According to a new report, stress is the major illness which affects people at work these days. It has overtaken cancer for the first time. Unlike cancer, which in many cases is not particularly avoidable, stress is a totally avoidable concept. So… what stops stress? One word. Care.
When we care for each other, when we look out for each other, when we can see that people have too much on their plates, when we help out, when we smile, when we ask how people are, when we support each other, stress does not exist to such a degree.
This brings us to a difficult conundrum. Some blaggers (not bloggers!) will be claiming stress. In fact, the people I know who’ve had the most amount of stress sick leave are not stressed at all. They’re taking advantage of their workplace, coworkers and the law to have fun, free days off ‘on the sick’. They are the people who have absolutely no concept of what stress is. No surprises, public sector illness is higher than private sector, because in the public sector it’s notoriously difficult to sack blaggers. Ironically, the people I’ve known with the most serious illnesses, including cancer, are the ones desperate to return to work, probably a long time before they are ready. Sick leave decreases, mysteriously, when people feel their jobs are under threat. Again ironically, isn’t this the time you should be most stressed?
Couple this with a report about the fact that 40% of workers would prefer to see a colleague lose their job than risk taking a paycut themselves and it’s no wonder people are stressed. We’re clearly working with a load of people who’d rather see us starve. Almost 1 in 2 people you work with would rather see you starve than take a pay cut themselves. Nice! When we’re surrounded by people like these, no wonder we’re stressed!!
I’m reminded of one thing. As a self-employed person, I’ve never, not once, taken a day off sick. When your livelihood is dependent on your earning and when you are face-to-face with clients, being sick is all relative. But then, apart from an extended enforced sick leave period as I left full-time teaching, I only ever had 5 days off sick in 15 years. It’s that halo of mine. It’s very good at scaring off infections.
I go with the school of thought that says there are two types of people, altruistic and selfish. Altruistic people are off with stress because they are genuinely stressed. They probably had to be forced to stay off work. No doubt they were doing 10 people’s jobs. Selfish people are off with stress because it’s hard work being so selfish. It’s clearly very stressful. These are the same people who say they’d rather see a colleague be made redundant than take a pay cut til things ease up. Altruistic people need to be driven home from work if they look ill, and forced to rest. They need someone to come along with coffee and lemsips and hot water bottles and someone to say ‘you’re appreciated!’. Selfish people need someone to come round and drag them out of their houses and kick them up the bum, then threaten to sack them if they have another day off. Then altruistic people wouldn’t be sorting out the work of selfish people and everything would be good.
It’s simple when you think about it.
And if you want to know who to care for and who to kick? Ask them ‘anonymously’ if they’d rather take a pay cut or see a colleague lose their job. Reward the pay-cutters and punish the redundancy-fiends.