Reader Soapbox

11 June 2004
Reader Soapbox

Why are we all working so hard and feeling so stressed? In the 1980s, the blue-sky thinkers were predicting we would all be on a 14-hour week by now, with a gaggle of useful robots at our beck and call to do all those tiresome jobs like mixing martinis.

The truth is we are working harder than ever and are more stressed than ever. Research carried out in 29 countries discovered that 70% of individuals want a better work-life balance.

A City & Guilds survey published in May showed that one in four UK workers would take a pay cut to have less pressure, while half of UK employees suffer from stress. Meanwhile, 55% have sleepless nights, and one in five has battled with depression. Some even lose their sex drive.

The most worrying thing is that one in 10 feel they are given too much responsibility without the proper training, and one in six make costly mistakes because they are out of their depth.

Our own stats show that more than 70% of managers in our industry have not had any further training since leaving education, and they feel vulnerable and out of their depth as a result. There are up-and-coming managers learning from underqualified (stressed-out) ones. The much-quoted phrase "People leave people, not companies" seems frighteningly pertinent here.

So let's call a halt. And now is the right time. The Government is expecting 13,000 new migrants from the accession states to arrive in the UK this year, ready to work, maybe within our industry. With the possibility of our skills shortage easing, now is the time to think strategically about how we support our employees.

I saw a recruitment advert in Caterer a couple of weeks ago asking for "lazy chefs". Chefs who didn't want to work hard, but wanted to work smart. Brilliant. Let's have more of that attitude. Let's learn to be smarter and more efficient in the way we work.

Reducing employee stress pays dividends in increased productivity. I've seen it. So get out there and do something about it. Just don't get too stressed about it.

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