San Francisco, CA (WorkersCompensation.com) – Experts say managing employee stress levels is key to employee health, following a CNN report that Uber investigators are near suicidal. An oft-quoted national speaker on employee management said organizations in highly pressured industries can prevent mental health-related issues by creating supportive atmospheres.
CNN Business released a report detailing how employees within Uber’s Special Investigations Unit were “overworked, underpaid and at times emotionally traumatized,” according to a leaked memo cited by the news network. The memo said the company’s relatively young investigative staff members, who work for about $18.50 per hour, were responsible for dealing with some of the worst claims made by customers against Uber drivers, and were struggling with a workload of up to 1,200 cases per week. The complaints dealt with sexual assault, traffic accidents, verbal abuse and physical assault.
Part of an overall analysis from an outside company to Uber about the department, the 26-page report noted that although the team members loved “being associated with a hot brand,” the workplace conditions were so bad that employees risked mental health issues up to and including suicide.
“A single suicide by an Uber investigator who posts that they could not ‘take’ the job demands any longer will be fodder for the national if not international news media,” the memo said, according to CNN.
CNN quoted Uber as saying, “we have been putting safety at the heart of everything we do. Uber will continue to focus on safety in 2019, including through the release of an accurate transparency report.”
The report indicated that the team of 60 investigators and 15 managers handled cases, which, according to CNN, dealt with some of the more disturbing incidents at Uber. The investigators were forced to “directly interact, sometimes several times a day, with perpetrators and victims, some of whom use vile language, make direct and indirect threats, discuss deeply disturbing sexual and other assaults.”
Because of the stress, some employees exhibited signs of a “serious level of stress and anxiety,” and had “untreated depression … because of a massive caseload.”
Advice for Employers
Employees in high stress industries can be particularly vulnerable to mental health challenges, unless their employers take steps to foster a positive environment.
“It’s about creating a culture that supports employees working in high stress environments,” said Brian Fielkow, an author and speaker on building engaged workforces, and the CEO of Jetco, a Houston-based transportation and logistics company. “To create that culture, you have to ensure you have the right people for the job and the right processes and support structure for your team.”
- Creating clear and easy-to-understand processes
- Encouraging and emphasizing to employees that it’s okay to ask for help
- Providing coaching and assistance to employees when you feel it’s needed
Fielkow said it would be a mistake, however, to assume that an employee’s rate of pay contributed to the stress the employee feels.
“Fair pay is critical. If we cannot pay our bills and have a good quality life, it makes it very hard to work with clarity,” he said. “That said, in order to achieve work satisfaction, it’s important for employers and candidates to ensure there is a good fit with the position profile. If its special investigations unit employees are not well suited for the position, money will not solve the problem. Unhealthy levels of stress and mental health issues do not know any socio-economic bounds. It’s a mistake to conclude that Uber’s pay scale is the cause of the challenges that it is facing.”