STRESS among Argyll and Bute Council’s employees could be reduced by relying less on the use of email, a councillor has suggested.

Councillor Ellen Morton said that the volume of emails received by council staff had been raised as a contributory factor to stress at a debate she recently attended.

The Helensburgh and Lomond South councillor was speaking during last week’s meeting of Argyll and Bute Council’s policy and resources committee.

Members of the committee rubber-stamped a £90,000 ‘health and wellbeing’ plan, involving the recruitment of two new staff, to try to cut sickness absence among its employees.

READ MORE: Argyll and Bute Council's £90k a year plan to cut staff sickness

Councillor Morton said: “I was asked to speak to the improvement service last week at one of their seminars for future leaders of councils. Essentially I was speaking to third tier managers.

“Among the issues being raised there, several times and for all across Scotland, was that one of the biggest stress factors was email.

“The sheer volume of it coming across employees’ desks makes it a cause of stress, and if you have come back from a fortnight off, you come back to potentially thousands of emails.

“These are all sitting waiting to be dealt with. I know we are talking about how we are going to manage it better, but are we going to have any feedback?”

READ MORE: Stress is driving rise in Argyll and Bute Council sick days

Councillor Morton continued: “There are things that we could be doing to implement measures to deal with the impact of things like email.

“When we do the budgets every year, the reality is, whether we like it or not and without being party political, budgets are shrinking every year.

“We are faced with a really tough decision and some jobs are reduced and departments merged.

“What we need to take on board is that we cannot put too much stress on our staff.

“We need to think very proactively in supporting our staff. Emails, for example, partly through our own fault, are not reducing work – they are adding to it.”

Council chief executive Cleland Sneddon was at the meeting and addressed Councillor Morton’s point on the use of email.

READ MORE: Council is missing sickness absence targets, says new report

He said: “We have hugely less resources than we had. Taking it back to 2010, we have had to make £57 million worth of savings since then.

“If you think about it, if somebody came along and gave us £57 million, just think of what we could do.

“However, some of these reductions impact on individuals and communities have felt the impact.

“So the volume of enquiries has not reduced, but we have a lot less managers to deal with it. It is quite frustrating, but understandable.

“I see individuals encouraging people to write to individual officers, but they are getting multiple communications on the same topic that require multiple individual responses.

“I understand the position, but there are a number of things we can do to support staff with stress. Email is an example, but changing people’s expectations of the council is another.”

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The health and wellbeing strategy was approved, with Councillor Andrew Vennard, depute policy lead for corporate services, saying: “We care about our employees and want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help them live healthy lives.

“It’s clear that employees who feel well and who see that their employer is engaged in their wellbeing will be more productive in their roles.

“That also benefits the council as an organisation as well as the members of the public we serve.”