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New perspectives in welfare management

Companies have become increasingly interested in the health and wellbeing of their staff over the last few years. They have recognized that job satisfaction is an essential part of this. Originally intended to reduce the number of accidents at work and to understand the causes of long-term or frequent absences, employers’ preventative efforts have begun to extend to their people’s private lives. Firms are increasingly concerned about how their people manage to reconcile their work with their private situation, how much pressure rests on the shoulders of executives, whether there are any worries or problems affecting their people at home, or whether their employees feel exposed to too much pressure to perform or job-related stress.

Companies have come to realize that performance pressures and less time for rest and recuperation can have a negative impact on the climate at work and cause what is commonly known as the “burnout syndrome”. While the sudden upsurge in interest in this problem might appear to be a fad to some people, and while some sufferers might indeed be misdiagnosed, the issue’s arrival in the public eye is certainly a welcome development. The time was ripe for psychological pressures to be given their due attention.

This is also confirmed by a study of the Federal Ministry for Employment and Social Affairs which records a rise in psychological disorders as the cause of permanent incapacity at a scale of eleven percent. The number of days lost due to such problems has risen dramatically from twenty to thirty-five million days in the past decade. It is set to exceed the impact of cardiovascular diseases.

Some blame the expectation of constant availability and the rising use of mobile phones and smartphones and the flood of email communication. For many employees, after-hours calls and mails have become the norm. But as many managers would agree, this is only a sign of poor management of these resources.

Training executive managers on welfare-sensitive leadership is possible, as the Institut für angewandte Arbeitswissenschaften (Ifaa) reports, but often not feasible at smaller companies. For these organizations, the industry think tank believes, the normal occupational safety regulations need to suffice.

A first step for larger companies is to make their work processes and the freedom and autonomy of their people transparent for everybody. Fair financial compensation should also be on the table. With these preconditions in place, companies can hope to improve the situation and reduce the burden for health insurers which is estimated at around €27 million per year, and rising.

The Federal Association of Health Insurers is also taking a stand with its “Psychological Health in the Workplace” (Psyga) campaign. Small signs, such as a wishing employees a good morning, can have a positive effect on the climate at work and do their bit to increase people’s satisfaction and welfare for the long term. 

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