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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Is work wrecking your life?
Some of the UK's largest firms - including Barclays, Dixons and Marks & Spencer - are taking part in a week of activities aimed at tackling work-related stress.
The move is part of Work-Life Balance Week, which has been organised by the Work-Life Balance Trust.
It is designed to promote the benefits of flexible working practices for staff and employers.
The organisation says that at least one in 10 British workers has suffered from serious work related stress.
The week follows a recent survey by the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) which found that one in six people worked more than 60 hours a week, compared with one in eight two years ago.
Can anything be done to help reduce stress in the workplace? Is work wrecking your life?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Dr Stephen Hayes, England
Stressed living in London??? I think you ought to go to Brazil and to see what real stress is.
I live in a mid-size town and work for decent pay, and usually not more than 35 to 40 hours a week. I bike to work and have time to do things like take classes. Reading your comments has helped me appreciate that. I think that stress is indicative of the compromises that you make. Compromise your income, move out of London to a smaller town where people can see the stars.
Sean Kelly, Rossendale, England
UK corporate culture is very US influenced. Recently I rang a "job in the city" friend to meet up for a drink at 5.30. He said he'd finished his days work but didn't want to leave the office until 6.30 because people who leave on the dot are looked on as shirkers by management. Which is nice.
I notice a lot of people are complaining they can't afford to live near their work. Part of the problem is this "I must own my house" culture we seem to have fallen into. House ownership used to be a rarity, and still is not a necessity. If you can't afford to buy, rent!
Oh, cry me a river! You have to sit at a desk for a few hours and feel stress. So what? Consider yourselves lucky for being able to work in cushy offices with pay checks directly deposited into your bank accounts. It's not a hardship, people.
Paul Weaver, UK
If informal social interaction between colleagues is encouraged in the workplace then I think it helps to alleviate susceptibility to stress.
Wait until you hit 50. You then get "offered" the chance to take your pension and a lump sum. Take it if you can afford to. No more job, stress or commuting. Highly recommended.
David Green, UK
You're chasing a dream sold to you by advertising, that is that you can buy happiness by consumerism. Unfortunately if your sole source of income is work it usually follows that to increase one you have to increase the other. Try to determine what you want and what you need. Once your desires are your own and not somebody else's you'll find them easier achieve and this will reduce the stress in your life.
Is it just me or do other people find it strange that the comments from the stress people are coming in at the height of the working day?
Stress: It's what you make of it, I never suffer from stress as I do my work to the best of my abilities and then go home and forget about work till the next day. I have seen colleagues get completely stressed by one phone call and they work longer hours than me but achieve the same results.
Work!, Life! what are you talking about.
I need a strong coffee, my boss is coming.
In nearly every job I've had in my adult life, stress was mostly due to understaffing. Working 18-hour days because one enjoys the job isn't stressful. Doing the work of three people in those 18 hours (of course no overtime pay) most certainly does wreck one's life. Changing jobs never helped either. Sooner or later staff were made redundant or not replaced after natural attrition. The "alternative" was joblessness. One of the happiest days of my life was finding a promised contract wasn't to be renewed, with no other job in hand! Those few weeks of getting enough sleep were wonderful.
Whatever it is in your life that makes you stressed is ultimately your own responsibility. Too easily we look for someone to blame. Life can be difficult or easy - for most of us in the developed world that IS the choice if we choose to face it. Real hardship is rare in our society. So open your eyes, look around, life maybe bigger than you think - live it!
I haven't worked for two years through stress and I am now really stressed about GETTING work. There is no escape except working for yourself.
A Talking Point subject where America isn't somehow to blame?
Actually, maybe America is to blame for introducing the UK to the "all work, no play" lifestyle.
Stress can be relieved in many ways. One way is not to be sucked into all the materialism that's around eg better car/bigger house. As long as you have a roof, can feed and clothe your family, that's all that is required. The rest are luxuries that you wouldn't miss for very long.
We're not half as stressed a nation as Japan is, so stop moaning. Else get a part-time job...
How to reduce stress in my workplace? Easy!
BAN ALL THESE MOBILE PHONE RINGTONES!!!! AGGHHH!!!
I am being laid off on Friday - I have just bought a house. I am a web developer. There are no jobs. As soon as I get my part time Masters in Lit finished I am gonna go live in County Fermanagh in Garrison and fish in Lough Melvin and surf in Bundoran and be a full time writer and never care if I have another "job" as long as I live. Life's to short to spend it chasing cash.
What stresses me is the daily journey on the M25 that my employer forced on me when my job was moved. I am stressed because I am part of the traffic problem - and I don't like it. I have achieved a partial solution by buying a motorbike, which is one of the best ways to de-stress the journey to work until I can find another job. Anyone looking for a systems analyst in High Wycombe?
I wasn't enjoying myself working in London and dealing with rush hour traffic etc. So I moved to the countryside, took a lower paid job and bought a house for a reasonable price. I am now happy and relaxed. People should stop moaning - it IS easy to do something about it.
S Boyd-Wallis, UK
S Boyd-Wallis, it may be correct that history shows many people worked longer hours in the past. That doesn't mean they were happy about it! The fact is that humans aren't deigned for the lifestyle present-day culture requires. If we were, there would never have been art, music, literature or even religion, because no one would ever have had the time to invent it. It's not just the time you spend at work that's the problem, but the time it takes you to get there and back. Perhaps in a perfect world, journey time would be classed as work time and not free time, and people would be paid for it. But that's unlikely to happen.
