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Worker Burnout:Tick, tick, tick . . Kaboom!

Newsletter • volume 1 • number 9

The drive for better margins in a low inflation economy has forced many companies to cut staff. But as people leave, the work remains. Employees who get to keep their jobs find they have more work and fewer resources.

Since we deliver seminars across the country, we get a unique insight into corporate America. What we've been seeing is an unmistakable trend toward reducing staff while increasing the productivity expected of remaining employees.

A recent issue of Personnel Journal reported on this with the following statistics:

- 95% of employees work longer than the standard 40-hour work week.

- Employees average 10-hour workdays. Some individuals work as long as 15 hours a day.

- The average U.S. employee works approximately 160 more hours each year than was the case 20 years ago.

- Nearly half of U.S. workers say their jobs are very or extremely stressful.

- Almost 85% of workers are more concerned about leading a balanced life than they were five years ago.

Two of our clients, both large high technology companies, are now dealing with the realities of this issue. One company has become more lean by reducing HR staff/employee ratio from 1:50 to 1:100. Not surprisingly, doubling the number of people each HR person must serve has resulted in less in-depth service and a more frantic pace.

The other company has always run very lean. The current ratio of HR to employees is 1:600+. How does this ratio effect the work? Twelve hour days for HR employees are standard week after week. HR generalists receive an average of 50-100 E-mail messages a day. One HR manager returned to her office after Memorial Day weekend to find 147 E-mail messages that had to be handled before she could begin the day's work.

This situation is a ticking time bomb. People cannot work under this type of pressure forever. When the economy improves, companies may find that many of their overworked employees begin leaving for less stressful jobs. The smart companies will recognize that possibility now, and seek ways to minimize employee burnout.