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Expert: stress on the job is on the increase

Stress overload: Management consultant Paul Loftus is seeing more of it in the Bermuda workplace

Stress on the job is on the increase in Bermuda, an expert said yesterday.

And international management and organisational development guru Paul Loftus said organisations and staff needed advice in conflict resolution and dealing with difficult people.

Montreal-based Mr Loftus said a seminar on stress — one of three he will be running on the Island next month — was currently the most popular and likely to be so in Bermuda as well.

He explained: “There is an awful lot of stress at the moment — there have been retrenchments and people under more pressure at work.

“What that does is increase the stress — in some situations, we have single parents, which again brings extra stress. Even when we have a dual career family, they’re trying to look after the kids and progress their careers at the same time.

“That all causes a lot of stress.”

But Mr Loftus said that stress could be managed — first by identifying what caused it.

He added: “Then we look at solutions for these stressors. But we go on the basis there are three things right at the beginning. We have got to get sufficient rest — at least seven hours, but eight is recommended.

“People are working harder and they’re not getting sufficient rest. We’re human beings, not machines and we need to be able to recharge ourselves.”

Mr Loftus said that exercise and diet — both linked — were also key to dealing with a high-pressure lifestyle.

He explained: “If we get these two, we will be more alert in the workplace and be able to lead richer lives.

“Another major factor which has become much more important is diet. There is a lot of obesity and part of that is diet and a lack of exercise.”

Mr Loftus added: “To deal with stress, we have to remain in control of ourselves as well — we have to recognise that stress is a fact of daily life. There are stresses and we have to learn to cope with them. That’s one of the things we teach in the seminars.”

And he said the other two seminars on conflict resolution and dealing with difficult people at work were closely linked.

He added: “They are definitely related — up to 30 per cent of a manager of supervisor’s time is spent dealing with conflict.

“That conflict can come from allocation of resources like who gets the corner office or why some people seem to be getting special privileges like overseas travel. Conflict can occur over scarce resources and it can occur over personality clashes. What we do in the seminar is get people to identify these and we have to realise if we’re part of the problem and where these problems are coming from.

“People have to keep a log of the most common conflicts in their lives and where they are coming from — we try to determine where these conflicts are, identify them and on coming up with solutions.”

Mr Loftus explained there were five basic ways of dealing with conflict — competing, collaborating, avoiding compromising and accommodating.

Collaborating to solve the problem or compromise were the most effective ways of dealing with conflict, while avoidance was a good short-term solution when it was not the right time to address a problem, like on a deadline, but not a good long-term fix.

Mr Loftus added: “Being accommodating is giving in to another person’s wishes and that’s not satisfactory because people will be giving in all the time and we also look at mediation and mediation skills.”

Mr Loftus — who has been visiting Bermuda to conduct classes for more than 20 years — said: “When I first started coming to Bermuda, it was the land of milk and honey.

“But right now, people are losing their jobs and that introduces a lot of stress. When you have unemployment, you have stress and a big stress is financial commitments.

“The money may not be coming in if one of the partners is unemployed and not bringing in the money.”

And he added: “Change is stressful as well — but the only constant today is change. Things like new software can cause stress.

“People are working longer hours now and job security is not what it was. There has also been increased competition — Bermuda is competing with the Caymans, Isle of Man, Luxembourg and so on.”

And he said tourism had also dropped off over decades, which meant Bermuda would have to look at new income streams.

Mr Loftus said: “I have no doubt that Bermuda will look at diversifying — information technology could definitely have prospects here in Bermuda. It’s a highly educated workforce and when there are layoffs it’s possible to encourage investment because Bermuda has that highly-qualified group of people.”

The seminars, run as part of the Chartered Professional Accountants of Bermuda (CPA) professional development programme all run from 9am to 5pm at the CPA headquarters in Sofia House, Church Street, Hamilton.

The stress management course will be held on Tuesday, October 13, with the conflict management seminar the following day and the dealing with difficult people class on the Thursday.

The cost of the courses, which include lunch and refreshments, is $600 per person for CPA members and $700 for non-members.

For more information and registration details, contact Gail Raynor at graynor@cpabermuda.bm.