Stress counselling is the new office perk

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The Independent Online

Sabbaticals are replacing perks such as free gym membership in an attempt by companies to retain their increasingly stressed, but talented, employees.

Sabbaticals are replacing perks such as free gym membership in an attempt by companies to retain their increasingly stressed, but talented, employees.

The number of businesses offering stress counselling has almost trebled over the past nine years, a survey published today reveals.

More than half of the companies questioned said they had offered employees help to combat job pressure. The figure in 1991 was 18 per cent.

Julie Alderdice of Hay Management Consultants said a much higher proportion of companies was also offering benefits such as sabbatical leave, homeworking and childcare facilities to help employees cope with the strain of their jobs and maintain a balance with their home life.

The consultants said that firms were offering the benefits to try to keep talented staff. "Stress levels are building and the balance between work and home life can no longer just be accepted, but must be actively managed," explained Ms Alderdice.

Childcare facilities were offered by 17 per cent of the 136 companies surveyed, compared with a mere 2 per cent in 1991, and one in four firms now offered sabbatical leave.

Technological advances vaunted as making the world of work easier have, according to Ms Alderdice, made it more difficult. "Technological advances, particularly the internet and e-mail, have placed employees under far greater pressure," she said.

However, those advances had also meant more people could work outside the office environment. The survey showed the number of companies allowing home-working rose from 39 per cent to 65 per cent over the past decade.

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