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Have A Stroke At Work Print
Estimates for the cost of stress-related illness in the UK economy alone range from £5($8) billion to £12($19) billion each year. It is claimed that absence due to stress-related illness costs employers between £530-£545($848-$872) per employee per year.

Managers are increasingly anxious about their personal lives. Two thirds undergo a major restructure at their workplace each year, most think this practice damages the company’s productivity.
86 percent of managers say that long working hours are affecting their relationship with their children, not to mention their spouse or partner.
68 percent complain that long hours affect productivity.
More than 70 percent say they now require a far broader range of skills to do their jobs than before; IT, information management and people skills top the list of skills now needed.
54% suffer from information overload.
Welcome to the twenty-first century workplace.

The so called ‘smart’ companies have introduced new benefits over an above the ‘normal’ packages we have come to expect. Deloitte Consulting, for example, offer a holistic approach, which involves ‘Third Fridays’ workshops, which include stress and nutrition advice. Since this innovation commenced, sick days have decreased.

Companies, including Kodak and PepsiCo, now run courses in the art of a 15 minute ‘power nap’. IBM and Pizza Hut provide sleep courses for their US staff. Silicon Valley companies now offer such diverse options as sleeping rooms, yoga teachers, poolrooms, florists, cobblers and video game centres.

Is there a stress relieving option that does not disrupt the production line? Netscape and Amazon.com believe they have the answer by allowing dogs in the workplace, dubbed ‘canines-in-the-cubicle’. This is believed to reduce stress, encourage interaction and force workers to take breaks from their screens without disrupting output.

People who own cats or dogs have better success in lowering or maintaining their blood pressure. That, at least, has been the findings of research carried out at the State University of New York at Buffalo on a group of New York stockbrokers, half were on medication only and the other half also had pets. The pet owners were best equipped to keep their pressure down during times of high stress.

Why do pets work?
dogs at workThey offer a non-judgmental presence that influences how owners see difficult events, ‘To have something in your life that's totally on your side has a very powerful effect. Somehow their presence changes your perception of what's going on from a threat to a challenge.’

Still, even if Betsy the greyhound is wary of the chaos on a trading floor, pets are beginning to play a greater role in stress reduction at work. Forget the indoor lawn, table football, chill rooms, espresso bars or stock-option incentives.
In the Internet economy, the dog is central to productivity.

In an era of dot.com insecurity, fluctuating stock prices and rapid technological change, dogs are portable havens of peace.
When Amazon.com looked for new office space in Seattle in 1999, they kept one objective firmly in mind.
The new building had to welcome their dog, Rufus.
The current building, after all, gives Rufus free rein. ‘His name is actually on the lease,’ said spokeswoman Kay Dangaard. As badly as the online community provider needs new space, a defiant Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com's CEO, ‘was willing to walk away if pets weren't allowed.’ According to Dangaard, ‘That was a deal-breaker.’ Asked to specify what she means by ‘pets,’ Dangaard laughs. ‘I believe it's generally taken that we're talking about dogs,’ she says. ‘I don't think we want cats around.’

AOL's Steve Case may or may not know about their effects on hypertension, but he has a sixth sense for the penchant for canines among the Net set. When AOL bought Netscape, the first thing Case told Netscape employees was that their dogs could stay, a cheer went up.

The portal company, Excite, has seen fit to ban dogs entirely. One rumor says CEO George Bell clamped down after an office dog barked and distracted him during a phone conversation. An Excite spokeswoman, who asks not to be identified, says only that the decision to ban dogs was ‘based on employee feedback.’ She hotly denies another rumor, ‘We do not have a flea problem.’ So dogs are out, but the company continues to house a fish, ‘A little guppy thing,’ she added.

The San Francisco office of New York-based Razorfish took a vote, and now Wednesdays are Dog Days.
Managing director Len Sellers says the Wednesday plan has made the office safe for staff dogs Booger, Colonel and Argus. Disruptions have been minimal. ‘The staff is much more rambunctious than the dogs,’ says Sellers, ‘and they shed more hair, too.’ ‘We got rid of the ferrets, though,’ he continues. ‘We did that for two reasons. One, they ran up people's legs and bit them. Plus, the governor of the state of California signed a bill saying ferrets were legal, so they became boring.’

So having a stroke at work need not be a bad thing!

Don Barker (c) 2000

Don Barker, 42, has been a freelance writer/photographer. Over the last twenty years he has been an accountant, technical author, IT trainer, management consultant, sound engineer and project manager. He is based in London, UK, has lived in Ireland and Australia,and worked in Thailand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia.

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