Change at Work: The Impact on Employees & Employers

Workplace Stress and Mental Health are hot topics for Human Resources professionals this year. And, with the uncertainties of Brexit moving ever closer, many employers are also being forced to consider significant change in the workplace. But is there a link between the two subjects?

Research by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2017 suggests that there is, and is recommended reading for anyone considering a programme of workplace change in the months and years ahead. The report is (of course) based on employees on the other side of the Atlantic to us, yet similar findings would perhaps also apply to the average British worker. The highlights of the research are below, and in each case the APA compared the results between those that had been recently impacted by organisational change against those that were not experiencing this issue:

  • Employees experiencing recent or current change were more than twice as likely to report chronic work stress compared with employees who reported no recent, current or anticipated change (55% vs 22%), and four times as likely to report experiencing physical health symptoms at work (34% vs 8%).
  • Working Americans who were experiencing change were more likely to say that they experienced work life conflict (39% v 12%).
  • Those experiencing change were more likely to feel cynical and negative towards others during the working day (35% vs 11%), and felt lower levels of job satisfaction also (71% vs 81%). 
  • Those under workplace stress caused by change were also three times more likely to say they don’t trust their employer (34% v 12%) and, worryingly, three times as likely to say they intend to seek employment outside their current organisation (46% vs 15%).

Any or all of the above is obviously bad news for any employer about to embark on a programme of change. What makes this more concerning is the continued challenge of the UK’s poor productivity when compared to our G7 competitors, which means that it is becoming increasingly important that employers maintain the goodwill and maximum output of each and every worker. 

One final fact catches the eye which should be highlighted to any employer considering change:

  • Workers experiencing recent or current change reported eating or smoking more during the workday then they did outside of work (29% vs 8%).

This is no surprise, and most readers of this article will doubtless be able to accept the implied link between stress and the increased incidents of bad habits. The logical conclusion here is that workplace stresses caused by badly-managed change could potentially lead to physical as well as mental health issues.

All of which only serves to highlight how damaging change can be for the employee and his/her family, and of course the employer also. Yet some alterations will always be needed to remain competitive and relevant in the workplace of the 21st Century. It follows that employers need to find a balance which embraces change whilst minimising any potential damage from such an exercise. 

It would therefrom be remiss of us not to point out that many of the features within a good Employee Benefits package can be of assistance here.  Support with symptoms of mental and physical ill-health is of course a given, and a quality Employee Assistance Plan will also be a pivotal tool at such moments of increased stress.  So we would urge employers to signpost their workers towards their Employee Benefits support options as part of any major change programme.

This is sure to be a subject we will return to again in 2018.  In the meantime you can obtain more details on how Employee Benefits can help in such situations via your usual Jelf Consultant in the first instance.

Steve Herbert is Head of Benefits Strategy at Jelf Employee Benefits