How to promote mental health in the workplace to avoid burnout and increase productivity

The younger generation today is increasingly placing more value on workplace relationships – with 79% of millennial employees advocating that workplace friendships enable them to work more productively. In a world that revolves around technology and virtual interaction, it is understandable how social isolation can be one of the key issues that is permeating our society today. The importance of having colleagues whom you can confide into and trust has never been more relevant, especially with more millennial employees experiencing social isolation and both physical and emotional burnout.

Are millennial employees heading for a burnout?

A study commissioned by Milkround has shed light on how millennials are experiencing more mental health issues compared to prior generations. With workloads becoming more complex and with higher expectations to meet, many millennials have experienced chronic exhaustion. A survey conducted by Yellowbrick relevantly identified that 78% of millennials reported that burnout has prevented them from socialising and 53%  of them have taken ‘mental health days’ and missed a day of work as a result. Findings from the survey have further indicated that 75% of millennials currently experience mental exhaustion and 80% are physically exhausted every week.

The Workplace Loneliness report has reported that 40% of Australian employees feel lonely at work and this has negatively affected their productivity, increased the likelihood of mistakes in their work, increased the occurrence of getting sick and as a result, has led to poor well-being. It is also concerning that only 9% of Australian workers feel comfortable speaking with their Human Resources department about loneliness and not being able to fit in.

What classifies as ‘burnout’?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , ‘burnout’ is an occupational syndrome resulting from chronic unmanageable workplace stress and is typically present if the following criteria apply:

·        Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;

·        Increased mental distance from one’s job;

·        Feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and

·        Reduced professional efficacy.

Research has attributed the main causes of burnout to work, finances, socialising, house chores and credit card debt. A 2017 study at the Australian National University has identified a positive correlation between mental health and the number of hours worked. When employees start working more than 39 hours a week, job performance decreases and signs of depression and anxiety surface. Australia presently has a culture of overwork with full time employees averaging an additional 7.1 hours unpaid every week.

Why is socialisation important for your employees’ mental health?

Research has indicated that 75% of those who struggle to socialise and make friends in the workplace, have experienced issues relating to mental health – so much so that one in three end up resigning. To make things even harder, only 6% of the workforce seek support from their manager or Human Resources. This means that employees today have to be more aware of one another’s mental health and reach out if they pick up on a change in behaviour or attitude. Social connectedness is important and today’s workplace need to have a support system in place to eradicate workplace loneliness.

With 62% of millennials pressured to be readily available outside of work hours and 61% pressured to work longer hours, companies need to make the effort to shift employees’ mind-set by offering a more supportive and inclusive workplace. An example is how employers can organise activities to welcome new starters who may be experiencing social anxiety in their first few weeks. Companies can also plan events such as team activities and wellness programs to alleviate any pressures that may be preventing employees from socialising with colleagues outside of work hours.

62% of employees are looking to adopt a new lifestyle to reduce stress and employers can help in this area by changing the way they assess employees’ performance. A key example is how Atlassian has revamped its performance review framework to now include three equally weighted categories: demonstration of values, delivery on role expectations and contribution to the team. This means that someone who is extremely brilliant but has limited people skills will be able to have the same rating as another employee who may not be as brilliant but contributes to the company culture by mentoring younger staff and making Atlassian a happy place to work.

Workplace friendships have a direct correlation on productivity and efficiency as they make employees feel more engaged and emotionally supported. It is therefore of utmost importance for employers to foster a culture of positivity and one that prioritises the wellness of its employees. Not only will this provide employees with a sense of belonging but it will also help to reduce burnout. Leaning on one another for support can make a big difference – especially to someone who may be in a vulnerable state.

What are we doing at SThree to promote mental health?

At SThree, we encourage our people to talk about mental health and to reach out when they need someone to talk to. We understand that social interaction is important for one’s wellbeing – especially when one is spending the majority of the day at work. We have seen for ourselves how workplace friendships have helped to promote mental health awareness within our team.  

Ahead of R U OK day, we will be organising a function at The Shelbourne hotel on 28th of August in support of LIVIN to encourage people to discuss the importance of mental health in the workplace. If you are interested in taking part of this discussion, please feel free to join us at our free event and contact us on 02 9285 1000 to book a ticket. You may also RSVP by clicking here.

Progressive Recruitment is part of the larger SThree Group.

About LIVIN

LIVIN aims to break the stigma of mental health, promote wellness as well as positive living through educational programs. LIVIN has created a movement that makes mental health more relatable and has also implemented programs such as LivinWell which are run in schools, workplaces, sports clubs and community groups. The aim is to break the stigma on mental health, enhance self-efficacy (helping yourself and helping others) and encourage help-seeking. We firmly believe that mental health awareness is of utmost importance, especially in the workplace where we spend the majority of the day with colleagues, clients and candidates.

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