Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The New Office Assistant

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My husband's company recently set up a free health program for all employees. It appears to be an online program where people can answer questions about their health and receive useful strategies to improve their wellness. A positive step and to be commended.

However, there's an irony to this in that most companies, his included, aren't addressing one of the key problems that impact on the health of their employees. Many companies continue to place excessive demands by setting unrealistic work expectations. My husband is contracted to work a 40 hour week. He often puts in 60 hours a week as well as being on 24 hour call and, without doubt, there are many people in a far worse position.

It's no surprise therefore to hear about a new problem that is emerging in the workplace. When people think about drugs in the office, they often think of illegal drugs or alcohol. However, more frequently, office workers are abusing prescription drugs, including beta blockers and the ADHD drug Ritalin, to simply get through the day.

There's a misconception because these drugs are medications that the problem is minimal but none of these drugs are without associated risks and side effects. Concerns also relate to how people are sourcing these drugs, with reports of people buying them from children in school or from the internet, an additional risk in itself.

What's the answer?

Companies setting realistic deadlines and regulating the work hours of their employees? Call me a skeptic but I doubt the health program recommends cutting back on work hours. Employees refusing to handle crazy workloads and hours? Not if they want to keep their job.

My guess is nothing will happen, prescription drug abuse will increase and such drugs may eventually be incorporated into random work drug tests.

What's your experience?
Sunday Life Magazine 18/11/06


psychgrad said...

I often find that is the companies with I/O specialties that treat their employees the worst (e.g., EAPs).

Anonymous said...

my husbands comapny pay for a 50 hour week and he does at least 75-80 they dont care as long as hes doing whatthey want, the effect a part time father to five children under ten and a non existant spouse, some companies dont care about health its dollars that count, and with the new workplace practices brought in it will only get worse.
So a family like many others sit and wait while a partner cant be with them no wonder australia has zero population growth hey

Shinga said...

I don't know if they could ever be incorporated into workplace drug tests: in the UK, I envisage more of a "Don't ask, don't tell" continuation of business as usual.

I know that a number of my friends feel that they may as well be single parents for all that they and the children get to see of the other spouse/partner.

A while ago, my husband was asked to work with someone who had been identified as having poor listening skills. My husband hadn't been with him more than a few minutes before he formed the view that the worker in question did not have a problem with his listening skills - he was just being asked to contribute to so many projects that he didn't have enough time to participate appropriately in any of them.

This level of dishonesty about the fundamental problem can be corrosive both in the workplace and people's family relationships.

Having a grumbly week.

Regards - Shinga

Alison said...

I think the increasing expectation to work increasing hours is a world wide phenonmenon and is essentially based on greed.

Yes HP, you're absolutely right to be skeptical about your hubb's company and the lip-service they are paying to notions of true health and well-being.

healthpsych said...

Hi Psychgrad,
So true. As if somehow that compensates or masks their real practices...although I'm biased in my thinking regarding my husband's company because of their past behaviours.

Hey JIP,
There's a lot of lip service paid to redressing the balance between family and work but not a lot actually going on in that respect and, as you say, with the new workplace practices, it only has the potential to get worse.

Hey Shinga,
I'm grumbly right along with you!
There's little respect for family time. My husband's ex-boss used to think nothing of ringing him up at 6am on the weekend just to ask him his opinion about a future project, something that could easily have waited until Monday. The boss has gone but the culture remains the same.

Hi Alison,
Lip service is all it is I'm afraid.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

A lot of this goes on here in the US too. Sad.