If you work in the UK and suffer from being overstressed and overworked, then while it is not much comfort, you can at least take some solace in the fact that you are not alone. In fact, according to a couple of recent studies you are in the vast majority.
The first study, conducted by experience management company Qualtrix, found that a whopping 90 percent of UK workers experience significant stress related to their current job, and more than half admitted that they are stressed out most of the time. While this is obviously bad news for anxious employees, it is just as dire for employers given that one in five overstressed workers plan on quitting within the next two years.
The second study, conducted by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), found that employees in the EU put in an average of 42 of work each week, compared to 39 hours a week for workers in Holland, Italy, Belgium, France, Sweden and Ireland, and a mere 37 hours a week in Germany. Yet despite this extra time and effort, the study also found that workers in many EU countries such as Germany and Denmark are more productive. In simpler terms: folks across the Channel work less, but get more done.
While there are no easy fixes — much of the UK’s love/hate affair with working too much and worrying too much is deeply rooted in the culture — there are some adjustments that employers can make to ease the burden on their workforce; not just because it is the humane thing to do, but also because it is the strategic and profitable thing to do. The cost of turnover is excessive, and so is “presenteeism” which is when workers who are too ill to work show up anyway, for fear or being reprimanded or punished. These adjustments include:
- Enabling more employees to work remotely, so they spend less time getting ready for work and commuting, and more time being engaged and efficient. A survey commissioned by the Association of Accounting Technicians found that employees who have the option of flexible working take less leave and are more productive.
- Create “chill out” spaces in the work environment, where workers can recharge their physical, emotional and psychological batteries throughout the day. However, to make this strategy work, employers need to make sure that the space does not slowly but surely become just another work area with people hammering away at laptops and conducting client calls. Putting up signage and banners that clearly demarcate the borders of the no-work zone can help avoid this problem.
- Implement employee health and wellness schemes, which help workers achieve work-life balance. It is important to offer a variety of programmes, since workers face different barriers and challenges.
Ultimately, work is always — or at least, often — going to be somewhat stressful; at least now and then. Furthermore, some days and weeks will be longer than others, and require early starts and late finishes. However, nobody wins when workers are chronically overstressed and overworked. Instead, everyone loses.