First his fingers, forearms and toes tingled; then he was gripped by a mental paralysis. “I couldn’t think about how to make a decision,” says the banking executive in his mid-forties. “I completely froze. I felt my IQ had dropped 50 points.” The trigger for his anxiety, he says, was unrealistic work demands. “Not making decisions made it worse as I was then not performing.”
Yet this City worker , who prefers not to be named, tried to conceal his anxiety because he feared his employer would think he was not cut out for the job. The prevailing culture at his office was to keep your head down, work hard, admit no weakness. He wanted to be seen as efficient and resilient. People noticed that his work — rather than his mental health — was suffering. “Given that I have always been pretty much the ‘golden boy’, when my boss took me to task I imploded.”
然而，这位希望不具名的伦敦金融城(City of London)从业人士试图隐瞒他的焦虑情绪，因为他害怕他的雇主会认为他不适合干这份工作。在他所在的办公室里，盛行的文化是埋头苦干，不承认自己有任何弱点。他希望被视为一个高效和抗压能力强的员工。人们注意到他的工作业绩——而不是他的精神健康——变差了。“由于我几乎一直是‘金童’，所以当我的老板责备我的时候，我爆发了。”
Plagued by a fear that he was a fraud he considered suicide. That was in 2014.
After receiving psychiatric help he is now back at work and has become an expert atspotting the signs of anxiety in others. “The characteristics that contribute to stress can also be the reason high achievers have reached their positions — people pleasing, perfectionism, the need to be strong and to be hyper vigilant to emerging threats,” he says.
His case is a stark example of the anxiety and stress that employees experience, and employers are increasingly having to pay attention to. It is a global phenomenon, but in the UK alone the most recent report from the chief medical officer estimates that the number of sick days lost to “stress, depression and anxiety” increased by 24 per cent between 2009 and 2013. The statistics are alarming: one report from Rotman School of Management in Toronto, published this year shows that 41 per cent of employees from a range of industries reported high levels of anxiety .
他的经历鲜明地体现出员工感受到的焦虑和压力，雇主越来越有必要对此加以关注。这是一个全球性现象，然而仅仅在英国，据政府首席医务官最新的报告估计，2009年到2013年间“压力、抑郁和焦虑”导致的病假天数上升了24%。统计数据令人惊恐：多伦多罗特曼管理学院(Rotman School of Management)今年发表的一份报告表明，在来自一系列行业的员工中，有41%的人称自己焦虑水平很高。
The increase is often blamed on modern working life. The constant buzz of texts, emails and tweets mangles our brains and stalks our sleep; robots are in the ascendancy, threatening to steal our jobs. New technologies emerge from left-field to flatten established companies; work appears insecure, corporate ties loose. And expectations of professional life have changed. Work, once the activity we did for money and status, is now supposed to provide personal fulfilment. The upshot? We are afflicted with unease, fear and worry.
“After a decade of disruption, cutbacks and lay-offs, anxiety among employees is running very high,” says Bill George, a senior fellow at Harvard Business School.
“经过10年的扰乱、削减和裁员后，员工的焦虑已经非常严重了，”哈佛商学院(Harvard Business School)高级研究员比尔吠治(Bill George)表示。
Anxiety is typically described as a feeling of unease, worry or fear. When it becomes acute the effects can be debilitating. Some people are more vulnerable to it than others, at different periods in their lives. It is not something we can ever wholly eliminate and it can, at times, be helpful in improving our performance. But too much and it can be corrosive, on occasion leading to alcohol and drug abuse.
Absenteeism is just one problem for employers. The loss of productivity — dubbed “presenteeism” — is another. This occurs when employees come to work but function below par because of ill health. Research suggests this trend predominantly affects white-collar workers and that the costs can be high. One report estimated that presenteeism, including all medical and mental health issues, shaved 2.7 per cent off Australia’s gross domestic product in 2010. A study in the Journal of Applied Psychology, published earlier this year, reported: “Anxiety interferes with people’s ability to process immediate events, resulting in lower performance.”
对于雇主来说，缺勤只是焦虑造成的问题之一。另一个问题是工作效率降低——又称“假性出勤”。这是指虽然员工来上班了，但是由于健康状况欠佳，工作效率低于一般水平。研究表明，受这种影响的主要是白领，其代价可能十分高昂。一份报告估计，2010年，包括所有身体和精神健康问题在内，假性出勤使澳大利亚国内生产总值(GDP)损失了2.7%。《应用心理学期刊》(Journal of Applied Psychology)今年早些时候发表的一份论文称：“焦虑干扰了人们处理即时事件的能力，从而导致表现低下。”
In response, companies are introducing programmes to help workers cope better with stress and anxiety. Even in hyper-competitive industries such as finance or technology, there is increased understanding that attending to their employees’mental wellbeing may be good for profits.
Michael Sinclair, a psychologist in the City of London, sees a “tremendous” number of bankers and lawyers with work-induced anxiety. “They work at a relentless pace,” he says. “The pressure is always on and there is a culture of incessant email communication.”
But he also believes there is a bigger problem for companies: such anxiety can be infectious. “A company’s fear of failure breeds the same fear among its employees creating a ‘company sickness’ and culture of anxiety,” says Dr Sinclair. “Ironically this backfires and impacts the bottom line.”
Technology is a contributing factor, says Nigel Jones, a lawyer and co-founder of the City Mental Health Alliance, a non-profit organisation for London’s financial services workers. He believes the intensity has increased since he started work 30 years ago.
针对伦敦金融服务业员工成立的非营利性组织伦敦金融城心理健康联盟(City Mental Health Alliance)的联合创始人、律师奈杰尔琼斯(Nigel Jones)表示，科技是一个促成焦虑的因素。他认为，从他30年前参加工作开始，工作的强度就一直在增加。
“Clients want more in terms of speed, quality. There is more pressure at work and the risk of anxiety is higher,” he says, adding that 27 City employers have become members of the network within two years. “Expectations of a speedy response [to a client] have got higher but the expectations of the quality of work have not gone down.”
Gianpiero Petriglieri, associate professor of organisational behaviour at Insead Business School, sees the rise of social media as triggering what has become known as “presentation anxiety”, making people feel vulnerable. We suffer from “being always on”, he says.
Although unemployment in the UK is at a seven-year low, short-term contracts and overall job insecurity have risen for millions of people, from steelworkers to nurses and bankers.
Some argue that it is impossible to calculate the impact of changing technology and employment conditions on the rise in reported cases of anxiety.
“Trying to directly compare levels of anxiety between eras is a fool’s errand,” says Scott Stossel, author of My Age of Anxiety. “Modern poll data and statistics about rising and falling levels of tranquilliser [use] aside, there is no magical anxiety meter that can transcend the cultural particularities of place and time.”
“想要直接比较不同时代的焦虑水平只会徒劳无益，”《我的焦虑时代》(My Age of Anxiety)的作者斯科特施托塞尔(Scott Stossel)表示，“排除现代民意调查数据和有关镇静剂使用水平起伏的统计数据，根本不存在一个能够超越不同时空文化特点来衡量焦虑水平的神奇尺度标准。”