The national unemployment rate is already in the double digits, yet companies, particularly in the tech sector, are still shedding staff. The employees that remain, as has been said time and time again, are being asked to do the work of their former colleagues, usually without a corresponding bump in salary. Well guess what? They're stressed out, using their health plans more, and calling in sick.
A slew of surveys have found that the U.S. workforce, from IT to HR, is a largely disgruntled bunch, with many employees ready to bolt for the exit at the first signs of a truly resurgent job market. Until that day arrives, they'll be using the company health plan.
In a survey of 282 companies, consulting firm Watson Wyatt and the National Business Group on Heath found that 47 percent are seeing more workers use their employee assistance programs (EAPS). EAPs typically include counseling for personal and work-related issues -- like stress. Sick days are rising at 22 percent of the companies and 30 percent said that employees are filing more disability claims.
"Workers who haven't lost their jobs are under great amounts of stress and are increasingly turning to their employer for advice, treatment or assistance that goes beyond basic coverage when they get sick," said Shelly Wolff, Watson Wyatt's national leader of health and productivity consulting at. "Still, employer initiatives that effectively deal with stress are limited."
According to the survey, 78 percent of the companies surveyed said that excessive work hours are a major cause of employee stress, with 65 percent citing that old chestnut "work-life balance," and 64 percent naming fear of job loss. It's good that organizations recognize the pressures on their staff, but check out these findings: 21 percent of companies said they're trying to alleviate the workload, and 38 percent are working to restore the work-life balance (though how you do that without relieving some of the work burden is beyond me).
On the other hand, a whopping 72 percent of employees said they already have bolstered, or plan to bolster over the next year, their stress management programs, EAPs or health coaches.So the lesson, I suppose, is that it's easier to help staffers deal with stress than it is to do something about the root causes of that stress.