In this fast-paced world, the pressure to constantly achieve and perform has led to the rise of "hustle culture" glorifying long working hours and high expectations. This has also naturally contributed to the prevalence of burnout, with employees feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and disengaged. It's time to shift the narrative from "hustle" to "well-being" and recognize that burnout is a real issue that needs to be addressed proactively.
Recognized by the World Health Organization as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” burnout has soared during the pandemic.
73% of employers not covering mental health in their employee health benefits package: Loop survey
Early Intervention is Key
Being proactive in identifying and addressing burnout warning signs is crucial. Employers should train their managers to recognize signs of burnout, such as decreased productivity, frequent absenteeism, and changes in behaviour or attitude. Early intervention through supportive conversations, flexible work arrangements, or access to mental health resources can help prevent burnout from escalating.
Suyash Kumar, Manager, Masai School says “It is important to sensitize managers and workplaces about mental health problems and have policies around it. Creating psychological safety in the organization can help to remove the fear of being found out and losing one's job due to mental health issues. Treating mental health issues like physical health issues can help to convince people to use the policies in place.”
Companies should provide free services without any limits and consider getting a good Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider on board.
As companies grow, they may need to hire a better provider that can help employees at scale.
Burnout has become a company-wide issue, and companies can identify it through anonymous surveys and psychological first aid training.
Psychological first aid training helps identify signs of distress and how to approach employees and offer professional help.
Suyash further mentions “I believe that it's not realistic to expect sensitive discussions to happen internally in any team. There are too many insecurities and fears surrounding these conversations, and it will take time before we can change that. However, organizations can provide psychological safety by sensitizing their managers and training employees in psychological first aid to break the misconceptions and myths that exist in this space. It's also essential to create a psychologically safe environment in the company where employees feel comfortable discussing personal matters with HR or their managers, knowing that their confidentiality will be maintained, and it won't affect their performance or career.
Strategies for Supporting Employee Mental Health
Employers can support their employees' mental health in plenty of ways.
Firstly, they must communicate openly and authentically about mental health and model healthy behaviours.
They can provide flexible and supportive work arrangements that accommodate individual needs and preferences.
They can invest in training and education for managers and employees on how to recognize and respond to mental health issues.
They can create a culture of belonging and psychological safety that values diversity and respects differences.
Finally, they can measure and improve the impact of mental health initiatives on employee well-being and performance.
Talking about mental health in the workplace can be difficult, but it's an important conversation to have. Humanizing interventions in the workplace is about prioritizing real, meaningful conversations and recognizing our human needs and limitations. By reaching out, prioritizing human needs, and embracing imperfection, we can create a more supportive and inclusive workplace culture that values mental health and well-being.
So, how do we humanize those interventions? How do we teach people not to allow their jobs to become their lives? Here are some tips:
Start with a Check-In
We can begin the conversation by simply asking, “Folks, how are things going? What’s working well, what’s not working so well?” This allows everyone to share their thoughts and experiences, particularly since we've come out of the pandemic where we may have a lot of ideas and experiences of what worked and what didn't work. By starting the conversation this way, we show that we care about our colleagues and their well-being.
Conduct an Organizational Checkup
Similar to a medical checkup, an organizational checkup can help identify areas where we can improve our work environment. This shows that we care about creating the best possible workplace for everyone to do their best work.
Communicate Back and Take Action
It's essential to communicate back to employees after a check-in or checkup. Share the ideas and feedback that were given and ask for more input on how we can make positive changes. This shows that we're not only listening but also taking action.
Prioritize Human Needs
Let's face it, we're not robots. We have human needs and limitations. Instead of focusing solely on productivity, we need to prioritize the things that make us human. That means setting boundaries, taking breaks, and making time for self-care.
Move Beyond Blaming Individuals
It's important to move away from individualistic and victim-blaming thinking. Instead, we need to take the context of the job and social environment into account when discussing mental health challenges. By doing so, we can address the root causes of these challenges and create a more supportive work environment.
Have policies in place
Suyash says “To assess the organization's current standing in terms of psychological safety, I can ask employees to rate their experience and give a score. After six months, I can repeat this process to see if any improvements have been made. I can use any method of assessment that is available, but if necessary, I can reach out to psychologists for help. When working with psychologists, it's important to interview them and ensure that they are qualified clinical psychologists. They need to assist with group interventions and provide guidance on how to improve psychological safety in the workplace.”
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