City stress rife – but few companies have a policy

Stress causes lost working days in most City companies but less than half have put policies in place to deal with it, an opinion poll found.

While eight out of 10 HR departments in City firms say staff take time off due to stress, only 42 per cent have a formal stress programme, according to a survey of 100 companies in the UK’s financial capital.

The research by career management consultancy Meridian Consulting also found more than a third reported tension, aggression and irritability among employees as a result of stress.

But this week HR professionals denied the problem is being ignored.

Irene McTaggart, manager of training and development at Merrill Lynch, Europe, said she is not surprised that few City firms have opted for a formal stress management policy, arguing it is not necessarily the best way of tackling the problem.

She said Merrill Lynch is focusing on equipping staff and managers to deal with any major change in the company as part of the business strategy.

Changes such as growth, downsizing, mergers and acquisitions are known for inducing stress. Preparing staff for these changes, giving them as much information as possible and offering support and training when roles and responsibilities change will do more to reduce stress than a policy looking at the problem in isolation, she said.

“Stress happens when people don’t feel in control of what they are going through. It is easy to come out with policy statements, but there is a huge gap between that and actually doing something about it.

“Every time a team goes through change we have a training professional working with them to make sure they are prepared. It is all tied into the business strategy, but we don’t call it stress management here.”

She added that staff also have access to counselling services.

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