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Ignoring employee emotional health can be a wake-up call

TORONTO, Ont. - Stress, a taboo subject more often ignored than dealt with, can have disastrous consequences for employees and the companies for which they work.With a troubled economy and war in the ...


TORONTO, Ont. – Stress, a taboo subject more often ignored than dealt with, can have disastrous consequences for employees and the companies for which they work.

With a troubled economy and war in the news, stress levels are likely mounting across the workforce and, according to a report released this month by Warren Shepell Consultants Corp., at no other place does this uneasiness display itself more than at work.

For example, the provider of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and related organizational health and wellness services discovered employees in Canada’s manufacturing sector are showing alcohol and drug addiction rates, often seen as a consequence of stress, at almost twice the national norm.

“This is the tip of the iceberg, these addictions tends to be under-reported,” says Warren Shepell vice-president Gerry Smith.

Although the report does not deal directly with the environment within for-hire truck fleets, the concerns it raises are worth considering. The report contains three years of data – the last of which represented a sample size of 136 companies and over 50,000 employees.

“From our point of view, very few companies in Canada keep effective records of who is at work and who’s not at work,” says Rod Phillips, president and CEO of Warren Shepell. Yet according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, alcohol and drug use, violence and depression are a serious liability to the Canadian workplace costing a surprising $14.4 billion to employers annually, not including lost wages.

Along with a higher incidence of substance abuse, the report also found levels of anxiety and anger in employees rising significantly.

“When you see addictions combined with anger then you have a greater propensity for workplace violence,” says Smith.

That tendency towards aggression is heightened in male-dominated industries, such as trucking.

“Anxiety can promote in the workplace sometimes bizarre, extreme behaviour, the kind that people can’t understand where it comes from. This includes panic attacks, the inability to concentrate, and memory loss, things managers and supervisors need to keep their eyes on in terms of performance and productivity in the workplace,” Smith says.

Phillips says that as companies look at the effectiveness and efficiency of their operations, they also need to lo ok at the impact of the changes they’re making and how they affect employees.

“The message that we’re sending is sort of a wake-up call,” says Phillips, “the issues that affect employees from the mental or emotional side also impact efficiency.”


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