Stress is a very real problem in companies across the globe.
Have you ever had an employee who is highly engaged to perform and loves their job?
They are happy to work long hours, ensuring their team are appropriately managed, dealing with deadlines while simultaneously organising everything.
Then suddenly they crash; physically and emotionally exhausted from burning the candle at both ends, trying to do too much, lacking a good night’s sleep and getting stressed.
Overnight your super team leader is gone and signed off to recover and taking a long time to build their capacity up to earlier wellbeing and performance levels when they eventually return to work.
Many organisations lose some of their most talented and engaged staff to burnout. A recent report in Harvard Business Review estimates that 1 in 5 employees is at risk, and a Personnel Today study revealed that 20% of high performing middle and senior UK business leaders are affected by corporate burnout.
So, what are the costs, and how can you avoid stress and burnout to ensure your team stay happy and well at work?
The Problem With Long Hours
Many employees judge their output on the number of hours worked. In reality, the number of hours you work has very little to do with productivity – often it’s the case that more of value is done in a shorter time before concentration begins to wane.
Unchecked, working long hours can become a competition to see who can work the longest, with no-one wanting to be the first to leave.
Additionally, virtual working only serves to encourage longer hours with individuals working well into the evening as they are unable to escape the laptop.
Working long hours is often seen as showing loyalty, and regarded as such by senior management, encouraging a vicious cycle.
Finally, in an environment where employees are working longer hours, this eventually becomes the expected norm. In this environment, the general belief is that to be seen as loyal and productive; you need to do the extra hours to have any hope of promotion.
The Corporate Burnout Cost
The stress of long hours inevitably leads to ill health and potentially complete burnout. Initially, it might be the odd day on sick leave, but an employee with an overwhelming workload, long hours and increasing output expectation is eventually going to feel under the sort of stress that can see an individual signed off with mental health issues.
The stress and anxiety of trying to keep up with management expectations can have the opposite effect by making individuals’ work suffer, resulting in inaccuracies creeping in, mistakes being made and overall quality levels dropping.
So, in the long term, your company suffers in its standard of output, which can result in clients looking elsewhere.
The Financial Cost
The Centre for Mental Health puts the real costs of mental health problems at work as costing the UK economy nearly £35 billion last year. That’s a considerable amount of money lost to the economy.
Inevitability, this also leads to higher employee turnover as those staff who feel unable to cope leave – creating more cost to the company as they have to hire, onboard and train new employees.
The Morale Cost
Low morale soon spreads across a team if colleagues are stressed. Inevitably, if colleagues begin to be signed off work with stress, it leads to increased workloads for those who remain, adding to already low morale.
Stressed and overworked employees will not only cost the company money in terms of lower productivity and more days off sick, but they will undermine its aspirations as morale drops, and individuals feel more and more pressure to perform at levels they are not able to reach.
Prevention is Better Than Cure
Stress can take over when someone feels they no longer have control. Employers sometimes forget just how much power they have over individual employees and are unaware of how they handle that power. However, your job as a leader is to support your staff and lead by example.
So, as well as keeping your team engaged with a positive mindset, there are several things you can do to encourage prevention over cure.
In our earlier blog on how to achieve more by working less, we offer several steps to help you work creatively to accomplish tasks and projects without having to burn the midnight oil and juggle your work priorities.
- Look out for the person who always says yes – they are at risk.
Avoid always referring extra work to this person just because you know they are willing to take it on – if they are trying to please you and create a good impression, their inability to say no makes them vulnerable to taking on more than they can handle.
- Encourage breaks away from the desk and screen regularly.
Eating lunch a la desk should be discouraged – it’s too tempting to carry on working or answer a ringing phone. Employees should be encouraged to get away, go for a walk, sit outside, or whatever it takes to get them out of the office environment for their break.
- Instigate a wellbeing programme.
If your company is able, offering a wellbeing programme to employees helps avoid stress and burnout. From lunchtime yoga to mindful meditation, team sports to simply getting together socially now and again.
Just make sure participation is optional, not mandatory: you don’t want to add to stress levels.
- Be alert to anyone staying late on a regular basis.
It may be that you need to enforce regular hours on members of the team who don’t embrace discipline in maintaining a good work-life balance.
“It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.” – Brené Brown
A workplace that fails to monitor its employee‘s stress levels can find a drop in morale overall, decreased productivity and increased absenteeism.
Alongside a workforce with poor physical and mental health comes the risk of accidents and mistakes, and lack of communication. All of which can sound the death knell for a company.
So, ensure you are cultivating a great company culture where employees are well looked after and know they can rely on the leadership to maintain a happy and healthy working environment.
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