9 June 2011

The Importance Of Stress Relief

I read with interest last week an item in the UK’s Daily Mail stating that British workers required a holiday every 62-days as a means of coping with debilitating job stress.

While not an authority on the latest UK workplace research, I can however say that the issues of annual leave and job stress definitely represent significant challenges here in Australia. Indeed, our research into employee stress within the community services sector indicates that workers in that area appear to be using their annual leave to deal with accrued job stress – a tendency that’s highly problematic. Afterall, annual leave is meant to be about improving quality of life, going on holidays, connecting with families and friends and achieving some degree of work-life balance.

Across the broader spectrum, there's also evidence that Australian employees are opting to save up their leave - forced to do so by work-related commitments and expectations, or as a form of insurance policy if they’re feeling insecure in their jobs. With other research figures indicating that Australians have 118-million days of accrued annual leave, it appears that the taking of yearly holidays is not a reality for a large proportion of workers.

Considering that stress and workplace injury are just two detrimental health affects arising from overwork and lack of genuine mental recuperation time, this represents an alarming trend. For business alone, the costs resulting from subsequent compensation claims, resignations, job transfers, sick leave, staff turnover and staff re-training can be significant.

Clearly, the importance of reducing stress and ensuring that workers have access to meaningful annual leave is something modern managers and executives can’t afford to ignore. Such outcomes may require a re-assessment of the way jobs are designed, or more importantly, the implementation of annual leave programs that enable staff to have control over when they take their holidays. The rewards of such initiatives would be enormous. Indeed, a happy, rested, stress-free workforce will engage in their work in a different, more productive way – a critical factor in providing better outcomes for both employee and business health.

Authors: Toby Fattore and Maja Moensted from the University of Sydney Business School

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