Severe stress brought on by organisational change

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Following some significant changes to his work contract and location, Rob experienced severe work-related stress which was only exacerbated by a lack of co-operation and transparency within the organisation’s management hierarchy.  After signing him off on sick leave, Rob’s doctor referred him to Twining Enterprise and he met his Employment Specialist, Monisa.  He worked closely with Monisa who supported him to negotiate adjustments to his work schedule and location which made a return to work possible.  Here Rob tells us his story in his own words…

A year ago, the Council I worked for told us it was no longer funding the alarm service that I delivered, and they wanted it transferred to another authority.  Initially, they agreed a deal we were all happy with and the only change was moving to a nearby office so we could still all work together to continue offering the same service to customers.  However, six months in we were told we were returning to a Council we’d been with years ago – one we’d left because they’d run the alarm monitoring service so badly!  To make matters worse the offices were 14 miles away.

We all took it badly – one of my colleagues even resigned.  Three of us remained.  We started to be transferred over, and the Council came to see us and tried to change our job contracts, including changing our pay and annual leave without any consultation.  Feeling uncomfortable with what was happening, I decided to get a lawyer involved to represent us and the lawyer confirmed they couldn’t do this to us.

The Council’s HR person then spent a month changing back all the things they’d altered.  The only thing they wouldn’t change back was the pay date; but we agreed to that.  We also agreed I wouldn’t be travelling 14+ miles to their offices every day – there just wasn’t time.  I wanted to be hands-on and responsive to my customers needs, but I couldn’t because I couldn’t keep enough stock on the van and the office was too far away to be able to keep travelling back to pick up equipment.  I felt like vulnerable customers were at real risk if their alarms weren’t working – we were letting the service down.

The time came that we officially transferred via TUPE over to this new Council and two weeks in our payslips were all messed up.  We also needed new tax codes and I ended up having to sort all the administration out myself.  It felt like both Councils were struggling with how to manage the transfer, which exacerbated my anxiety levels.

Things continued to deteriorate – I had no time to do any of the service administration, and management would not listen.  I was so stressed and unwell by this time.  I had to learn all the new alarms and associated procedures, with no support or help from anyone.  I knew the job back to front and I knew I was good at it, but no one was helping me.

To make matters much worse, by the end of December our payslips were down by a total of £600 – right before Christmas!  This was the final straw!  By early January they’d still done nothing about paying us so I was left to call the tax office myself and thankfully they confirmed they’d deal with it.  After another payslip without the money owed, I finally got paid in full, but only because I got a lawyer involved.  It was horrible to have gone to those lengths just to be paid.  It was around this time that I also learnt the Council I had been transferred over to was struggling financially, which has potentially put my longer-term job security in jeopardy – something which is still hanging over my head now.

I felt so terrible with the stress I called my Doctor.  I said I thought I was having a nervous breakdown and I told her the story of how we’d all been messed about so badly and she was horrified.  I have ulcerative colitis – and if you have a flare up – you could end up in hospital.  Stress can really bring it on.  She signed me off till further notice because she could see how stressed I was.  My doctor also suggested Twining Enterprise, along with the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) I was doing.

The support I went on to receive from my Twining Employment Specialist, Monisa, has just been fantastic!  Monisa helped me to write an email to the Council’s senior managers and HR.  We included all the detail about how all the procedures had changed and how there had been no support to learn or understand them, and about how I had been so poorly treated during the change in contracts and payroll.

They came back a week later and agreed to everything bar one thing.  They wouldn’t give me an office nearby to enable me to pick up the alarm equipment.  But other than that, the email had been really effective in getting what I needed.

I returned to work on a gradual basis – initially just 3-hours per day.  That was part of what we had requested in the email Monisa helped me to write.  I also now have between 3-5pm every day officially allocated to admin and paperwork.  I’m also working across two Borough’s, and I’ve told them the most logical order to visit each Borough so I’m not driving unnecessarily for hours every day.

In terms of feeling stressed, when it all started, I was 10 out of 10!  However, with the support I’ve received, and the adjustments made to my working day I’ve gone down to a 4 out of 10.  The stress is still there; there’s always concerns about losing my job or more changes that might happen, but I’ve only got five years before retirement anyway.  As it stands now, I’m happy as long as I’m doing what I’m doing.

Working with Monisa at Twining really helped me through such a difficult time.  I think it helped that she wasn’t a family member or a person that knows me, I didn’t necessarily want to talk with people that knew me all the time.  Monisa just really listened to me and I felt like she was on my side.  She listened and suggested ways to not let myself get more down.  She was kind, caring, courteous, supportive and very helpful.

When I first stopped working I still went out and about every day - but I couldn’t do all my normal things like music or meals with my wife, all the things I normally enjoyed before it all started.  I had got very depressed – I got down.  Monisa helped me to get back to that happier place.  Every week Monisa would make me laugh – and even her boss joined one of our meetings and started to talk to me – and made me laugh too.  Writing the email really helped me – to get everything written down in one place and sent off.  It was also great when they agreed to everything I said and requested.

I want my story out there – so employers can understand how what may seem like inconsequential administrative decisions and actions can have a huge impact on employee’s physical and mental health.  It can be incredibly damaging and hard to come back from.  Thankfully services like Twining exist to help you when you need them most.

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