Letter: Stressed at work

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I welcome the proposal to make employers more aware of their responsibilities for the mental, as well as physical, health of their staff. Perhaps your leader writer who said that legislation "is going too far" (31 August) works in one of the few organisations in the UK that promote healthy working practices. Or are they sufficiently senior to off-load their pressures on to subordinates?

As a career counsellor I work with clients coping with career crises, or planning a change. Most of the crises are due to excessive workplace stress and personal life events. If the organisation is lucky they go sick before making a strategic error.

Many of those looking for changes are successful in their current careers. But they have decided that the costs of stress, frustration and excessive working hours to their health and family life are no longer acceptable. Senior managers, lawyers, accountants and teachers make up much of this group. They have earned sufficient savings to be able to afford to change. In many cases they are a serious loss to their organisations.

Most of the UK workforce do not have this option. They soldier on in manic organisations until forced to give up when their health, family or both break down. These consequences cost the country thousands of pounds while the employer simply hires someone else.

Enlightened employers respect working time, set realistic tasks and targets, and recognise that private life events periodically overload the best employee. These healthy organisations achieve higher outputs from well-motivated and respected staff.

But the majority of UK organisations, including government itself, are potentially dangerous to the health and performance of staff. The prevailing UK workaholic culture, driven by unachievable targets and control-culture managers is very inefficient. Short term targets are achieved at high cost to lives, families, careers and the state welfare budget.


Woking, Surrey