News of business cutbacks hits the headlines on a regular basis, as companies compete to stay afloat in the recession.
This has inevitably put a strain on employees, as more work has been heaped onto smaller teams of staff, potentially hampering productivity.
Bernard Casey, of the University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research, produced a report which found that work-related stress is currently damaging national output even more than the losses experienced due to strikes at the peak of unrest in the 1970s.
He said that during this period of industrial unrest, the UK lost 12.9 million days of output, whereas 13.5 million days are currently being taken off by employees suffering from work-related stress.
On top of these temporary absences, companies suffer even more by people leaving the workforce completely due to stress.
“The current recession is likely to intensify stress at work,” Mr Casey stated.
“Many organisations trying to survive by raising productivity will be putting their employees under increasing pressure. Moreover, fearing for their jobs, people who ought to be absent might choose, instead, to be ‘present’,” he added.
This has led to people even continuing to work during their precious holidays, according to research by Expedia. The travel agent found that 23 per cent of office workers keep in touch with colleagues and check emails during their vacation, an increase of ten per cent compared to last year.
One of the ways that workers can help themselves to boost productivity is through training, according to Keith Wymer, of Pitman Training in London’s High Holborn and Notting Hill.
“Undergoing relevant training can give employees the confidence they need to succeed at work,” Mr Wymer says.
“For example, touch typing courses could help you to get through your work more quickly if you spend a lot of time at the computer.”
“Or, if you find that you often have to resort to the help menu when using Microsoft programs, Word 2007 courses might be a good idea.
That little extra knowledge could save you vital time when you’re under pressure,” he adds.
Taking training courses and gaining qualifications can also be a good way of keeping one step ahead at work, Mr Wymer says.
“It can be reassuring to know you’ve got those extra credentials when it comes to the crunch. If you can demonstrate that you have the training and experience to do the job better than those around you, it could make all the difference if staff cutbacks look likely.”
This reassurance may also help you to avoid stress under uncertain circumstances, which tend to create anxiety and worry among workforces, according to Mr Casey.
Long-established workers often do not have the qualifications sported by their younger colleagues, so some extra training might be important for their confidence, says Mr Wymer.
“People who entered the secretarial profession many years ago have often acquired their skills on the job. While this does not make them any less competent than the newly-qualified employees, undertaking a secretarial diploma might just give them that extra confidence, as well as the huge satisfaction you get from having completed a course of study.”
Qualifications ‘Still Key’
Gerwyn Davies, public policy adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, echoed this advice about undergoing training.
He advised people who have been forced to cut their hours to use the extra days off they have to extend their education.
“Qualifications are still the main criteria for employers when they are selecting candidates,” he insisted.
It seems that women have taken on this message more than men, as recent research by Tickbox.net, carried out on behalf of Vodafone, found that six per cent of female professionals have learned many new skills, compared to 2.5 per cent of men.
The survey revealed that 14 per cent of women felt they had had to learn new skills or increase the number of roles they take on, compared to just nine per cent of men.
Echoing the findings from Dr Casey’s research, the poll also revealed that ten per cent of 25 to 34-year-old employees have found adapting to a new work role has significantly increased their stress levels in the last 12 months.