Pressured staff quit in `strain drain'

ALMOST HALF the British workforce feels so undervalued and stressed in their job that they want to leave, according to new research. Employees are fed up with making sacrifices, including not having a family, because their career precludes a decent home life.

Experts have called the emerging trend the "strain drain" as thousands of talented people look for a job that will give them more interesting challenges and provide a better balance between their personal and work lives.

"Employees are voting with their feet," said Rufus Olins, editor of Management Today magazine which published the report Price of Success. "The research shows that we have different expectations about the quality of our working lives from previous generations. Successful people are promiscuous, if their employer can't offer them what they want then they will look elsewhere."

Researchers interviewed 1,666 managers from industrial, commercial and public service industries. Of these, 37 per cent said that they would leave their jobs within the next year because of lack of recognition for what they did, 35 per cent because they felt that their job gave them a poor quality of life, and 22 per cent because of stress.

The findings show that the desire to leave a job is not normally motivated by pay alone. "Instead of watching good people leap from job to job in a bid to `get a life', employers need to confront this change in expectations and adapt the workplace to prevent the strain drain," said Penny de Valk, of Ceridian Performance Partners, work and life consultants, who conducted the research.

The study found that women were more likely to move job in the next year, with half saying they intended to find new work compared with 40 per cent of men. Both men and women needed to be challenged by their work, but men were more likely to leave to seek higher salaries, whereas for women, recognition mattered more than money.

The search for success had a significant impact on people's health and relationships and 41 per cent said their ability to balance home and work life was worse than they had expected. One in five women and one in ten men said that they had also sacrificed having a family because their career precluded a decent home life. Only one in six people said that they rarely felt stressed. Two-thirds of women felt stressed compared with half of men. Nearly one-third said that their health was suffering.

One-quarter of women had turned to alcohol to ease the pressure compared with one-fifth of men. And one-third of women said that their sex life was suffering because of their work compared with 27 per cent of men. Although most people turned to their partner to talk about pressure nearly one-quarter did not talk to anyone about it.

`I always look for a challenge'

MARKETING EXECUTIVE Simeon Bird is only 28 but he is already on his third job. Constantly in search of a new challenge he feels that establishing himself in his profession is more important than earning vast sums of money.

Mr Bird, from London, said that he left his last job with a toy company to seek new challenges.

"I had been there three-and-a-half years and had done nearly every commercial or marketing job in the company," he said. "I decided that to gain more experience I needed to switch to a different area and so moved from toys to tea." He has worked for the last five months as an international manager for Twinings & Co.

Mr Bird works from 8.30 am until 7 pm. He says his hours and work pace are fine and that he rarely feels stressed. He believes he could easily do the same hours in ten years time.

`Job stress was making me ill'

SHE USED to be a high-flyer in the world of finance, putting in 12-hour days and going on business trips to New York. But last year, Nikki Nicholas, 30, decided that her health mattered more than her career.

She left her job of four years in a City stockbrokers because of what she felt were high stress levels induced by being undervalued and undermined at work. Her health had deteriorated - eczema had developed all over her body and she took numerous sick days with mystery viruses, colds and `flu.

"I tried counselling and self-help books to cope with the stress but nothing worked."

She quit last June. "Four weeks after I left, my eczema cleared up almost completely," she said. "I am now my own boss, can work when I like, and although I don't earn as much I am much happier."

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