Tag: Stress

Is this perk the answer to stress and burnout?

Investment bank Goldman Sachs announced in April that they were moving their senior employees onto a ‘flexible vacation’ policy, allowing for time off when needed instead of fixed maximum days per annum. Junior staff will still receive the statutory leave requirements.

The new policy requires all employees to take at least 15 days off, this in an attempt to change a culture that has previously left bankers depleted and exhausted.

This move can be a powerful recruiting tool. A recent Fortune and Harris Poll survey showed that half of employees preferred the idea of having unlimited paid time off to a higher salary.

For the most part, this move is applauded by employees and observers, especially in light of an increasingly burnt-out workforce.

The question is whether this is the great benefit everyone expects it to be and whether it will change the culture in a competitive environment such as Goldman Sachs?

Kiki Stannard, Managing Director at ZEDRA, commented: “It’s well known that employers are determined to keep their best and brightest employees, particularly those who work the hardest and contribute the most. With 24/7 connectivity nearly everywhere globally, finding time away from the demands of a stressful job are becoming more and more difficult. It is often a challenge for those in the highest demand to get a decent amount of time off to rest and recuperate properly –  both physically and mentally –  never more so than in the world of financial services.

It may have come as a surprise to many to read that internationally renowned investment bank, Goldman Sachs, announced that senior staff are being moved to a ‘flexible vacation’ policy which will permit time off when needed and not adhering to fixed maximum days per annum.

Having been hailed as progressive for the industry and designed to encourage a decent amount of time off to support health and wellbeing (there will be a minimum level of time off for junior staff which aligns with the statutory requirement in any event), will there really be any change in culture or attitude at Goldman Sachs – often viewed as fiercely competitive?

In the US, the tech sector has actually been offering unlimited vacation for many years which might sound like a significant benefit where vacation is around ten days plus public holidays.

The reality however can be quite different.

  • The unlimited vacation is only on the basis that the employee’s work is done, or the break will not disrupt the business, often leading to employees logging on regularly whilst they are away
  • Confusion can arise around the use of the policy and different interpretations as to exactly what amount is acceptable as ‘unlimited’ according to who your line manager happens to be
  • There can be an inclination to cancel a day’s leave when something urgent comes up at work
  • Blurring of the lines can be seen where there is a performance issue requiring careful management or additional employee support
  • Does unlimited vacation just mask real sick days?
  • Does unlimited vacation result in a duvet day for anyone who is just not that motivated?
  • How can you shake that Monday morning feeling when you know that not turning up today is ok?

Unlimited holidays can work for some businesses and sectors, but this type of policy won’t work for every company. In today’s environment it might act as a great benefit to entice new, often younger, starters to join a company. It’s always important to engage with staff and key stakeholders to get a better idea of the appetite for such a policy before committing and if there is desire, prepare thoroughly to avoid any negative ramifications to individual staff and company morale.”

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Nearly half of UK employees have suffered from excessive stress over the last year, leading to 10% leaving their jobs

According to Google search data, the last three months have seen a 221% spike in searches for “signs of burnout”. Experts are warning that we’re seeing a “burnout build-up” for employees, which is likely to grow as we move into the winter months.

This is the culmination of a year of heightened risk of burnout among employees, with the latest data showing a 31% overall increase in searches for “signs of burnout” over the last 12 months – when compared to the previous year.

Today, National Stress Awareness Day, experts are urging HR and leadership teams to pay attention to the issue, particularly as winter approaches; it’s a time of year when mental health concerns often surge.

Excessive stress is a major predictor of burnout and other mental health impacts. A mental health and employee stress study, speaking to employees from over 500 companies in the UK, found that almost half of employees in the UK (47%) experienced excessive stress at work in the past year. This is a big challenge for employers who are trying to retain their talent, since one in eight have considered leaving their current role because of excessive work-related stress. Statistics show that one in 10 workers have in fact resigned in the last 12 months for this reason.

The research revealed some of the biggest impacts of stress. These are an inability to sleep (reported by 41%), physical health impacts (30%) and withdrawal from social interactions and relationships (26%).

What can HR teams do to tackle excessive stress?

When employees were asked about the support received from their workplace, one in every eight employees felt they didn’t receive the required support. A quarter of employees reported that the greatest cause of excessive stress in their job role was an unmanageable workload. This was followed by financial concerns, with 24% saying the excessive stress was a result of inadequate pay, which left them struggling to pay their bills. Dissatisfaction with employers and managers was also a significant contributing factor, with 18% of employees saying that management was poor or lacking, and 17% reporting a lack of support from their company.

Claire Brown, qualified life and career coach, says: “Employees should be encouraged to prioritise their health and wellbeing above productivity by taking regular breaks from the screen and getting fresh air where possible. Providing alternative and innovative ways for connection and communication between team members is also valuable.

“By adopting a flexible attitude and approach to how and when work is completed, this alleviates some of the pressure and mental strain. As always, communication is key. It’s important for employers to be fair and realistic about what is possible and to seek opportunities to provide practical support to help team members manage their workload.”

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Employers are prioritising plans to improve productivity

Since the start of the pandemic, rising financial stress due to an uncertain economy has created a downward spiral on employee wellbeing that has impacted employee performance. A study by borofree revealed that an average of 3.05 working days were taken off by workers in Great Britain last year due to the financial stress felt by employees.

The study examined the plans that companies across the UK now aim to implement in order to improve employee productivity, financial wellbeing and increase morale in the workplace as business recovery begins to take shape.

The research, which was conducted online by YouGov, highlights that HR decision makers are feeling optimistic about building stronger employee productivity as the economy settles into a ‘new normal’ with over half (57%) believing that employee productivity is set to  increase over the next 12 months.

Action taken from businesses to increase employee wellbeing over the next year will be critical for them to regain strong post-pandemic productivity growth and recover from a challenging 18 months. In fact, 83% of HR decision makers surveyed revealed that their business will be prioritising plans to improve employee productivity over the next year. Improving pay and working conditions for employees is high on the agenda for companies looking to regain lost morale due to the pandemic, with almost a third (31%) stating that this will be a business priority for them this year.

Across Britain the study highlights that employers are searching for new ways to increase productivity. The research shows that wellbeing is now a vital part of ensuring that teams remain productive, with over one in five (23%) companies looking to introduce new or improved health and wellness benefits for employees to improve morale and productivity over the next two years.

Despite financial worries among the UK workforce being a cause of emotional stress, the study shows that offering financial wellbeing initiatives as part of a businesses’ productivity recovery plan is still being overlooked. Whilst financial stress is a contributing factor to absenteeism in the workplace, only 12% of HR decision makers are looking to introduce personal finance coaching and training to employees to improve morale and productivity amongst teams within the next two years.

Minck Hermans, CEO and Co-founder at borofree, comments: “Whilst it’s great to see that businesses are prioritising incentives to build stronger employee productivity following a challenging 18 months, it’s critical that they do not overlook initiatives to promote better financial wellbeing amongst teams.

Our findings show that financial stress can lead to increased absenteeism in the workplace and the effect of this will hit a company’s bottom line. For employees that seek a certain degree of financial security from their employer such as being able to absorb an unforeseen financial shock, only one in ten (10%) businesses surveyed have stated that they are looking to introduce earnings on demand and paid weekly options for employers within the next two years and just over one in ten (14%) confirmed that they’ll be introducing salary advance facilities (e.g., a loan a company can give an employee from their future salary).”

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