How can employers help reduce burnout?

Answered by: Richard Holmes, director of wellbeing at Westfield Health and Claire Brown, qualified life and career coach

Excessive stress is considered to be a major predictor of burnout and other mental health impacts. A recent mental health and employee stress study, speaking to employees from over 500 companies in the UK, found that almost half of employees in the UK (47%) experienced excessive stress at work in the past year. And this is becoming a big challenge for employers trying to retain their employees, since one in eight have considered leaving their current job due to excessive work-related stress. In fact, 1 in 10 have actually quit in the last 12 months for this reason.

The research also uncovered some of the biggest impacts of excessive stress. Prominent effects described were an inability to sleep (reported by 41%), physical health impacts (30%) and withdrawal from social interactions and relationships (26%).

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Pressure at work is usually the main culprit and when budgets are tight and teams are small, people often find themselves with multiple roles and heavy workloads, piling on the stress.

Policies like turning off email servers outside of working hours helps ring-fence valuable recovery time. Mental health first aid training can also help managers spot the signs or triggers and put preventions in place.

When employees were asked about the support received from their workplace, one in every eight employees felt they didn’t receive the required support.

In terms of the factors affecting stress levels, 26% of employees reported that the greatest cause of excessive stress in their job role was an unmanageable workload. This was followed by financial concerns, with 24% saying the excessive stress was a result of inadequate pay, which left them struggling to keep up with their bills. Dissatisfaction with employers and managers was also a significant contributing factor, with 18% of employees saying that management was poor or lacking, and 17% describing a lack of support from their company.

Claire Brown adds:

“Companies should look to encourage employees to have input into the organisation of tasks, duty and priorities and be invited to engage at every possible level in devising an in-house stress management policy. Employees should be encouraged to prioritise their health & wellbeing above productivity by taking regular breaks from the screen and getting fresh air where possible. Providing alternative and innovative ways for connection and communication between team members is also really valuable.

“By adopting a flexible attitude and approach to how and when work is completed, this alleviates some of the pressure and mental strain. As always, communication is key. It’s important for employers to be fair and realistic about what is possible and to seek opportunities to provide practical support to help team members manage their workload.”