Two-thirds of travel industry workers say stress is causing them sleepless nights, headaches, concentration problems and irritability, according to a survey by Personnel Today’s sister magazine, Travel Weekly.
Leading stress expert and author of the survey, Cary Cooper, has warned the industry that it could face a health crisis if it does not tackle the issue.
Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University, said bosses must act now to prevent staff developing long-term heart disease and mental health problems.
Of more than 4,000 respondents, 73% are more stressed now than five years ago.
Sixty-four per cent said stress made them irritable with friends, colleagues and family; 60% had trouble sleeping; 58% suffered from headaches; and 57% had difficulty concentrating.
The volume of work was the most stressful factor – 48% complained of this.
Cooper said the responses were stronger than expected, and worse than in other sectors.
He urged the travel industry to undertake stress auditing.
“It’s not just about having a tele-phone counselling service,” he said. “It’s about identifying what it is about your organisation that causes problems.”
Ian Reynolds, chief executive of the Association of British Travel Agents, said the trade should increase resources to cope with stress-related issues.
“It is necessary to heed the warning signals in this survey,” he said. “Industry chiefs must pay attention to the causes of stress.”
Reynolds said workload issues could be related to post-September 11 job cuts. “Staff numbers have been reduced, but the workload hasn’t.”
Of the big four travel companies, Thomson, Mytravel, First Choice and Thomas Cook, only First Choice has a formal stress policy. Its head of employee services, Sue Crozier, said stress-related problems are increasing as the industry becomes more competitive.
“Most of what we can do is through management taking away pressures on staff,” she said.
Thomas Cook said it is considering whether it needs to take more action on the issue.