Sunday, February 25, 2007
Job Stress Is Heating Up Europe
Job stress, American-style, is heating up the officescapes of Europe. According to the article at the link below, job related stress, depression and anxiety resulted in 10.5 million lost work days last year alone. Another study found that at least 40 million workers in 15 European Union nations suffered from work stress, costing their employers $26 billion annually. Medical research discovered that job strain increases the risk of cardiovascular illness by 2.2 times, and the Samaritans - a charity that aids people in extreme psychological crisis - report that a third of those surveyed drank to excess to relieve job anxieties, while only 23 percent did so in 2003.
Experts believe the stress is caused by increased pressure from employers to work harder and for longer hours, with individuals frequently handling jobs that would have been performed by two or more workers in the past. Increased job mobility has also eroded the sense of community at many corporations, undermining the social support system that would otherwise have helped workers get through periods of high anxiety. Management, of course, "encourages" such overwork. According to UCL psychology professor, Stephen Palmer, "In industries like oil and banks you have companies that are making billions. There's no excuse for them to treat their staff like this."
All the whip-cracking could well backfire. Unreasonable treatment of loyal employees makes corporations vulnerable to high profile lawsuits and negative publicity, like the recent suit brought by a former Intel employee, a 13 year veteran who experienced a nervous breakdown when forced to do the job of two people and who repeatedly informed her bosses that she was overstretched. The courts eventually ruled in her favor - which should be a warning to all American companies who would apply hell-for-leather New World methods to civilized Old World people. Experts in the UK and elsewhere advise the creation of corporate stress workshops, and the expansion of flexible hours and telecommuting. Escalating work stress is the societal equivalent of global warming, and unless something is done soon we will all drown in its rising waters.
"The Workplace: U.S.-style work stress is spreading to Europe" from International Herald Tribune