Employee role overload negatively impacts the organization’s bottom line, and reducing this form of stress can yield the greatest bang for the buck for both employers and employees.

That was the message Linda Duxbury, a professor at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University, delivered at the Benefits Canada Healthy Outcomes Conference held last week in Ottawa.

Employers are facing a turning point in managing their HR due to a shortage of skilled labour, value shifts in younger people and older employees facing eldercare challenges.

According to her research, companies will face a talent market shortage by 2016. There will be a deficit of 800,000 skilled staff and a surplus of 500,000 low-skilled labourers.

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Generation Y (those under age 30) have seen what their parents went through with role overload, downsizing and not being appreciated for their commitment to the organization. According to Duxbury, they claim they will never make the same mistake. “They have learned to protect themselves and not to trust the organization.” Duxbury warns employers that “if you don’t deal with this, you’re not going to attract them.”

While employees can choose to have no children or have fewer, later in life, they can’t choose to have parents. Almost everyone is going to face eldercare issues later in life.

This is more problematic today because seniors are living longer and suffering from chronic illness, and women who have been traditional caregivers for the elderly are working outside the home. Many employees have delayed having children, and they have to deal with both their teenagers and elderly parents at the same time, and many are having fewer children, which leads to fewer caregivers for the elderly. Despite this growing burden on employees, few employers understand this issue because it’s not part of their workforce planning.

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Role overload exists when the total demands for time and energy associated with activities of multiple roles are too great to perform these roles adequately or comfortably. Simply defined, it’s having too much to do and not enough time in which to do it.

While total role overload is a function of overload at work and at home, work role overload is a much stronger predictor of total role overload. Duxbury’s research concludes that high-role overload leads to increased absenteeism, a greater use of Canada’s healthcare system, increased levels of employee stress and depression, higher employee turnover, rising benefits costs, lower levels of commitment and job satisfaction, and recruitment and retention problems.

She suggested some solutions for employers:

  • provide employees with a greater sense of control over their hours of work and their work schedule;
  • give employees a fixed number of paid personal days off work to deal with personal issues;
  • introduce new performance measures that focus on objectives, results and output, and move away from a focus on hours; and
  • increase the number of supportive managers within the organization.

Her research suggests that if employers eliminate high levels of role overload in their organization they stand to gain. “You can have the best policies and programs in the world, but if your culture and management practices don’t align with them, it really doesn’t matter.”

Suzanne Lepage is a private health plan strategist based in Kitchener, Ont. suzanne@suzannelepage.ca

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Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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