Work Stress: Will Business Owners Ever Get Serious About It?

We need to be able to have a discussion about work stress.

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As author Johann Hari puts it: “We spend most of our waking lives working—and 87 percent of us feel either disengaged or enraged by our jobs.” And of this 87%, how many of us take it home at the end of the day, impacting the kids and partners as well? How badly does it affect our sleep, which only exacerbates the problem for the next day?

Ever look at a job posting and see “We work hard and we play hard”? If so, run. Odds are this place has high burnout rates and high turnover. What they’re saying is “there will be the quiet expectation of a 50-70 hour work week, but we’ll have beers and snacks once a month. Oh, and there’s a foosball table.”

Dr. Gabor Maté warns that work stress is a bigger health risk than diabetes. With few genuine options to help people out - no, a cheery listicle that reminds you to take a deep breath or take the stairs won’t make a difference to most people.

What’s needed is genuine change from upper management:

  • setting clear, reasonable expectations of work to be done

  • enforcing normal work hours - literally kicking people out of the office if needed

  • watching closely for people on their way to burnout (a good sign is a constant flurry of late-night emails)

  • offering genuine support at a personal, face-to-face level with trained professionals that are external to the company

Bring this up to almost any business owner - at least in North America - and you’ll almost certainly be branded as an undesirable employee. Actually, you probably won’t even bring it up - it feels too risky.

We’re conscious of it here at Tent, with a busy but balanced workload. Family, physical and mental health matter more than anything. We’re interested in a better society, not a few more dollars or euros in our pockets. We’d like to raise the issue in the minds of all employers as well.

Take care of your people, management.

Jeff Funnekotter