“Worker Intensification” Creates Wellness, Work-Life Balance Concerns

A new survey indicates that a majority of workers in the United States are tasked to do more with less, which can have a negative impact on their wellness, benefits and work-life balance.

Sixty-two percent of American employees who responded to a survey from Workplace Options indicated that their employers are reacting to economic difficulties by postponing hiring, stretching resources and expecting additional work from each employee. Over half of respondents said they have taken on additional responsibilities at work because of the recession, with 70 percent saying they have done so with no pay increase.

"In times of economic uncertainty, a lot of the burden falls on workers. Employers are forced to make ends meet with fewer resources and turn to their staff for help," said Dean Debnam, Workplace Options CEO. "It's important for managers to recognize the size of their requests and the weight of added responsibilities for their employees."

The term commonly used to refer to these increasing demands is “worker intensification.” According to Workplace Options, a provider of work-life programs and employee benefits, worker intensification often occurs with little to no reward.

Balance and Benefits

Additional responsibilities usually mean extra hours at the office and a struggle to maintain work-life balance. About half of survey respondents (51 percent) said the increase in responsibilities has negatively affected their well-being, and 37 percent said they wouldn't be able to sustain their current workload long-term.

The survey results also show that 47 percent of workers said their employer reduced or eliminated some benefits or employee programs as a result of the recession. And 44 percent responded that the economic situation impacted the flexibility of their jobs, specifically the ability to work from home and schedule time off as needed. When workers have to clock longer hours at the office or take less time off, many are forced to make special, often expensive, arrangements for additional childcare or caregiving.

"Your company must make every effort to continue to encourage work-life balance and keep employees engaged, now more than ever," said Debnam. "If you start to cut benefits, add more responsibilities and offer no reward, it's highly likely that employees will be unproductive, unhappy and less loyal to their current employer."

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