Longer hours leading to employee burnout

ICT sector leading in the number of permanent staff hires, according to Hudson survey

An increasing number of projects and slowly improving consumer confidence are driving employers to either maintain their current staff levels or increase them, but more employers are reporting "employee burnout", according to a survey by recruitment firm Hudson.

Over the last quarter, Hudson surveyed more than 1000 employers throughout New Zealand from small to large organisations, on their employment expectations over the next three months.

The survey found that almost 60 percent of employers plan to maintain their staff numbers at present levels for the next three months, while a third say they will take on new staff.

One in ten employers have indicated they plan to decrease headcounts in the last quarter of the year, a figure which has been steady for the last three quarters.

“Consumer confidence a key driver for business and employment growth has inched higher,” says Roman Rogers, executive general manager at Hudson New Zealand

“While confidence isn’t strong and shows some caution, it is moving in the right direction which is being reflected in hiring intentions.”

The ICT sector is leading in the number of permanent staff hires, with 43 percent of IT employers intending to increase their permanent headcount.

The high demand for business analysts, testers, and project managers will continue into the end of the year says the survey.

This quarter’s survey asked how many hours an employer’s staff is working, to which 90 percent responded staff were working more than the standard 40 hour work week.

The majority of staff (around 86 percent) are working between 40 and 60 hours a week, and 5 percent are working up to or above 70 hour weeks.

More than a quarter of respondents say these hours have increased in the last year, with increasing numbers of projects, greater demand from customers and decreasing team sizes given as the reason why.

Rogers says increasing work hours does not necessarily improve productivity, and could cost companies in the long run with a high turnover rate.

Almost 30 percent of employers surveyed say they have seen increased levels of employee burnout at their business.

“Many employees are prepared to do this. However there is often not much, if any, downtime between projects to recharge which can lead to burnout,” says Rogers.

Employers are fighting burnout by bringing greater clarity to roles and building better support networks to detect stressed employees earlier. Rogers says fewer face to face meetings with employees means managers might not be aware of the early signs that their workers are on the point of breaking.

“In many instances, fewer people are doing a broader range of tasks and work is less specialised... Putting a person in a role when they don’t have the right motivational and behavioural attributes causes stress for both employer and employee,” said Rogers.

“Clarity around expectations is certainly needed, employers need to think about what they are trying to achieve and what blend of skills and behaviours they need to be successful.”

The survey has found that the number of contract workers being sought by organisations is steadying out, although in the ICT sector more than a quarter of employers are looking to bring on new contractors over the next three months.

Rogers says this is once again a response to support new or continuing projects, and the emphasis for pay has moved away from hourly or day rates towards fixed term contracts lasting the duration of the project.

He says while this could lead to lower contracting costs for employers, the low numbers of contractors currently available in New Zealand means this is not a scalable option for all organisations.

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