Im willing to bet that a lot of people in the business were able to relate easily to the cover story in our Nov. 15 issue, which was titled “The Stress Factor in Underwriting.”
While the article by Linda Koco dealt with the ramifications of stress in underwriting life insurance, stress is a topic that goes way beyond this business and has broad resonance across wider and wider swaths of our society in the early 21st century. Who among us doesnt know what it means to be stressed?
Granted, periods of stress are part of life and we all have experienced them from time to time. But the fact is that stress as a continuing condition of life is something that lots of people are feeling most of the time.
Most often, the origin of the stress lies in having too much to do in the time allotted to do it. So, what happens is that the amount of time allocated to work or do other necessary tasks has to increase to absorb the greater amount of work. This in turn puts pressure on all the other things a person has to dobut now having less time in which to do them.
In the workplace, this condition of spreading stress has been given a positive-sounding spin. Its called increasing productivity. And who can argue with that?
Productivity is good; ergo, increasing productivity must be better.
Unfortunately, the way it generally has translated in the last few years among employers is that when an employee is let go, his or her work remains and has to be spread around among the surviving employees or is assigned to just one other employee.
That doesnt mean that the duties of the cashiered employee were added on to those of some malingerer whose work only filled half of his or her time. Quite the opposite. It means that employers are getting two jobs done now for the price of one.
Now, multiply that by hundreds of thousands of employees in hundreds of companies in many industries across the land. You can see why stress in the workplace is nothing less than an epidemic of catastrophic proportions.
Companies routinely lay off thousands of people now at one fell swoop. Just the other week Marsh Inc. said it was laying off 3,000 employees in the wake of its being embroiled in scandals uncovered by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.