The Recession, Stress and You

Economic Times Creating Uneasiness and Tension

I suspect that I will see more articles like this one from CNN until things get better.


The Recession, Stress and You

In small businesses across the country, employee stress levels are rising along with talk of recession and the stock market’s latest plunge. Problems can also come from a reality that’s painfully close by: a co-worker whose home is undergoing foreclosure.

Trying economic times can create uneasiness and tension at even the healthiest companies, forcing small business owners to deal with productivity and disciplinary problems, or they might find themselves approached by a struggling employee who asks for a loan.

Attorneys and human resources professionals say owners need to be sure that in handling any issues that arise from the increased economic problems they treat staffers equally, not favoring one over another. Owners might also want to sign on with an employee assistance provider that can supply financial and emotional counseling.

Some workers at Quality Float Works Inc., a maker of hollow metal balls and valve parts, are clearly under stress although the company is doing well, vice president Jason Speer said.

“We noticed some employees who have been having some problems I imagine are due to some housing issues,” said Speer, whose company is located in Schaumburg, Illinois, near Chicago. So, he said, “we’ve given them loans interest free that we deduct every week out of their paychecks.”

The company’s reasoning is simple: “When we can help their home life be easier, it makes them more productive and easier to work with.”

Set limits

What if the problems start intruding into the workplace? An employee with debt or mortgage problems is spending an entire morning on the phone with creditors. Or staffers are short-tempered and there’s friction between co-workers.

If the problem is too much time spent on personal issues, an owner needs to set limits — but shouldn’t outright prohibit phone calls. For one thing, it won’t work — employees will feel compelled to make the calls anyway. For another, clamping down completely sends a bad message to the entire workplace: that the boss doesn’t care about an employee in trouble.

When employees have a concern, “they don’t check it at the door when they come in,” said Jennifer Blum Feldman, an attorney with Wolf Block Schorr and Solis-Cohen LLP in Philadelphia.

“They’re going to be distracted and they may have a decrease in productivity because they’re not focused,” she said.


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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell is the founder of Workology, a digital resource that reaches more than a half million HR and workplace leaders each month and host of the Workology Podcast. Jessica lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, daughter, and an assortment of furry family members.


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