Coping in tough times

Periods of economic recession are known to affect the fiscal and monetary policies of governments, and to contribute to contraction within the business community. With a slowdown in business activity, the net result is that a recession affects all categories of workers.

Persons on temporary contracts and those of lesser skills are amongst those who feel the squeeze when it comes to being laid off from work. One of the main fallouts of a recessionary period is that persons could find themselves unemployed for a period ranging from six months to a year.

Usually, a high level of unemployment is to be found within the construction and manufacturing sectors; which ironically are two of the main employment sectors in most economies.

The fact that businesses go under, means that unemployment becomes a creature of a recession. Inevitably, the hardship which sets in is felt in the main by those who are now on the breadline. Some persons are able to cope with the prevailing circumstances, while others experience bouts of depression.

It cannot be an easy time for most, especially on either side of the fence, where the male is the breadwinner of the family, or in the instance where there is a single parent home and the full responsibility for the support of the home falls to the mother. Irrespective of the gender, persons are challenged to survive, and do so against the odds, particularly where there are few employment options available to them.

It may be the case that some persons have limited skills and talents, and therefore are unable to resort to an alternate course of employment. This highlights the need for persons to undertake to develop what skills and talents they have, so that they can make themselves marketable. The fact that the lack of marketable skills and talents may prove to be an obstacle, the bigger problem may be the lack of employment opportunities.

The stress and strain faced during an economic recession may vary from person to person. There is a school of thought that men are more affected than women. This is supported by research conducted by the Cambridge University in Britain. The study found that men are more likely than women, to worry about losing their job during a recessionary period.

According to the author of the study, Dr. Brendan Burchell, of the University of Cambridge’s Sociology Department, “Job security is said to effect man’s masculinity and self image. In part, there is a macho issue about men being the breadwinner.” The reality remains, that both men and women will be affected in one way or another.

It is for persons affected to maintain focus, and not resort to actions that can further add to their depressed state of mind. The fear an employee has of losing his/her job, and the reality of it, can lead to stress and depression which needs to be managed. Resorting to alcohol, illegal drug use or other forms of anti-social behaviour, can not be the answer. It is best that access to some form of counselling is explored. Individuals who are going through this experience could benefit from the emotional support of friends and family.

The knowledge of possible layoffs and/or redundancies can lead to the stress and anxiety of employees. Employers can play a decisive role in mitigating the level of stress, frustration and anxiety by communicating with their employees. Good workplace communication can serve to keep them focus so as to maintain high levels of productivity, as well as to reduce levels of absenteeism. Since workplace stress leads to a high level of absenteeism, this is the last thing that employers should want.

By engaging employees, employers can secure the buy-in of the workers, and this could prove significant in helping the enterprise to reduce the fallouts that could be felt during the period of recession. It may reduce the need to embark on a programme of layoffs or redundancies. The action of employers to discontinue bonus payments and incentives programmes may be pursued as a cost cutting measure.

This in itself may be compromising, as it can reduce output levels, and lead to diminishing financial returns. Weighing the pros and cons in this instance, it may be the ideal time to use incentive measures to motivate workers so as to stimulate higher levels of productivity. As it seems employees become extremely vulnerable in recessionary times. The extent to which they stand to be disadvantaged is captured in wage freezes and minimum pay increases.

In a recession it is understandable that employers will look to implement measures for the purpose of securing their interest. Regrettably, one of the unfortunate mistakes they always seem to make is to slash training costs. The move to reduce the hiring of new employees is generally the norm. The strategy of engaging young workers as apprentices is used to full advantage by employers. Under the guise that these young workers are being provided with work experience, employers use this as a means of reducing operational costs. At the end of the day these young workers are basically being exploited. They are not salaried, neither are they entitled to any benefits. There is also the case where employers will engage young workers on short term contracts, or as temporary, part time or casual employees. The downside of this is that many of them may not qualify for unemployment benefits; and as a result, can fall into the bed of poverty.

* Dennis De Peiza is a Labour Management Consultant with Regional Management Services Inc.

Visit our Website: www.regionalmanagementservicesinc

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