When you think of a burnt out employee, what comes to mind? Beyond the physical elements like frazzled hair or tired eyes, how do you see their mental state? Employee burnout is a serious issue affecting many employees today. It’s a long-term stress reaction that shows up as physical and/or mental collapse.
How much of an impact would you guess that poor mental health overall has on the world’s economy? As the World Health Organization reports, “Depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is US$1 trillion per year in lost productivity.”
So, what can businesses do today to protect their employee’s wellness, prevent burnout and avoid the business costs associated with poor wellness?
To tackle this issue head on, business should start with three key strategies:
- Recognize the signs of employee burnout
- Create a wellness strategy to prevent burnout
- Begin to embrace the financial return of wellness programs
How to Recognize Employee Burnout
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites work-related stress as the leading workplace health problem and a significant occupational health risk, one that outranks physical inactivity and obesity. Burnout affects the physical, mental and emotional state of a person.
Physically, people who are burnt out may get headaches, feel fatigued or even experience moments where they are short of breath. People may change their eating habits or lose their appetites.
Burnout warning sign: Employees are taking more sick days or skipping meals often.
Mentally, people experiencing burnout can be constantly worried and unable to focus. Lack of sleep – which presents both physical and mental symptoms – is also common.
Burnout warning sign: People seem exceptionally worried and where once focused are now distracted. People may complain about lack of sleep.
Emotionally, irritability affects people with burnout, which can lead to less than ideal interpersonal communication. Feeling cynical or detached is also common.
Burnout warning sign: You notice generally agreeable people starting arguments or making harsh comments. People may get upset or tear up more than normal.
Create a Wellness Strategy to Prevent Burnout
The first step to creating a wellness strategy that prevents burnout is to get executive and leadership buy-in. In our recent eBook, Your Guide to Employee Wellbeing, we offer an in-depth look at making the business case for wellness, overcoming the challenges to creating your wellness program and measuring the success of wellness programs.
We also guide you through a three-step process for planning your wellness strategy, starting with executive buy-in. Company executives want to know that any new program, including wellness, will support the bottom line and long-term company growth. Stacey Nordwall, Senior People Operations Manager at Culture Amp, says that while there’s no one way to ensure buy-in, when launching Culture Amp’s employee wellbeing guide, she used these three tactics as part of our overall strategy:
- Create a business case that highlights how wellbeing fits into to your mission, values, brand and employee value proposition. Show how valuable it is as a tool for supporting and retaining employees.
- Understand what kind of information matters to your leadership – do they want data or do they want personal stories? Gather external benchmarking data and examples of what similar companies are doing. Get internal data (think surveys and focus groups) to validate the gaps your program will address and collect employee stories that you can present.
- Frame your wellbeing strategy in terms of its impact on Employee Lifetime Value. Demonstrate how it will help people onboard, acclimate and ramp up faster. Show how you can build more effective leaders and influence them to stay longer. These are all undeniably valuable benefits – and reduce the costs of turnover.
The Financial Returns of Wellness Programs
According to 2017 data from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 49% of Americans get their health insurance from an employment-based plan. And people spend a lot of their time at work – at least a 40-hour workweek for most of us. The fact that our employers supply us with healthcare and we spend so much of our time at work makes it clear why employers should invest in wellness.
Invest in wellness by investing in your people, your most important asset for business success.
Wellness programs are proven to deliver cost savings. A study on the financial return from wellness programs demonstrated that for every dollar spent, medical costs decrease by approximately $3.27 and by $2.73 for absenteeism. Employers who adopt wellness programs are likely to see substantial positive returns within a few years.
As we mentioned above, getting executive buy-in is a crucial step in creating a wellness strategy to enhance employee wellbeing. Clair Cameron and Sarah Zaccari from the Performance Reward team at Vicinity Centres, an Australian Real Estate Investment Trust company with over 1,000 employees, offer some sound advice for those looking to make the case for investing in wellness. Here are some of the components they recommend you cover with your executive team to get them behind your wellness efforts:
- Highlight the potential costs to the business of not investing
- Identify how you will measure the short-term success and the overall value to the business
- Provide evidence that you conducted appropriate research before making a funding request
- Prioritize the program and focus on a few actions that have a big impact
Preventing employee burnout is important for the health and wellness of your people, and the health and success of your business. By understanding the warning signs of burnout and getting ahead of this long-term stress reaction with a focus on wellness, your company and its people will be set up for a bright future.