As caveman in the wild – only those fit enough were able to survive. Only those fast enough were able to escape predators.

Our body’s stress-response - the rapid rise in blood sugar levels, the fast-beating heart, the dilated pupils, the release of adrenalin and cortisol…was designed to help us to run away from tigers and lions.

Yet today – as workers sitting in an office, in front of a computer – we are physiologically responding to our boss/the phone ringing/the piles of work that we have to do…in the same way as we would respond if we were constantly sitting in front of a giant predator…

it is no wonder that most of us are unwell and exhausted.

A survey published recently by the Junior Lawyer’s Division estimates that over 82% of junior lawyers feel that they are under too much emotional or mental pressure (and would describe themselves as stressed). The things causing stress for junior lawyers include client demands, excessive workload and a lack of support in the workplace.

Our bodies are not designed to sustain a stress response for long periods of time – and yet when we are all dealing with too much work, too little time and lots of people fighting for our attention – many people are extremely stressed most of the time - AND THIS IS MAKING US ALL SICK – BOTH MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY.

The lawyers surveyed by the Junior Lawyer’s Division are spending most of their time feeling the same physical symptoms they would experience if they had a lion sitting in their office – this clearly is going to have an impact on the quality of the work that they will produce as well as their health. Of the junior lawyers surveyed 83% reported that their firm could be doing more to support stress at work.

So perhaps organisations need to start asking whether the workplace culture they have created is really conducive to employees producing the best work they can. Feeling constantly stressed puts us physiologically in a state where we are not able to think as effectively or be as creative. Therefore changing workplace culture in order to minimise stress experienced by staff is important not just to protect their health but also to ensure the best possible output from the organisation.

It would seem that getting employees to do slightly less work in 8 hours, rather than far too much in 12 – may just mean that they are more likely to come up with innovative, creative solutions, produce accurate and brilliantly written reports and generally do the best they can do for the organisation. 

As a caveman in the wild – only those fit enough were able to survive.

As a worker in an office however – constant stress is probably compromising an individual’s ability to thrive.

Employees are responding to long working hours, excessive workloads and a lack of support in the workplace in the same way as they would if they had a predator permanently housed in their office. Organisations should start asking what can be done to improve working culture to reduce the stress experienced daily by employees – because removing the lion from the office may just enable staff to be more creative and productive.