Can’t take it: Workplace stress is mounting in the recession. *iStock photo
Can’t take it: Workplace stress is mounting in the recession. *iStock photo

FRIDAY, MARCH 9: On-the-job stress is on the rise in Bermuda, according to experts.

Doris DeCosta, executive director of counselling service Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) said increasing numbers of people were seeking help to deal with work-related problems as the recession continues to bite.

She added: “There’s a lot of information out there about unemployed people, but not much about people who are working and feeling pressured in the workplace.

“People talk about doing more with less – but that definitely has an impact on employees.

“We get a lot of people who have anger management issues, especially among men. I wouldn’t say it was a big spike, but it’s there as an issue.

“We try to give people techniques to manage their anger and how to control it so, at the end of the day, they don’t lose their jobs.”

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce said company bosses – who were having to make decisions to lay people off or go under – were struggling under the pressure as well, with some opting not to pay themselves to keep workers in jobs.

Ms DeCosta said that the EAP service saw more than 1,000 people in 2011 – and that the number of people seeking help was likely to be higher this year.

She added that the recession affected not only workers, but could have a major impact on family life as well.

She added: “One thing we see is that people are stressed by the recession. We’re seeing an increase in the numbers of spouses of people who may have lost their jobs seeking help, as well as people who have lost their jobs.

“Unemployment causes problems in a marriage or relationship. One isn’t working and there’s an increased burden on the other. There are also role reversal issues which cause stress and we’ve seen a bit of an increase in that.”

EAP is funded by its 220 member companies, which have a combined workforce of almost 16,000.

Ms DeCosta said that the service also offered four sessions to help staff made redundant to cope. She added: “Once people leave a company, often they don’t want to have anything more to do with it but I think people often need help with things like money management.

“When you lose your job, it’s a huge shock — when you are supported, it’s maybe not so much of a shock, but some companies don’t have that luxury. Things happen and boom, things come out of left field suddenly and people are left with serious problems.”

Ms DeCosta was speaking after the EAP launched a weekly radio radio programme called Workplace Matters with the Bermuda Broadcasting Company, which will run until mid-April.

The series, on 89.1FM at 12.30pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, will focus on topics like bullying and violence in the workplace and depression.

Ms DeCosta said that companies had a responsibility to help prepare their staff for a round of cuts – and that failure to do so could lead to serious problems for the firm as well as individual workers.

She added: “People ‘going postal’ is not to be taken lightly. How these things are done can have a huge impact on organisations.

“I do advise employers to prepare their staff to take job losses and I’d also ask people to take advantage of counselling after they’ve left a job.

“In other jurisdictions, people get benefits when they’re unemployed. If people don’t have their financial act together, unemployment can be extremely stressful in Bermuda. There aren’t a whole lot of different types of institutions people can go to.

“Resources are limited in terms of jobs and benefits. It can be very difficult being unemployed in Bermuda and that’s a lesson we are really going to have to learn.”

Chamber of Commerce executive vice-president Joanne MacPhee said: “We applaud the work that the EAP does to assist employees.

“We’re all aware of the fact that there is increased stress on everyone – both employers and employees.

“Employers don’t want to make redundancies or decrease the size of the workforce – we know of employers who are not paying themselves in order to pay their employees.

“It’s unbelievable stress, unbelievable and there’s not a sector of our economy which isn’t struggling right now. They are all suffering and suffering a lot of stress as well.

“A lot of people just don’t believe employers care. But they know each of their employees has a life and know the implications of redundancy for people and their families.”

Ms MacPhee added: “Other than trying to promote growth in our economy, there’s not much we can do. And that won’t happen in the current climate. Our economists are advising us we’ve not bottomed out yet and we believe there will be further shrinkage in the economy.”