Burnout, benefits and HR

There’s a buzz about burnout these days. Hardly surprising, when the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) confirms that stress, depression or anxiety account for 54% of all working days lost due to ill health.1

And with anxiety about coronavirus spreading more quickly than the disease itself, stress isn’t likely to diminish any time soon. What can employers do to combat burnout, especially in these trying times?

Debbie Kleiner, Head of Workplace Happiness at PES, braved the public on 12th March (prior to lockdown) and took part in a lively panel discussion about burnout at the Cover Mental Health & Wellbeing Summit. Here are some key themes that emerged from the discussion.

What is burnout?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes burnout as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ resulting from workplace stress that hasn’t been successfully managed. By implication, then, leaders and managers can play a key role in preventing it.

Easier said than done, especially in sectors where pressure is part of the territory. Research by the British Medical Journal shows that a third of doctors are experiencing burnout – and this was before the current public health crisis.

What can employers do?

  1. Culture plays a huge part in preventing burnout, so create a culture of openness. Lead from the front with a top team that walks the talk. Ensure that managers know how to manage people well and are trained to spot the signs of poor mental health.
  1. Create a wellbeing plan that is holistic and doesn’t just focus on isolated interventions. Consider how different aspect of your organisation mesh together to create a positive employee experience.
  1. Use a framework such as the Five Ways to Wellbeing to help balance your interventions.
  1. Offer and publicise employee benefits that help to alleviate stress such as:
  • Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs): one of the most obvious interventions perhaps, giving employees time and space to talk to someone outside work.
  • Health cash plans: often these include EAPs. They may also cover alternative treatments to promote relaxation such as massage, reiki and even hopi ear candles (yes, really!). Health cash plans also relieve financial worries by covering everyday healthcare expenses.
  • Private Medical Insurance: again, fairly obvious, but be sure to read the small print and highlight any hidden extras such as EAPs, virtual GP services, or reductions on spa package prices.
  • Discounted gym membership: exercise is a well-known antidote to stress, so encourage employees to take advantage of this benefit.
  • Group Income Protection: as well as offering peace of mind, some GIP providers may include free training on mental health awareness, and other bonuses.
  • Even online shopping perks can be stress-reducers: saving money and providing access to treats such as spa days or massages at reduced cost.
  1. Make sure that your HR policies and practices don’t add stress. Encourage regular breaks, try not to allow excessive overtime, consider flexible working more, teach managers how to recognise and deal with stress, and encourage open communication.

Some feedback from the panel discussion on burnout:

  • Really wonderful and honest session:)
  • Really positive and completely agree that the one-off yoga and fruit days are not enough.
  • Some really good points raised. we can all take some responsibility for getting this message out.
  • Excellent panel discussion, really informative, uplifting and engaging! Could have sat through more of it!
  • Thanks
  • Debbie was particularly knowledgeable but all three articulated their opinions well. Need more links with Private Medical Insurance (PMI) and protection perhaps.
  • Excellent panel, good range of knowledge. All did well and had plenty of good content.
  • A good session that gave many perspectives on how advisers can help employers to support their teams.

Need help?

If burnout is an issue for your organisation, or if you want to know more about creating a positive employee experience, contact us. We’d be delighted to help.