The Cost of Hyper-Productivity: Stress-Related Illnesses
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Last week, The Wall St. Journal ran a very timely story on how the lingering recession and its aftermath “have brought an unprecedented surge in productivity” and how those gains could be harder to sustain “as they are built not only on smarter new ways of doing things but also on stressed workers working harder.”
It’s a keen observation and one that can’t be overstated. As corners of the economy continue to gain strength, many businesses are beginning to see expansion. And while this should lead to a rise in hiring, the jobs market hasn’t changed dramatically, at least not yet.
For all of 2009, productivity among nonfarm workers rose by 3.8 percent, nearly double the 2 percent increase in 2008, according to Businessweek. This represented the fastest annual increase in productivity in seven years.
What this means for now is increased workloads for many workers who feel as if they’re being pulled in too many directions. It’s also a critical issue for managers to be wary of.
Studies have shown that employees who experience high levels of workplace stress are more likely to be at risk for a variety of illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes as well as mental health disorders such as depression.
According to the National Mental Health Association, the estimated economic burden of depression is $43.7 billion as a result of absenteeism, lost productivity and direct treatment costs. Those estimates don’t include the amount of productivity lost to untreated cases of depression or other forms of mental health suffered by people in the workplace.
It’s an often unspoken problem that people in supervisory roles need to pay closer attention to. In fear of being laid off, many workers are foregoing vacation time or sick days and are simply working harder and harder to handle the work that’s being lopped onto them. By doing so, many people are putting themselves at risk for illness while businesses productivity plummets.
Besides doing right by their staffs, corporate leaders can also do right by their businesses by making sure people aren’t working themselves into the ground -- literally and figuratively.
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