We live in an age of seemingly constant change, increasing demands, high anxiety and the sense that there’s never quite enough time. The stress of juggling the often competing responsibilities of work, family and personal lives, can leave us feeling overwhelmed by the volume of tasks and decisions we need to undertake.
It’s really no wonder that the rates of work-related stress and burnout are on the rise.
Burnout is an ‘occupational phenomenon’
The Wold Health Organisation has officially labelled burnout as an ‘occupational phenomenon’, rather than a medical condition.1World Health Organisation. (2019). Burn-out an “Occupational Phenomenon”: International Classification of Diseases. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/burn-out/en/ This classification demonstrates that the area of employee mental health and wellbeing is of growing concern and interest. A 2018 study by Gallup of 7,500 American employees showed that 23% reported feeling burned out very often or always, while a further 44% felt burned sometimes.2Wigert, B., & Agrawal, S. (2018). Employee Burnout Part 1: The 5 Main Causes. Gallup Organisation, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from: https://www.gallup.com/workplace/237059/employee-burnout-part-main-causes.aspx Research has consistently shown that stressed employees have lower levels of engagement and productivity, and higher rates of absentee days, presenteeism, and turnover. The resulting economic impact of work-related stress is estimated to be $US300 billion annually for American organisations.3The American Institute of Stress. Retrieved from https://www.stress.org/workplace-stress
The way we’re working isn’t working
If stressed is the new normal, it’s clear that something has to change in the way we’re working. Since the primary value exchange between employees and their organisations has been time for money, this has led to a one-size-fits all approach to the work day – with fixed hours, an expectation that we can consistently work at a hundred miles an hour, and driven by the ethos that more is faster and better. However, the science is pretty clear – these attitudes aren’t working for us, our mental health, or our employer’s bottom line. For organisations, the solution can’t simply be about reducing stress and burnout, but about making a shift towards building better working environments in which employees feel valued and supported.
Moving towards wellness
Prioritising a healthy culture and enhancing an employee’s experience in the workplace will have a positive impact on the business. We know that happy, healthy and engaged employees do more productive work, cost less, and have a lower turnover. A recent study conducted by IBM and Globoforce noted that a positive employee experience incorporated feelings of belonging, purpose, achievement, vigour and energy around their work. The study also looked at the financial impact of a positive employee experience showing that organisations that scored in the top 25% on employee experience reported double the return on sales when compared with organisations in the bottom quartile.4IBM and Globoforce. (2018). The Financial Impact of a Positive Employee Experience. Retrieved from: https://www.ibm.com/downloads/cas/XEY1K26O So while employee wellbeing programs have previously been viewed as an added bonus, perhaps it’s time that we consider them as a strategic necessity.
Moving in the direction of creating wellness in the workplace will take time. The key to successfully implementing wellbeing solutions is ensuring that the change is driven and embraced by an organisation’s leaders working to build new cultural expectations and practices. By doing so, organisations can support and encourage their employees to find a new rhythm of work that promotes energy, focus and engagement.