Under Pressure

10 05 2008

According to the Shaw Trust, mental health costs businesses £9 billion a year in lost salaries, due to 91 million working days lost every year, yet 80% of firms say they have no policy for dealing with mental health. 1 in 6 of us will experience mental health problems in our lives, ranging from stress and being overworked mentally to suffering with depression and bereavement.

Although the figures are UK-specific, the problem is definitely a more global one. We as a world are working longer hours than ever before, and although the UK works the longest hours in Europe, that’s not to say that the working hours in other parts of the world are particularly short. In fact one of the side-effects of a globalised economy is that working hours are increased to cope with time zone differences.

The truth, however, is that we don’t really need to be working such long hours, as long as we work smart instead of working hard. We’re not really using technology well; rather than adapting our working behaviour to the new technology that exists we’re simply continuing to use outdated working models and incorporating technology into that.

Think, for example, about email. It’s become a crucial part of most people’s jobs, practically no company doing any sort of office-based work can cope without it, and yet we’re not really using it properly. In many workplaces, particularly if you’re working for a global company, the morning ritual consists of coming into work and immediately spending an hour or two just dealing with email from colleagues and clients.

Why not make it possible for these employees to access their work email from home and then allow them to process it there instead? They can fit those two hours around their busy lives (children, housework etc) and come into the office later in the day, which will shorten their working hours and lessen the stress (as they’re able to juggle work and personal life). It’s simply common sense, yet we don’t do it. Why not?

Quite frankly in today’s society there’s little need for people spending very long in the office at all. Almost anything they need to do can be done remotely from home, allowing them to achieve a better work-life balance. There’s simply no excuse for the high levels of stress, given the tools at our disposal, and we as a society must do better.


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