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Work-related stress takes its toll

Successive downturns have made the office a tougher place


Employees in Switzerland are finding themselves under more and more stress at work.

Redundancies in many firms are adding to the strain on those who remain, and even bosses and staff working in personnel departments are feeling the pinch.

A study conducted three years ago showed that the Swiss economy loses SFr4.2 billion ($3.2 billion) annually from stress-related illness.

The situation has deteriorated in recent years: the number of Swiss claiming invalidity insurance for mental health reasons has tripled in the last 16 years from 23,000 in 1986 to 73,000 in 2002.

Redundancies are the principal cause, according to Vera Weiss from the institute of industrial psychology at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

Studies have shown that after job losses the same amount of work is divided among fewer workers. In addition, the fear of a further round of dismissals adds to the mood of uncertainty.

The result is that employees tend to come to work even when they are unwell, and this eventually has a serious impact on health.

Psychological burden

Weiss says that managers and personnel staff are also affected.

"Not only does the amount of work go up when you're dealing with redundancies, but it's a psychological burden. They are trapped between employers and employees."

Some firms like Swisscom and the Credit Suisse Group provide special coaching and support for staff who have to announce redundancies.

Last month the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs announced that it was preparing to launch a national "anti-stress" website in 2004.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The Swiss economy loses SFr4.2 billion a year from stress-related illness.
The situation has deteriorated in recent years.
Job security causes most anxiety.
Managers and personnel staff are affected psychologically.

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