Nearly one in four European workers suffers from job-related stress. Demands on workers are increasing while job security is decreasing, according to a new study.
What a headache work can be
Europe's reputation for 35-hour work weeks and generous amounts of vacation time belies the fact that many workers find themselves facing an unhealthy amount of stress.
Stress is responsible for more than half of all missed work days, costing the European economy an estimated 20 billion euros ($29 billion) each year, according to statistics from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA). The agency recently released a study results on psychosocial risks in the workplace.
There's no doubt that job insecurity and high work intensity can pose a danger to workers' health, said Jukka Takala, director of EU-OSHA.
"Working life in Europe is changing at an ever-increasing speed," Takala said.
Stress is a major cause of missed work days
Increasingly, European workers are offered temporary contracts, which can cause feelings of job insecurity. Furthermore, many of the workers with precarious employment contracts tend to carry out the most hazardous jobs, work in poorer conditions and receive less safety training, according to the study.
Another problem deals with Europe's ageing workforce. The study found that older workers are not getting the training they need to deal with increasing demands made on them. This has a negative impact on their health and increases the chance of work-related accidents.
All workers are being asked to take on more tasks. Workers are facing increasing pressure, which can lead to a drop in perceived security. Sometimes, workers are not compensated for increased workload and do not receive the necessary support to carry it out, according to the study.
Taking stress home
Some workers have trouble balancing work and private life
In some cases European work situations are downright hostile. Bullying in the workplace is nothing new, but it represents an ongoing threat to worker well-being, according to the study.
Many workers don't leave stress at the office. Facing uncertain futures, high workloads or inflexible working hours, employees often find private and work life don't mesh. More than 40 percent of European employees who worked long hours reported being dissatisfied with the balance between work and family life.
High levels of absenteeism, turnover, disciplinary problems, harassment, accident rates as well as reduced productivity are all signs that a company's employees are under stress.
The European Union said it wants to take a closer look at what can be done to lessen stress in the workplace. In April, 2008 the EU will host a workshop with representatives from industry and unions on ways to decrease stressful work situations.