Senior business leaders often ask me how to help their teams achieve a good work-life balance. When we investigated the problem and possible solutions, I found that they weren’t doing what they wanted everyone else to do.
A senior leader comes to mind. He worked long hours for years despite being exhausted twice. He seemed surprised when I asked him what his role model was for the entire company.
Burnout is a psychological syndrome that results from prolonged exposure to stress factors at work. The three key dimensions of this response are overwhelming burnout, feelings of cynicism and detachment from work, and a sense of ineffectiveness.
Classified by the World Health Organization in 2020 as a medical condition, fatigue, along with other mental health issues, has skyrocketed during the pandemic. In 2020/21, stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 50 percent of all cases of work-related health problems.
The workplace has fundamentally changed in the past two years, and along with those changes, we have seen increasing rates of mental health problems, including burnout.
A pervasive reality in many UK businesses, it calls for urgent action. Left untreated, fatigue can lead to more serious mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Despite increasing awareness of the issue, access to science-backed mental health support continues to lag behind the need in many companies.
While not an exhaustive list, a good starting point for meaningful change is to look at the organization:
1. Build a top-down culture of “openness” about mental health, to change stigma and empower people to say what they really feel, to enable action and support.
2. Implement stress and burnout prevention policies to reflect a commitment to mental health in the workplace and ensure leaders actively emulate these values.
3. Educate: Implement ongoing stress and burnout awareness campaigns to tackle stress before it becomes a problem.
4. Take a person-centered approach to coping and treating stress and burnout. Implement company-wide strategies to support the development of resilience and adaptability.
5. Alert, flexible and responsible. Monitor workloads regularly to ensure they are sustainable and manageable. Ensure flexible work arrangements. Communicate priorities clearly. Ensure that managers who oppose policies are held accountable.
Sarah Bateup, Head, is Clinical Director of the workplace mental health platform Oliva Health
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