Every six months or so a new survey or initiative comes out lamenting working practices in this country. Companies pay lip service, we all moan about how hard we work and how we are all exploited by unscrupulous employers before knuckling our foreheads and continuing on in exactly the way we always have done. Personally, I cannot wait for a time when I can plan my work around my life and not the other way round, however I am not holding my breath.
Stress is absolutely endemic in industry and commerce today. This is no real surprise, when we have a system that allows just about any UK based company to be undercut by foreign competition. A UK based company wishing to stay afloat has no alternative but treat its own employees like slaves. This is the only way it is able to begin to compete with significantly the lower salaries, poor environmental standards, non-existent employee safety standards adopted by companies in the Third World. Fix this and stress will evaporate.
Unemployment in the UK is at a record low. If you don't like your job, go get another one. If you don't like the rat race, opt out. If you want freedom, start your own business. Everyone has the possibility to change their life if they really want to, but most people are more comfortable whining about the boss, or the commute to work, or the long hours, or whatever.
What really gets to me is that because I do not have children then employers believe I can and should work all the hours of the day. Sorry, but just because I do not have children does not mean I have no life.
Having children has nothing to do with it, Sarah, UK. My little boy asked me the other day when Daddy would be visiting us. Daddy has to work 12 hours+ a day, often without a break.
Until the wages for jobs which are not in the main cities, ie London, go up there will be no getting away from the stress of everyone working in close proximity. I get far more stressed doing the daily 1.5 hour each way commute (which I get charged over £3000 a year for!)
Four years ago I relocated from the south east to Newcastle. I've reduced my mortgage by half and my commute from three hours a day to 10 minutes and my salary hasn't been affected. There is a downside though, your career progression slows down massively. Employers expect a far higher standard from a job role than they do in the south. The average north east employee could relocate south and do a job far higher up the career ladder. But that's the compromise. Most people make too big a deal about their jobs. Take a look in the mirror and get it all in perspective.
Be thankful you're in a job. Try being out of work for six months and not even being able to get an interview let alone a job, even though you've got a degree and 10 years experience, because you're up against 100 other guys for every job opening. Then when you're no longer able to pay your bills and mortgage/rent believe me you'll really know what stress is! And yet even my life is soft and luxurious compared to the miserable state of existence of nine out of every 10 people on this planet.
Martin O'Neill, UK
In my day, what is now known as stress and designated an actual illness, is what we used to call life. What happened to the old British stiff upper lip and work ethic? The only reason most people are stressed these days is that they have unreasonably high expectations for their lives and are depressed when they don't get everything they think they deserve. Wimps!
Reg Pither. I am a doctor who regulary works 60-70 hours a week. I don't really have a social life due to the hours that I work. I live in one bedroom flat just outside Birmingham, and I don't even own a car. I may be stressed, but I certainly am not a wimp!
My work-related stress is from stressed people on the phone all day. I'm trying to help them and they insult me just because they are experiencing a few service problems. At least once a day someone leaves me feeling very bruised.
Being a writer and self employed I have as much flexibility as I want. However, stress is almost always lurking there somewhere. This leads me to suspect that work life balance initiatives used by companies may help the symptoms, but not the causes of stress. I suspect they may also be useful PR, particularly as the employee attitude survey looms.
I am sure that stress at work and having a life that can be wrecked by it is preferable to having no work and no life.
How to reduce stress in the workplace? Easy! Bosses: Listen to those in the front line of the business! They'll tell you! And don't just pay lip service to their feedback, either! Your staff are the ones who really know what's going wrong and how to do things better. You bosses just think you do!
The reason we all have stress at work is that we are all under pressure to make more money for someone else. The greed of the rich knows no bounds - that is why the rich have got richer and the poor got poorer on a global scale. And if the poor are kept poor they only way they can try to get out is by working harder which makes the rich richer.
When 0.02% of the UK population own 86% of the wealth they are the only ones with no stress.
I find that I have to miss out on a lot of my children's appointments, school shows and report evenings etc because of work which is very stressful. I feel guilty and torn, prioritising between the two and wish I could find work that would allow me to spend more time dealing with my family responsibilities.
The solution is simple; give people a fair wage, reduce the working week, and give the unemployed work with the long hours accrued through people not doing over 40 hour weeks. Less stress all round.
I totally agree with Eileen. I work a 65-70 hour week and at weekend I play catch up with the rest of my life. I would like to have a better quality of life. I thought that was going to happen when the Labour government was elected!
I love my job, but in the NHS salaries are pretty low. If only I had more time to do all those things outside that have to be done, then I might achieve some kind of balance. There is no money for holidays, just a trip to relatives. I wish I could pay someone to do a few of the chores and the decorating, but that is an impossible dream. I end up feeling exhausted and going nowhere, because all my energy is sucked up just working and keeping my home going.
My husband works up to 60 hours per week. 12 hour shifts. The work isn't particularly stressful, but the hours make him so tired that he gets frustrated and ratty. In turn this can, at times, put a strain on us which we both find stressful. So yes, work does stress us out. We live for our days off!
A lot of the need to work excessive hours comes down to our current climate of the high cost of housing. Until that is tackled, nothing else will change.
In our situation we are underemployed. Several managers, graduates and skilled technicians are having to turn up for work when they have nothing to do.
Stress can also be caused by this, not just overwork!
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