A great many corporate executives seem to think they can keep squeezing labor costs with impunity to impress Wall Street analysts and drive up their companys' share prices. But as with most seemingly unstoppable trends that only really make sense to those with a simplistically myopic focus on cold, hard numbers, the reality in a world where the data reflects the efforts of living, breathing individuals is altogether different. At some point, suggests McClatchy Newspapers in "Employee Stress Affects Companies’ Bottom Lines," the law of diminishing returns -- and of what can't continue, won't -- begins to apply:
MIAMI— Like many workers, Nancy Topolski found herself with more work piled on after her law firm laid off 11 legal secretaries. Topolski soon began stressing over work, losing sleep and making mistakes. One day, the stress erupted into a full-blown panic attack in the office.
Trying to keep your cool in workplaces these days has become more difficult. The recession has brought a new set of issues, driving stress to a new level. Three out of every four American workers are on the brink of a meltdown, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University report.
“Workers are being pushed and pushed, and they lack the energy to deal with it,” said Joyce Gioia of The Herman Group, whose specialty is employee retention. She believes that high workloads, fear of job loss and 24/7 connectivity are the recipe for the highest levels of stress in history.
Companies could end up paying the cost through more workers calling in sick, more job-related mistakes and higher turnover.
For years, experts have said a little bit of stress is good. But they were referring to the short-term jolt that comes before making a presentation, not the extreme kind prevalent in workplaces today.
“We’re way beyond the level of it being motivating,” said Helen Darling, president of the Washington-based National Business Group on Health. “It will be hard to recover economically if we don’t find better ways to help employees address stress.”
Of course, no small number of businesses may luck out -- for a while, at least. That because, as the following report reveals, some of those who work for them will have found (ultimately self-defeating) ways of coping with the pressure:
The recession has caused significant damage to jobs and the stock market. But there's one silver lining worth toasting: a surge in "happy hour" offerings for early-bird revelers.
"With the economy continuing to put a strain on consumers and people constantly looking for great deals, we are definitely in the midst of a happy hour boom," Jeff Khadavi, co-founder of GoTime Corp., tells CNBC.
Through its website, GoTime.com, and its recently-launched mobile application, Happy Hours, the Seattle-based company provides information on more than 250,000 bars and restaurants across 60 cities. GoTime uses its staff, its media partners in various cities, its users and individual business owners to help it keep an up-to-date database of happy hour offerings --normally between 5 pm to 7 pm-- in the markets it covers.
Khadavi says through this gathering of information, he has seen a noticeable uptick in venues offering happy hour discounts as well as customers seeking out such deals. He points to his company's recently launched Happy Hours app, which lets users search for happy hour deals in their location, already has nearly 500,000 users.
"People are actively looking for this kind of information and businesses are targeting people accordingly," says Khadavi.
It's not just local pubs that are boosting their happy hour offerings. Nationwide restaurant chains PF Chang's China Bistro and The Cheesecake Factory (NASDAQ: cake) have jumped on the happy hour bandwagon this year.
The Cheesecake Factory, which has been serving alcohol since it opened its doors in 1978, launched its first-ever happy hour program at select locations in February with $5 specialty cocktails and $5 full-size appetizers from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
"The Cheesecake Factory has never done anything like this in over 32 years, and we felt the time was right given the economic situation, so more guests could enjoy the Cheesecake Factory experience," says Mark Mears, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of The Cheesecake Factory.
Mears adds the restaurant chain has seen an increase in traffic this quarter and is "bouncing back quite nicely" but did not say whether the new happy hour menu affected the improvement.