Category Archives: employee stress

In the Good Old Summertime

In these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, workers are either goofing off and dressing down — or they’re ruining their vacations by checking in with the office. (Let me know later, if you find yourself unconsciously humming either of those tunes …)

At least that is the non-consensus from three, count ’em, three surveys that crossed my desk (well, showed up in my email, anyway) today.

One, from CareerBuilder, finds that one in four employers say their workers are less productive in the summer.

Another, from Adweek/Harris Poll, shows that nearly half (46 percent) of vacationing Americans worked during their vacations.

And the third, from Adecco Staffing US, relates to appropriate workplace attire — although six in 10 of the respondents would like some extra vacation days or the ability to leave early on “summer Fridays.”

As for wardrobe, 71 percent of Americans say flip flops are the biggest summer no-no.

Amusingly, men and women differed in the acceptability of mini-skirts and strapless tops or dresses. For both, men were much more willing to see such items in the workplace.  Hmmm. Big surprise there, huh?

As for those non-vacationing vacationers in the Adweek/Harris Poll, the most frequent work-related duties involve monitoring email (35 percent), checking voicemail (22 percent) or taking phone calls from work (22 percent).

Employers in the CareerBuilder survey blame nicer weather, vacation-fever and kids being out of school for lower productivity, but nearly half (45 percent) of the employers say burnout is a problem. They may want to check out some of the tips we included in our recent HREOnline™ story, “Reversing Burnout.”

Your Workers May Be in Worse Shape than You Think

HR and benefits professionals might be surprised to find out — if they asked — just how on the edge financially their employees are … and how many of them in these dire straits there really are. They also might raise an eyebrow or two to learn how many on-the-edge workers actually don’t think a debilitating or catastrophic event could impact them or their family.

Such was the warning from Audrey Tillman, executive vice president of corporate services at the Columbus, Ga.-based supplemental and guaranteed-renewable insurance provider, in an interview Monday. She was referring to the results of a study released earlier this month, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Aflac.

The 2011 Aflac WorkForces Report shows 51 percent of American workers say they are not very, or not at all, prepared to pay for out-of-pocket expenses not covered by major-medical insurance. What’s more, six out of 10 workers do not have a financial plan in place to deal with an unexpected and costly life event, such as a medical emergency. And 31 percent have less than $500 in savings for emergency expenses.

“Remember, these are people who are working!” Tillman says. “These are the people one would assume have some sort of financial stability. We found these statistics startling.”

The study also finds that only 19 percent of employees think it’s likely that they or a family member will ever be diagnosed with a chronic illness, such as heart disease or diabetes, and only 13 percent say they think a serious illness, such as cancer, will ever occur or that there will be a need for long-term care.

Yet, according to the National Safety Council, more than 25 million people in the United States suffered accident-related disabling injuries in 2008 and the American Heart Association reports nearly one in three deaths in 2006 was caused by a form of cardiovascular disease. “So, clearly, these things are happening,” says Tillman.

Worse still, “about half of the workers we surveyed said they’re already struggling with financial stress, and again, remember, these are the people who are working,” she says. “These surveyed employees are real people in the workforce.”

When asked how they would pay for out-of-pocket expenses due to an unexpected illness, 44 percent said they would have to borrow from family or friends, tap retirement savings or use a credit card.

And, for the clincher, 19 percent — one out of five people — have no idea how they would cover the costs.

Aflac products and services aside, says Tillman, this should sound a reverberating wake-up call to employers to take a fresh account of the benefits they’re providing and, in this economy, with so many Americans living on the edge, “make sure the benefits they are providing really make a difference and are really providing that safety net” so desperately needed right now.

“What this says to me as an HR executive is that it’s time many of us survey our employees to find out where the real needs are,” she says. “We should be taking a new look with a critical eye, through our own research and workforce analysis, to become fully aware of what really impacts people.”

Supplemental insurance, for instance, which could mean the difference between financial ruin and recovery in the event of a catastrophe, and which a significant number of employers still don’t offer, “may have to be added in place of something else that may not seem so critical in this economy,” says Tillman.

“The pressure has been on HR to hold the line and cut back on costs,” she says. “This may not feel to an HR executive like a good time to revolutionize the system.”

But workers whose employers provide for them when catastrophe strikes, she adds, will not only stay on as productive workers in the long run, “they’ll become champions for that company.”

 

Most Read Stories on HREOnline last week

See what you may have missed:

* Checking in With the Next Generation

Peter Cappelli ‘s latest Talent Management column looks at Wharton’s annual mid-term exam, which explores students’ view of their last job and the way they were managed. In most cases, management was lacking. Feedback was limited or nonexistent, and bonuses — instead of resulting in engagement and motivation — often prompted these high-potential candidates to quit or slack off. 

* Time to Re-Engage

Top businesses for HR practices — according to an exclusive recalibration of Fortune’s “Most Admired Companies” list — are taking employee engagement very seriously in this economy. (A PDF of the Top 50 Companies is here.)

E-Learning Still Trending Up

Companies continue to adopt technology-based training for employees as expenditures in training and development decreased overall last year. At the same time, the expenditure per employee actually remained stable, because the workforce was smaller.

 * Pinpointing Leadership Qualities

Social networking is changing the way HR leaders think of legal risks and recruiting opportunities, writes Susan R. Meisinger in her latest HR Leadership column. It also should make them think about the way they select high-potential candidates for leadership-development programs.

* Talking up Flexibility

Work/life balance is drawing more attention from the White House and other policymakers as research continues to show that the issue has an impact on the decisions of working families. A recent conference brought together representatives from the administration, military, academia and corporate America to attempt to drive the discussion onward.

Jump in Job-Security Fears Impacting Holiday Stress

Some 68 percent of employees report having high levels of stress at work, with extreme fatigue and out-of-control feelings, according to the latest StressPulse survey by Chicago-based ComPsych Corp., a leading global employee-assistance provider. That represents a jump from 65 percent in 2009.

Although a much lower percentage, the biggest jump in the survey of employees from more than 1,000 ComPsych client companies, 20 percent, cite lack of job security as their primary cause of stress, up from 10 percent in 2009. The survey was conducted from Oct. 15 to Nov. 12.

“As the holiday shopping season begins [on Friday, officially], employees are trying to balance the urge to spend with the worry that they will retain their job,” says Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz, chairman and CEO of ComPsych.

“We increasingly get calls from employees who are struggling to manage their daily expenses,” he says. “On top of that, they are now faced with gift-giving costs.”

His company and other EAP providers now provide financial coaching along with psycholgical counseling, Chaifetz says. Not only should employers be on the lookout for signs of acute anxiety and changes in behavior, but they should also be reminding all workers that their EAPs are there, especially in this season, to “help individuals set and stick to a budget, as well as get counsiling to keep stress levels in check,” he says.

The next highest jumps in the survey were employees who say they lose more than an hour a day due to personal tasks, from 10 percent in 2009 to 19 percent in 2010 (trying to fend off creditors, perhaps?) and those who say they come to work one to four days per year when they’re too stressed to be effective, from 58 percent in 2009 to 64 percent in 2010.

Granted, none of this is all that surprising in this economy, but just in case you were wondering how worried employees appear to be heading into December — and about what, primarily — I thought I’d share.