Published on February 26, 2012 at 5:17 PM
By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
A latest study suggests that work-related stress has increased by 40 per cent as economic prosperity has declined. It shows that the number of people taking time off work has risen by 25 per cent between 2005 and 2009 as workers struggle with fears over job security, a lack of managerial direction and poor communication.
The findings, published in journal Occupational Medicine, show the importance of focusing on workers mental health during turbulent economic times. Lead researcher, Dr Jonathan Houdmont, from the University of Nottingham urges businesses to consider employee well-being to boost productivity. “Those organizations which seek to reduce work-related stress during austere economic times are likely to experience lower staff absence and greater productivity,” he says.
During the study, conducted by the University of Nottingham and Ulster University, 17,000 civil servants were questioned in 2005 then again in 2009 when the recession bit, on their perceived stress levels and how much time they had taken off work as a result. Work pressure was also assessed by looking at the demands of the job, control over work and the support provided by managers. Researchers found a marked increase in stress at times of recession.
Dr Houdmont added, “We were fortunate to have access to staff survey data collected before the emergence of initial signs of a forthcoming recession and again four years later at the height of the recession. 'The stark differences in the responses given at these two time points clearly show that national economic crises can have substantial implications for workers’ health and organizational performance.”
“Occupational health provision is even more important in times of recession as specialists can help with the stress caused by mounting workloads, organizational change and job uncertainty,” says Dr Henry Goodall from the Society of Occupational Medicine. “When people are worried about their job security they can sometimes over interpret signals and hold irrational beliefs,” he says. “Clear and timely communication is vital.”