With one-third of adult life spent at work, how can workplaces help employees feel safe, supported and valued especially in the face of increased occupational burnout due to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic?
“My workplace is toxic”: these words are often shared with me in my role as a corporate wellbeing trainer. When I dig below the surface, I found out that there are often many different stress factors that contribute to this feeling. These include:
While each situation is complex with different contributing factors, what is common amongst these ‘toxic’ workplaces is that there are a lot of staff who are on the verge of burnout.
Unfortunately, such experiences are not an anomaly; globally we are seeing pressure increasing in the contemporary workplace, to the point that in 2019, the World Health Organisation identified occupational burnout as a workplace phenomenon across the globe.
Occupational burnout happens when a person experiences chronic work-related stress that leaves them with feelings such as depleted energy, exhaustion, mentally distanced from their job, and a sense of negativism or cynicism about work. Such states that make it near impossible to perform at one’s best.
Beyond Personal Resilience
For many companies, their solution to prevent occupational burnout is to help employees build their personal resilience by sending them for wellbeing or resilience programmes or workshops.
While building personal resilience has been shown to be effective when facing challenging circumstances, these company initiatives leave the onus of responsibility to prevent burnout solely on the employees individually. For greater organisational resilience, more can be done so that the responsibility for workplace wellbeing is shared among all levels of the business.
A mentally healthy workplace is not only good for the individual employees who work there, but also good for the business. According to research conducted by PWC, workplaces that are mentally healthy see enhanced work performance, greater job satisfaction, and increased morale and staff engagement. These will improve the bottom line with greater productivity, reduced turnover and fewer sick days. In fact, for every dollar spent on effective workplace mental health, there is a return of $2.30 in benefits to the business.
Mentally Healthy Workplace
So what does a mentally healthy workplace look and feel like? It’s not necessarily about having beanbags and table tennis at work! Some of the key similarities amongst mentally healthy organisations include factors such as:
To create mentally healthy workplaces takes many intentional and ongoing strategies. It can feel daunting at the start, but thankfully these strategies don’t necessarily require large financial investments. Small changes in practices and attitudes can have a large impact and can help employees feel able to feel that they are safe physically and mentally as they do their work.
Tara Schofield (MAPP) is a Lecturer and Learning Designer with the School of Positive Psychology (Singapore) on modules like Resilience and Positive Organisational Psychology. She also has a track record of conducting corporate training on wellbeing, resilience and strengths for top MNCs, schools and government organisations.