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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

It’s all just part of the job

Some of the most pervasive beliefs about the workforce have recently been challenged by findings from Towers Perrin’s 2007 Global Workforce Study, including the notion that workers are highly stressed, resent the demands of new technologies and dislike their bosses. To understand what drives employees to perform and succeed, Towers Perrin surveyed nearly 90 000 employees in 18 countries.

Concerns about the negative effects of a ‘stressed-out’ workforce appear to be overstated, according to the Towers Perrin findings. In fact, 68% of those surveyed reported being neutral to, or energised by, on-the-job stress.

Yet another prevalent myth is that today’s workforce is ‘living to work’, choosing to put work at the centre of their lives. While people are working hard — putting in, on average, almost 45 hours per week, with nearly a fifth routinely working 51 hours or more — few employees shared that view. More than half the respondents (59%) reported that they work to support their lives and the needs of their families, versus 18% who agreed that work is the most important aspect of their lives.

The distinction was more apparent in the US, despite a common view that ‘workaholism’ has spread outward from the region. Among US respondents, almost three-quarters (72%) agreed they essentially work to live, with only 9% surveyed putting work at the centre of their lives.

One of the ways to achieve balance is through increased use of technology, which is viewed as a positive factor in the work experience and not as the 24/7 ‘virtual prison’ it is often made out to be. While comic strips such as Dilbert and television shows make light of workforce negativity and malaise, the Towers Perrin survey found that most workers are satisfied, with a positive outlook about themselves and their organisations.

The Actuary was impressed with these results and moved to wonder if it is still the case that actuaries are more satisfied than the generality of employees?