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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: British workers on verge of ‘burn-out’


Two separate studies have revealed that UK workers are coming to the end of their respective tethers and feel that they can’t handle the stress of their jobs much longer.

A survey among 32,000 employees across the world conducted by professional services firm, Towers Watson, indicated that just over one in three UK staff are frequently affected by excessive workplace pressure.
In the wake of widespread job cuts, some 22% said that the amount of work that they were asked to do was now unreasonable, while three out of 10 believed that their organisation was under-resourced.
As a result, nearly three out of five respondents attested that they had been working for more hours than normal over the last three years, but about half couldn’t see the situation changing any time soon. Just over a quarter had also failed to use as much holiday or time off over the last three years as they had in the past.
But this situation, combined with pay cuts or little real earnings growth, meant that 47% of those questioned felt that their stress levels at work were no longer manageable. The situation wasn’t helped by the fact that 31% did not feel that their senior leaders lent any support to health and well-being initiatives.
Charles Fair, a senior engagement and well-being consultant at Towers Watson, said that the findings of the ‘Global Workforce Study’ were broadly similar to those seen elsewhere in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and raised “huge concerns”.
‘Work until you drop’ culture
“Several years of economic uncertainty have led to increased anxiety around job security, with workers putting in longer hours than ever, raising concerns of ‘burn out’ amongst British workers,” he continued.
This meant that employers had to act to avoid a ‘work until you drop’ culture becoming the norm, which would only see staff becoming increasingly unproductive, Fair added.
A similar report by business advisory firm, CEB, revealed that pressures to grow the business more profitably meant that only 32% of business executives planned to boost headcount over the year ahead, although the average goal was to improve company performance by 20%.
To this end, the aim was to find ways to increase the productivity of their existing workforce, with only 71% of executives believing that staff were currently operating at peak productivity levels.
On the other hand, about two thirds of the employees questioned said that their jobs had become more complex, while four out of five had seen the size of their workloads jump. As a result, a huge 55% said that they felt they could not handle the stress of their job for much longer.
Conrad Schmidt, the CEB’s global research officer, warned that, while employers’ focus might be on trying to boost the efficiency of their workforces, there was a “growing risk that companies’ perceptions of their employees’ spare capacity are disconnected from the true position”.
Therefore, it was important to meet workers’ skills requirements, not least to help them cope in an increasingly networked and digital world, in which they were subject to information overload. It was also critical to “adjust management networks to target technology investments to help employees perform better”, Schmidt added.
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

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