Richards MCIPD
T: 07807 166456