Warning Signs: How To Tell If Your Staff Is On The Verge Of A Burnout (And What To Do About It)

Enterprises are known to put well-being strategies usually far down their own agendas, and part of this is due to the fact that it is difficult to measure well-being- or so we may think.

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By Elena Agaragimova • Aug 8, 2020 Originally published Aug 8, 2020

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Most organizations take a reactive approach to employee well-being. Enterprises are known to put well-being strategies usually far down their own agendas, and part of this is due to the fact that it is difficult to measure well-being- or so we may think.

However, various reports show that in fact there are tangible numbers that go along with impact of employee well-being and productivity on the business financials.

For example, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Deloitte, there's an average cost per year per employee of GBP1,000 due to presenteeism, and it is a rate that is continuously increasing. Another report by Deloitte states that "only two in five" employees are working at peak performance," and presenteeism from mental ill health alone costs the UK economy over GBP15 billion annually.

CIPD research shows that "presenteeism, where employees feel the need to work even when unwell, and leaveism, where employees use their holiday allowance to work, are becoming more widespread." If a company is not able to recognize leaveism or presenteeism in the workplace, they could be facing major negative impact including employee stress and burnout, low engagement and morale, and increased mental health problems.

So, how can we, as leaders and organizations, spot the tipping point where the successful or struggling employee has pushed themselves too far, and is at risk of mental illness? Well, for starters, here are some of the red flags that companies should be looking out for. Presenteeism is often characterized by the following:

  • Increased level of mistakes
  • Decreased quality of work and low productivity
  • Poor time management
  • Excessively long hours: some people might sit at their desk for hours but struggle to get anything done
  • Working while being sick
  • Displaying signs of tiredness and exhaustion
  • Aggressive behavior, tearfulness, and low mood

Meanwhile, leaveism can be identified from these behaviors:

  • Always on attitude; employees don't disconnect from work
  • Not taking time off, and often rolling over vacation days when possible
  • Lack of trust of co-workers, employee avoids delegating or handing over projects
  • Working to complete projects on evenings or weekends/days off to meet deadlines

One of the ways companies can overcome these challenges is by implementing effective well-being programs- those that go beyond yoga mats in the office and Fitbits for all. Here are a few ideas on how to do just that:

1. Make well-being a key part of people management Management support is a key part of any well-being initiative in the workplace. Make it the norm to check in with your team, and ask them how they are doing; build those interpersonal relationships with your team members; understand what matters to them (what are their values, what drives them at work, etc.) Middle managers mainly hold the key to encouraging these priorities in the workplace. When you, as a manager and leader, practice well-being and health habits in the office and when working from home, your team members are likely to follow the example.

2. Make managers role models for mental health Ensure your leadership is practicing well-being at work, and leading by example. For example, do you have managers who send emails after 7pm at night, or before the sun is up? It might be sending the wrong signals to your teams such as "My boss is not disconnecting, so I cannot either." If you really need to send that email, schedule it to be sent during regular working hours.

3. Lead with purpose The younger generation in the workplace are there for more than just a paycheck; in fact, purpose to them and contributing to something larger than themselves is what drives the new generations. Make sure your company has a strong sense of purpose, and that it communicates that purpose and practices it accordingly. Let your employees feel proud to work there; create an inclusive environment for all and assign meaningful tasks.

4. Organize community service activities Bringing your team together for a cause (it can be for volunteering or team activities, online or face to face) will encourage those interpersonal relationships with colleagues that boost people's feeling of belonging and overall level of satisfaction. After all, our basic need is to feel that we are a part of something, and giving back to our communities has proven to make us feel happier.

Related: The How-To: Delivering An Employee Wellness Program That Works

5. Encourage healthy lunch breaks Encourage healthy eating- where possible, get corporate discounts to meal programs, or sessions with a nutritionist. If working in the office, replace (or remove) any vending machines with more healthier options; take out soda machines, include a water fountain instead. Remove unhealthy snacks– include fruits or veggie snacks instead.

6. Initiate fitness encouragement programs For example, the leadership team can encourage more "walking meetings' when possible. Other options include offering, say, a yoga class sponsored by the company once a week, or providing group discount sessions at local gyms and studios. Create a healthy competition between departments– for example, who takes the most steps this week as a team? Get creative.

7. Promote well-being on an ongoing process through structured programs, not only on occasions Don't leave well-being initiatives only for bi-annual group retreats or training sessions; incorporate it in the company culture. Put up reminders around the office space; create a quiet room where people can go for 10-minute breaks without any interruptions.

8. Focus on effective people management, and not perceive stress and mental health as weaknesses Are your employees afraid they will be seen as weak if they ask for mental health support? What does your culture stand for? Make it a norm to discuss mental health challenges, and create online and offline support groups for the workforce.

9. Train staff with skills to support well-being Not everyone has the skills and tools necessary to take care of their well-being- as such, provide resources for your staff to learn these. These can range from arranging short sessions on different well-being topics, inviting guest speakers to talk to your team– many professionals in the well-being space are offering complimentary sessions during these times.

10. Provide internal coaching and/or therapy to help employees deal with any mental health issue they're going through With the use of technology, it is more affordable and accessible to provide coaching for employees at times that work for them (outside the working hours) from the comfort of their homes.

Related: A Look At How Businesses In Dubai Are Ensuring The Physical And Mental Well-Being Of Their Employees Amid COVID-19

Elena Agaragimova

Co-founder, Bessern

Elena Agaragimova, a talent development specialist, is the co-founder of Bessern.

Elena is an engaging skilled trainer and talent development specialist, credited with combining operations, education, and international expertise to design and deliver programs for diverse audiences. She is known for her ability to drive change within individuals and organizations that are looking to reach their potential and maintain their competitive edge in the business world.

Elena started her career in higher education, having worked across various institutions, departments and regions. In her recent years, she dove into business and founded a learning and developing consultancy, Agar Global Services, and also co-founded Bessern, a  tech solution for productivity and well-being in organizations.

Elena is a regular contributor and various publications and online platforms in the Middle East, and when she is not leading talent transformation, she volunteers her time to help young students with their career development goals.

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