Computers may (or may not) be set to experience the Y2K bug – but what about
the human cost of stress?
A recent CBI Survey Focus on Absence cited that absence from work lost UK
business £10.2bn in 1998 – an average of £426 per employee – and that stress
for non-manual employees was the second highest cause of absence.
As we hit the millennium, the workplace should be bracing itself for
unprecedented levels of stress among employees who will be feeling the pressure
at home, at work and play.
It is all very well to dismiss forthcoming festivities as a contagious
frivolity, but will the pressure to have a good time result in extreme levels
Calls to professional telephone helplines are already in full swing. A
Samaritans report (October 1999) highlighted that the suicide rate among young
men has risen by a staggering 40 per cent.
The social pressure to spend, spend, spend and "party like it’s
1999" will push many people to extreme levels of stress-induced behaviour
and PMT (Pre Millennium Tension).
The end of a year, and particularly the end of a thousand years, will
exacerbate all the feelings we usually experience, but, more so.
We all feel that this time all our expectations, our New Year resolutions
and hopes for the future, will be magically realised. This is rarely the case,
however. Depression, disappointment, anger and anxiety rapidly become the norm.
Working in occupational health, as we all know, is never a nine-to-five job.
Occasions such as the millennium, however, will cause increased pressure,
feelings of resentment and exclusions, especially when it is likely that those
you are caring for will have no idea or desire to know about others who are
We all spend our lives doing a balancing act, just trying to keep our heads
above water. But the added pressures to "have the best time of our
lives" and "to take part" will only build up, creating the
sensation of losing control.
Instead of enjoying a brand new century, the sense of guilt and manipulation
by outside forces is overwhelming. Guilt, because instead of enjoying the hype
and feeling a part of it, we feel despondent and isolated.
Guilt that we cannot forget our problems; guilt that we cannot spend the
money that our families are expecting and guilt that the ups and downs of our
lives are not in harmony with what the calendar is telling us to experience.
We could try to avoid the hype by travelling to a non-Christian country,
where the millennium will pass by without a mention.
Alternatively, we could try to put the whole thing in perspective – it is
just another day, after all. But if you are feeling the pressures of PMT do not
ignore themÉ and be warned, you might end up suffering PMS (Post Millennium
Stress) which, sadly has no end in sight.