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May 28, 2009

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Recession triggers presenteeism rise

British workers are spending more time at work than prior to the

recession for fear of losing their jobs, according to research from

Lancaster University’s Centre for Organisational Health.

Results of the YouGov survey, which questioned 2250 workers on how they were coping with the downturn, showed that two thirds of employees are succumbing to presenteeism, fuelled by job-insecurity pressures. The findings also suggested that a higher proportion of women to men — 71 per cent of women compared with 61 per cent of men — are working longer hours.

The Centre’s director, Prof Susan Cartwright, commented: “This suggests that women may feel more vulnerable about job loss than men. Furthermore, a higher percentage of women than men are finding the current economic situation stressful.”

Just under half of those questioned (45 per cent) said they thought it was best to ‘play it safe at work and keep my head down’, while 41 per cent reported a negative atmosphere at work. The survey also found that 61 per cent of employees are worrying about the future, and more than half are finding the current economic situation stressful. On a brighter note, however, the majority of those surveyed said their home relationships had not suffered.

Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University, believes it is important for managers to address presenteeism among their staff directly. Commenting in response to the survey, he said: “The best managers recognise unproductive presenteeism in their team members when they see it, and then have the ‘difficult conversation’ to find appropriate interventions. The intervention could take many forms — but at its heart has to be an open and honest discussion based on behavioural evidence.”

He continued: “These one-to-one conversations need to be supported by better communication from on high, designed to make people feel more secure and acknowledge that a long-hours culture is counterproductive to the health and well-being of the individual, and to the company’s performance.”

The new Centre, which was formally launched earlier this month at the House of Commons, will carry out research on how to integrate aspects of mental and physical health into work and the work environment. It is supported by a board of 12 private and public companies.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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