by Gene Marks

Are your employees stressed out and potentially suicidal? Two reports released this week indicate they could be.

The HR Digest reported that the incidence of employee suicides has intensified since 2007 and that more than a million workers have killed themselves since 2003 (30,000 of them are in the United States). The causes? Pressure from competition with colleagues, rivals and deadlines. Another study conducted by researchers at three British universities and published in the Journals of Gerontology confirmed that workers are indeed stressed, and the most stressed out ones are lower-level employees.

“Workers in lower status jobs tend to have more stressful working conditions—they have lower pay, poorer pension arrangements, less control over their work, and report more unsupportive colleagues and managers,” said one of the paper’s authors.

Employers can certainly help minimize this problem by creating more positive work environments, offering more flexible work schedules, paid time off and policies against bullying, harassment and intimidation. Employees, for their part can also take steps to address this problem. For example, they can just go work for a small business.

It’s true. Working at a small business may decrease stress, and the likelihood that you will commit suicide. That’s my take from yet another survey published this week by insurance company Aflac which surveyed 1,000 employees who worked at small companies. Some 84 percent said they were happy at their company; 48 percent attributed their happiness specifically to the fact that they worked for a small business.

A small business? Why so?

Recognition is one major reason. Two-thirds of these employees said that small businesses make them feel more appreciated than a large employer. As a result, more than half of them consider themselves to be more productive and motivated than their big company counterparts. Employees at small businesses see the results of their work quicker and feel that their input and contributions matter more.

Small businesses are still challenged to provide the same kind of benefits that larger companies offer. But there’s an enormous intangible benefit from working at a smaller company: a feeling that you’re making a difference. For many, that’s better compensation than cash—and it contributes to a happier, less stressful life.


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