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By NOLA L SARKISIAN

Staff Reporter

Some people call them "cardiac arrest" careers, those jobs that seem to consume virtually all waking hours and every ounce of energy.

To address the issues confronting L.A.'s increasingly harried workforce, the Business Journal spoke with Larry Colson, vice president of consulting services at the Employers Group, a Los Angeles-based not-for-profit association. The Employers Group is the nation's oldest employer human resources services provider, serving some 5,000 companies statewide. Colson, a former human resources executive for CareAmerica and Litton Industries, has spent 25 years in the field.

Question: In what ways are specific industries becoming more stressful?

Answer: First of all you have to look at the definition of stress it really involves being in a position with issues you can't control. In entertainment, stress is not so much related to fear about losing your job because of consolidation it's the stress of being in a highly competitive industry to break into and stay in. In banking and health care, the wave of mergers is definitely a major source of stress in that it is creating lots of uncertainty about the future of careers. Also employees in merger-impacted industries often find themselves doing double-duty.

Q: Are people generally working longer hours?

A: Oh yes, absolutely. By definition, if you're in merger mode, more is expected out of everyone. It doesn't always mean more hours equals more stress. If people understand why they're working longer hours and feel that they are part of the team, they're willing to pitch in and help out. But if they're not in tune to what's going on and are unclear as to how they fit into the future puzzle of the company, they are going to be stressed.

Q: What are companies doing to help workers cope?

A: They're looking at more creative ways of structuring the work environment. They're looking at alternate work schedules, scaling back hours and telecommuting options to keep employees happy. So much stuff can be done remotely with technology. If people can work at home, they have more flexibility with family and child-care issues. And the company benefits by saving on costs for a computer, telephone and work space. As long as the work product is measurable employers can gauge that the work is being done why would an enlightened company care where the work is being done?

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