Public sector managers ‘overworked and stressed’

17 Jul 12
Public sector managers are working longer hours under more stressful conditions than they were five years ago, according to a survey published today.
By Vivienne Russell | 17 July 2012

Public sector managers are working longer hours under more stressful conditions than they were five years ago, according to a survey published today.

The Chartered Management Institute surveyed over 1,300 managers working in all sectors of the economy and compared findings with a similar exercise conducted in 2007. Across the board, more managers said they were suffering from stress and depression, working longer hours and had concerns for their future health and wellbeing. The findings have been collated and analysed in the Quality of working life 2012 report. The report’s authors said the decline in managers’ reported wellbeing over just five years was ‘staggering’.

A sense of decline was felt most strongly in the public sector. Almost half (46%) of public sector managers surveyed said their organisation was in decline. This contrasted with 19% in the private sector and 18% in the not-for-profit sector.

The average manager in the public sector now works around 48 days in unpaid overtime each year, the survey found. A third (32%) of public sector managers also reported that their health had deteriorated in the last three months, while almost half (43%) said they don’t take sick leave when they are ill.

Almost all (98%) pubic sector managers had experienced organisational change in the last year including restructuring (83%) and compulsory redundancies (46%). One in four (42%) public sector managers said they would leave if they thought they could find another job. Bureaucratic, reactive and authoritarian management styles were also found to be more prevalent in the public sector.

Nationwide, the survey found that 42% of managers reported suffering from symptoms of stress, up from 35% in 2007, and 18% said they had suffered from depression, up from 15% in 2007. A majority of managers said they were concerned about the adverse effects of their workloads on their stress levels and their physical health.

The survey’s findings were analysed by Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at Lancaster University, and Les Worrall, professor of strategic analysis at Coventry University.

Cooper said: ‘It is not surprising that the recession has led to more ill health among managers as they struggle to cope with heavier workloads, working longer and longer hours and looking over their proverbial shoulders for a sense of job security. The massive rise of presenteeism, managers coming earlier and staying later at work, as well as coming to work when ill, is making the situation much worse.’

Worrall added: ‘The scale and impact of change over the last five years has been staggering as all of our key measures from the survey have deteriorated markedly since 2007. What is more worrying is that there seems to be no sign of economic conditions getting better – we are in for a worrying time if these trends persist into the future.’

The survey was conducted by the CMI together with health insurance providers SimplyHealth. Spacer

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