Despite all the warnings, across North America it appears our jobs are continuing to get the better of us. Rising levels of stress and off-kilter work life balance is exacting a pretty harsh toll. Despite billions lost to absenteeism, turnover, disability, insurance costs, workplace accidents, violence, workers compensation, lawsuits and the costs related to replacing workers for stress-related problems, few company’s are adequately addressing this issue.
Sobering Stats: Yikes
In Canada, findings from the 2012 National Study on Balancing Work & Caregiving show that:
- ⅔ of us are working more than a 45 hour week – 50% more than two decades ago;
- work weeks are more rigid, with flex-time arrangements falling by ⅓ in the last 10 years;
- only 23% of working Canadians are highly satisfied with their lives;
- ⅓ of people without children and fully 40% of those with childcare duties feel they are overloaded.
In the US, a recent article in Harvard Business Review, “Are You Working Too Hard?” points out similar trends:
- 40% of all workers feel overworked, pressured and squeezed to the point of anxiety, depression and disease;
- corporate health insurance premiums rose 11.2%, or quadruple the rate of inflation in 2004 alone;
- 60% of doctor visits stem from stress-related complaints and illnesses.
All this in spite of many workplaces having long talked about creating better conditions and work-life balance for their employees.
What Needs to Happen
In my September post I spoke of the need for companies to do something to address the widespread negative effects of stress and poor work-life balance. It seems the above stats only makes this message all the more urgent. Tired, anxious and stressed out people are definitely not the way to improve productivity, innovation and competitiveness.
While HR may be directed to bring in a lecturer once in a while or set up yoga sessions, few people will continue to show up out of worry they’ll be seen as slackers. The company’s leadership and culture must explicitly encourage people to join in through top down modelling and personal commitments to healthy practices. It’s not enough for senior leaders to simply go to HR and say, “fix it”. Changing organizational culture is a leadership issue and is best achieved via actual leadership behaviour.