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Annie Hayes

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HR fail to cope with life’s ‘milestones’

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Thirty per cent of HR respondents have taken anti-depressants or sleeping pills compared with the national average of 22%.

These are the findings from a report Milestone or Millstone? by health and well-being consultancy PPC Worldwide.

The report suggests that the outcome of looking after the welfare of other people results in HR professionals feeling rock-bottom themselves.

Twenty-nine per cent of those in HR admit to working at less than half their normal productivity during hard times, higher than the national average of 22%. They also lose more hours at work, spending an average of 1.42 hours each day during these times.

Over half (51%) admit to making mistakes at work compared with an average of 34% and a quarter has felt suicidal, more than the national average of 19%.

The cost to industry as a whole and across all professions is £15bn a year in absence and reduced productivity and according to the research miscarriage has become the hardest thing people have to cope with in life, with infertility problems ranking fourth after death and illness.

  • miscarriage (95% have found this hard or really hard to cope with)

  • death of someone close (94%)

  • serious illness (93%)

  • infertility (88%)

  • splitting up with a serious partner (86%)

  • separation (82%)

  • redundancy (75%)

  • divorce (74%)

  • court case/legal battle (72%)

  • bringing up teenagers (63%)

Carl Tisone, CEO of PPC Worldwide commented:
“Business cannot afford to ignore these figures. Our research finds that only 65% of people feel completely on top of life right now, suggesting one in three is struggling and not performing at their best at work.

“Milestones are predictable events that happen to most of us at some point during our lives. Interestingly, nearly half of people feel that if they’d had support during these periods they would have been more positive experiences. It’s time employers took this on board. The result? Happier and more productive staff at work and at home, and improvements to the bottom line.”

Coping methods vary across industries, those in HR turn to friends and family but are not so good at adopting healthier eating practices.

They are also likely to go out to try and forget what’s happening as well as spend money to cheer themselves up. Interestingly, they are no more likely than average to use the professional support offered at work.

What employers can do for staff

  • Provide proactive employee support that can be used as a personal development and well-being initiative

  • Promote an active stress management policy: measure and respond to workplace stressors and educate staff on how to manage stress from other sources

  • Ensure that managers receive training, guidance and support in dealing with sensitive issues. The right word at the right time is often seen as hugely supportive and is valued by staff.

  • Provide ‘breathing spaces’ for staff to communicate informally.

  • Encourage and support staff to make healthy choices such as quitting smoking, drinking less and eating wisely. This could be linked to stress management.
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  • Clearly state and disseminate your policy on compassionate leave and other benefits, such as maternity/paternity leave.

  • Write updates on ‘milestones’ and publicise them regularly to demystify these life stages and the ways people respond to them.

  • Cultivate a healthy working environment with clear policies and well-informed, confident management.

What people can do for themselves

  • Think ahead, some events can be planned for. For example, negotiate expectations with teenagers before they make demands; discuss wills with aging relatives to avoid extra burden during grief.

  • If you have an EAP, know the benefits, what it offers and how it works before you need to use it. Remember, it’s there for all life events.

  • If you don’t have an EAP, who can you turn to in testing times? A private counsellor, a priest? Someone who is trusted, non-judgmental and supportive.

  • If you sense conflicting demands between personal events and work, speak to your employer. Avoid juggling these when you may be stretched emotionally.

  • Cultivate a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Emotional resilience – the ability to ‘bounce back’ – is linked to physical well-being.

  • Be comfortable with your attitudes and beliefs. Self-awareness promotes personal growth, and that encourages resilience.

  • Take up a regular stress reducing activity. People who already exercise are more likely to use it as a (healthy) coping mechanism should they need it.

  • Cultivate healthy relationships at work and outside: they have known benefits to psychological and physical health and well-being.

Just over a 1000 people were quizzed last November.

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Annie Hayes

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