Long hours may be putting employees at greater risk of health problems
According to Aviva Risk Management Solutions, the economic recession adds risk to employees. As companies try to stay afloat, layoffs and financial pressures are leading many employees to work even longer hours. James Draper, principal consultant for ARMS, said longer working hours can cause severe problems, such as increased musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular conditions, depression, stress and extreme fatigue.
Aviva's latest health care report -- Health of the Workplace 3 -- found that nearly 60 percent of employees think the current economic climate is making them and their colleagues feel stressed and under pressure. Nearly 45 percent of respondents said that their companies did not have provisions for dealing with the added stress. The study also found that nine out of 10 surveyed physicians believe that stress-related illnesses and injuries will increase due to the recession and be the biggest occupational health issue of 2009.
"Businesses need to be aware that longer working hours can affect workplace performance," said Alex Marshall, business development manager for Aviva's occupational health division in the United Kingdom. "For example, higher accidents or injuries could result, as well as firms experiencing an increase in claims of incapacity and long-term sickness benefits."
According to the report, there must be a strong focus on stress management, which Marshall said should be treated like any other workplace hazard.
"A risk assessment should be carried out, both at organizational level and within each team, ensuring ongoing assessment," he said. "Solutions such as an employee assistance program should be put in place to mitigate future risks."
Firms, he said, should be setting a good example in these tough times by not encouraging staff to work overtime and by steering clear of pay scales that are linked to increased hours and workloads.
"Consider flexible working patterns and, if possible, increase resources and decrease workloads," he said. "Training and development programs should be implemented through human resources departments to improve time management and delegation. Top management behavior and commitment should also be encouraged to change the business culture to raise awareness of the issue."
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September 3, 2009
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