Rising stress at ECB puts almost 40% of staff at risk of burnout, survey finds


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Stress levels are increasing among European Central Bank staff, according to a poll, which found almost 40 per cent of its employees are at risk of burnout and 9 per cent have suicidal thoughts.

The survey results, seen by the Financial Times, show workplace anxiety in the ECB has increased in recent years. Some staff say they suffer from exhaustion, while others feel they lack control, are treated unfairly or are offered inadequate support.

The findings of the poll, which was carried out in April and May at the request of the ECB’s staff committee, elected by workers at the central bank, have prompted union officials to call for workers’ wellbeing to be taken more seriously.

Carlos Bowles, vice-president of the Ipso union that represents ECB staff, said: “The last thing Europe needs now is to see the ECB internal processes affected by poor judgment or mistakes in the data analysis before a crucial interest rate decision is to be made.”

Along with the intense workload, Bowles cited concerns over the impact of favouritism and “rigged recruitment” on staff mental health.

The proportion of ECB staff judged by those carrying out the study to be at risk of burnout increased from 33.2 per cent in the previous survey in 2021 to 38.9 per cent this year, with 146 employees, or 9.1 per cent of respondents, saying they had experienced suicidal thoughts — up from 6.1 per cent in 2021.

More than 77 per cent of respondents indicated they were suffering from at least one of the psychosomatic symptoms mentioned in the poll — a list that includes burnout, exhaustion, mood disorders and disengagement. 

Conducted by Psy@work, the study was based on responses by 1,602 members of the ECB’s 5,089 total staff.

The ECB said it had put measures in place “to respond to issues which had been identified previously and more measures to address issues such as workload and career opportunities are planned”. It said staff had access to a 24-hour helpline, social counsellors and medical advice.

“We take the health and wellbeing of our staff very seriously, and we will continue to engage with the staff committee and all our colleagues on these topics and their root causes,” an ECB spokesperson said.

It is also reviewing its internal reporting, investigation and disciplinary procedures, and carrying out focus groups in which staff can discuss workplace stress and suggest ways to improve their working conditions.

Union officials have previously clashed with the ECB over pay, lodging an official complaint last year after staff were given a 4 per cent pay rise at the start of 2023 — less than half the rate of Eurozone inflation the previous year.

Stress levels among ECB employees seem similar to those of the average European worker, however. Complaints of physical or emotional burnout were made by 39 per cent of workers based in the EU surveyed in 2021 by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.



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