Work-related Stress & Burnout in Switzerland

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Chronic stress affects one third of Swiss workers and the situation has continued to worsen in recent years. Yet the problem remains largely ignored by employers.

In these times of economic uncertainty Switzerland has moved through the crisis with relative ease. The unemployment rate stands at 3.4% well below the European average of 10.9% and the Swiss Franc stands strong among other floundering currencies. Public debt is low and the Swiss enjoy among the highest quality of life in the world, and a high average life expectancy to match.

However according to Seco (the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs) in Switzerland up to 34.4% of Swiss workers say they are overburdened and face stress and burn-out at work, a figure which has risen by 7% in 10 years.

The cost of work-related stress for Switzerland

“Chronic stress and its effects on health such as depression, burn out and cardio-vascular or muscular-skeletal problems have led to higher absenteeism and lower productivity. 
According to estimates published by Seco, the related costs could reach SFr10 billion ($11 billion) per year for businesses and society. In a report published in 2010, the Federal Statistics Office highlighted the exposure of workers to psychosocial risks: 41% of those interviewed said they were under strong psychological pressure at work.”

Switzerland – Increased pressure to perform at work

However these studies do not reflect the true extent of the problem, specialists point out. “The situation has been critical for the past ten years or so but it has got worse again since 2008,” said Brigitta Danuser, Director of the Swiss  Institute of Work and Health (IST – affiliated with Lausanne and Geneva University). In 2010 the IST conducted a survey of 800 physicians in Switzerland exploring the links between work and health. Among the diseases related to work, 93% of physicians reported encountering psychological problems related to work.

“The pressure to perform and compete, the spread of casual work contracts, open plan offices, conflicts between colleagues, as well as bosses expecting around-the-clock availability that goes hand-in-hand with technological innovations are just a few of the reasons given for heightened stress.”

Stress, alcohol & drugs

According to the World Health Organization global action plan, every employee should have access to a health consultation service at work.

Some professionals who experience stress and burnout begin to self-medicate – using alcohol or drugs such as cocaine to enhance their performance and alertness. They might also use prescription drugs to sleep at night.

Treatment for Burnout and alcohol or drug addiction

If you live in Western Switzerland and are suffering from burnout the website No Burnout gives information and advice in French.

If stress leads to alcohol or drug addiction it is important that senior management or HR find a suitable rehab treatment programme as soon as possible. Early detection and intensive treatment will rescue the investment made in a highly trained and skilled employee and save companies money in the long-run.

More information for employers on addiction in the workplace, stress and burn-out.

*Adapted from an article by Samuel Jaberg, on SwissInfo.ch: ‘Suffering caused by work remains taboo’.