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Workplace stress goes global

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Almost all companies throughout the industrialised world are showing signs of employee stress, according to new research from Penna Sanders & Sidney.

Based on findings from over 1000 companies in 24 countries, the research was conducted by Arbora, the international career management network of which Penna Sanders & Sidney is a member.

The report divides companies into three types:

  • power oriented,
  • results driven and;
  • people centered

The best businesses from the point of view of employees are people centered. They can be found primarily in the USA and in the Scandinavian countries. They provide employees with the most liberal policies on working hours, telecommuting and the best work/life balance. They report lowering stress levels.

Power oriented companies seem to be mainly based in southern Europe. They don¹t offer flexible working conditions; their management is likely to believe that a good top manager should be available round the clock and that a high level of commitment to the company requires long working hours.

Results driven businesses are likely to be based in central and northern Europe ­ the UK, Germany and France – as well as Japan, Singapore and Australia. They do offer workers the more obvious flexible packages such as job sharing but would not if doing so put the business at a disadvantage.

Other key findings are:


  • The average working week globally is 50 hours with men faring worst ­ almost 52 hours against 47.5 for women. The more senior the role, the longer the working hours.
  • Most managers report levels of stress are rising annually because of ‘business as usual¹ rather than exceptional circumstances.
  • Workers¹ leisure time is more likely to be adversely affected by stress than their time at work.
  • Seven out of 10 women and a third of men would sacrifice income for more time.
  • A third of businesses have no flexible working policy at all.

Commenting on the report, Frances Cook, Director ­ International, of Penna Sanders and Sidney, says, “Businesses across the board are finding that the best employee is not necessarily a martyr to his or her career, but someone who wants to lead a fulfilling professional and personal life. Human resources departments are the link between employer and employee ­ they should now try to broker a new contract between the organisation and its workforce, which looks to benefit both.”

Dr Diana Winstanley, senior lecturer in human resources management at Imperial College Management School, adds, “Organisations must think strategically about the short and long term use of staff. Those that are overly driven by power or results may see short term gains over their people-centred competitors. However, a workforce cannot sustain high levels of pressure, and stress should not be a constant ­ it doesn’t fit with the natural rhythm of life, which is made up of ebb and flow. People centred policies, which avoid burn-out, are sustainable over the long term.”

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