The recession is taking its toll not only on businesses and unemployed Americans—it’s also affecting the employees still reporting to work, day in and day out. In fact, the stresses have grown so great that workers are starting crack under the pressure.
Employees are reporting thoughts of suicide, violence against co-workers and mental breakdowns at the highest rates seen in three years, according to Harris, Rothenberg International (HRI), a provider of employee assistance program (EAP) services.
As companies try to do more with fewer workers, employees are stretching themselves thin to meet the demands at the workplace, with their families and for themselves, said Julie LeBlanc, HRI’s associate director of clinical services, in an interviewwith SHRM Online.
“This is a new kind of stress. Before, when people were worried, they could take time off. Now they are scared of losing their jobs and can’t take off,” LeBlanc said. “They are not taking vacations, they are always in the office, they aren’t taking lunch. People try to ‘white-knuckle’ it through, and then one stressor too many happens and they fall apart.
When work/life balance is not a priority, HRI said in a press statement, employees skimp on sleep, exercise, therapy and family time—to their extreme detriment.
“Employees don’t realize why they are stressed and they forget about self care,” LeBlanc told SHRM Online. “Think it through—take a 30-minute lunch break by yourself, walk around the building, eat and sleep well. Don’t use substances [such as alcohol or drugs]. Drink enough water. People don’t think of those things, but you can only do this so long before your body gives out.”
Supervisors, too, need to be in tune with their employees’ needs. Follow these tips from HRI to help spot and address worrisome employee behavior:
*Address concerning behaviors you see in employees early on, linking them to mental health resources like their EAP and to work/life programs.
*Encourage the use of your company’s time off and sick leave policies, as well as other benefits that will help the wellness of employees.
*Train mangers on recognizing the signs of mental health and substance abuse distress, and give them tools for helping their direct reports.
*Offer mental health screenings in employee health and benefits fairs.
*Incorporate wellness, resilience and morale-enhancing events into the workplace, such as social gatherings, teambuilding exercises, and yoga/fitness/nutrition clubs or services.
*Promote company benefits often so employees make use of the resources available to them.
Beth Mirza is senior editor for HR News. She reports on Business Leadership, Safety & Security and other HR issues. Prior to coming to SHRM in 2001, Beth worked for community newspapers in Northern Virginia. Follow her on Twitter @BethMirza.