PwC sends staff on ‘stress-busting’ courses

Senior partner Peter Smith said of the initiative: ‘For our people, and there are 20,000 or so of them in the UK, we need to create a great place to work, a place where talented people want to come and stay. What we are trying to do is develop a culture which enables a true balance between work and life to be achieved, rather than an ‘either or’ culture.’

Warnings abound that increased job insecurity, greater pressures, demanding clients and globalisation is leading to escalating stress levels and falling productivity.

According to Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at UMIST’s Manchester School of Management, large sections of the UK’s workforce are suffering from the adverse effects of an increasingly pressured work culture.

Of 5,000 managers surveyed on working trends, a third said they worked more than 51 hours per week, while 50% said they usually worked on weekends.’Stress levels and hours of work have increased substantially since 1997,’ he warned.

But there’s help at hand.PricewaterhouseCoopers is among the firms seeking to redress the balance. It has stepped up its efforts to find a balance between home and work life and is sending more and more employees on ‘survival courses’.

The course aims to encourage staff to take a closer look at their lifestyles, focusing on exercise, diet and time management. ‘Over 500 partners and directors have taken the course and we have received very positive feedback,’ said Dick Watkin, partner responsible for recruitment in PwC’s management consulting services in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Long-term, PwC wants all of its employees to have the benefit of the de-stressing courses. And Watkin said the firm is even encouraging its clients to encompass the idea.

PwC’s intentions, however, are not wholly altruistic. Most managers in the financial sector openly admit that the long hours are counter-productive, while their subordinates complain that bosses are becoming increasingly autocratic.

‘A great deal of the participants have improved productivity and reduced their number of working hours following the course,’ said Watkins. ‘But, above all most are really pleased that the organisation cares about their well-being.’KPMG said it has been running a voluntary health and safety programme called HandS for a year, which included a stress management element.

But the firm said the programme recognised meeting health and safety requirements was the responsibility of both the employer and employee.

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