I just reviewed a study on stress in the workplace. It could have been describing many of the financial institutions I trained in twenty years ago, but it definitely described the ones I visit these days.
According to the study 37% of the people Gallup talked to say their stress level at work has increased over a year ago. Only 10% said they are experiencing less stress at work.
The worst numbers in the study, though, are the 78% who report they are working harder, and 65% who say they can't finish all the work they need to do in a typical day, leaving at the end of the day feeling frustrated, and starting the next day the same way. There was no percentage on how many took work home at night, but I can remember when I worked in a bank, I almost never left the office without a full briefcase . After the children were in bed, it was a typical evening if you found me in one room working on the brief case "stuff" while my "other half" watched TV in the family room - with the volume turned down so I could work undisturbed.
Editor's Note: It was when I started taking TWO briefcases home every night that I decided to quit working a 60 to 70 hour week for the bank, and went into business for myself. Please note - I now work about an 80 hour work week! But even I'll admit - it's an enjoyable, different type of stress!
When I train branch people about opening and closing procedures, sometimes the biggest offenders of safe and secure openings are branch managers, who tell me they "...can get more done in the hour I have alone before the branch opens than I can get done all day with the phone and the customers and the problems."
Just consider how stress has increased in the financial institution just because of improved communication. The banker of old did business face to face when the customer came in. Then the telephone entered the picture, and we got so good at it, we even put multiple lines on our desks. And then the FAX was introduced. Paper to add to our piles. And now email, cluttering up our screens, and minds, all day. And behind all this, someone emphasizes the fact that we have to get back to making the customer feel important!
Stress piled on stress when we hit Y2K, and many of us found we could handle much more than we thought we could. It was good training for what has been happening during the last few weeks. After September 11, we knew there was hunting and reviewing and customer identification to do - on top of what we do every day anyway - and there was no complaint about the time and effort it took to do it.
I have seen bankers in action, and I'm firmly convinced that whether it's customer disclosures, or handling robberies, or recovering from floods, ice storms, hurricanes or earthquakes, or even from bombs and tragedy - there is absolutely nothing they can't accomplish. They may grouse sometimes doing it, but for some reason, this industry and the people who staff our financial institutions seem to prosper and thrive on stress.
Copyright © 2001 Bankers' Hotline. Originally appeared in Bankers' Hotline, Vol. 11, No. 10, 10/01
First published on 10/01/2001