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Wellbeing, Burnout and the Boardroom in 2022

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Written for the JEP in January 2022 – the comments on Burnout are still worth sharing today.

Reflecting back on 2021, it is fair to say that wellbeing – and importantly, workplace wellbeing – has come of age. Having lived and breathed wellbeing and everything it encompasses for more than a decade, 2021 saw the pandemic catapult the word into everyone’s vocabulary, employers and Governments alike.

Over the years, the landscape has changed considerably. I’ve seen it progress from one where an industry leader thought I might ‘risk’ my reputation when I left Finance and established WellBeing World, to many organisations staging wellbeing ‘days’ to give reward and respite to their employees. Visionary businesses are also now starting to embrace corporate wellbeing strategies at Board level, full in the knowledge that wellbeing is no longer simply ‘Free Fruit on a Friday’ (as good as that may be).

2021 took it still further, with a seismic shift to hybrid and flexible working, an improved focus on mental health and psychological safety, and recognition that employee wellbeing is an investment, not a cost, and a way to retain, motivate and attract our most important asset – our people. I would certainly not have wished that the pandemic had been the reason for this heightened awareness, but every cloud …

At our Future of Work conference in 2016, and subsequently at the Leaders in WellBeing Summits in 2019 and 2020, it was agreed by speakers and attendees alike that wellbeing starts with the individual. This is true, wellbeing is personal and everyone’s needs are different, although in truth it is a tripartite responsibility which lies equally with the individual, employers and Government. Each plays a part. And each has done so, especially in the last 22 months.

Our Government has supported the wellbeing, lives and livelihoods of many employees and business owners, ensuring we have a sound economy coming out of the pandemic. Employers have done everything in their power to ensure that employees are taken care of, after all they have a duty of care to protect the health and safety of their employees at all times, and with that comes their physical and mental wellbeing. And individuals, especially the millennials and generation Z are increasingly aware of what is good, and not so good, for their wellbeing. We might not always do it, but we know.

That said, it has been an unprecedented time for everyone. We have seen the needs of individuals go from initial fear, through anxiety and stress, grief, loss and change, to overwhelm and burnout. We continue to see a need, perhaps an even greater need, for specialist services such as our own to support the health and wellbeing of individuals, and especially so that of business owners and leaders to help them remain focused, resilient and able to steer a steady course for their business.

Burnout is something we have heard a lot about in recent months as many people are working longer hours as a result of the pandemic, leading to mental exhaustion. Employees are reconsidering their work-life priorities leading to what has been termed ‘The Great Resignation’. Going into 2022, the effects of sustained burnout will continue to be heard loud and clear. The World Health Organisation has already recognised it as a health problem in its own right, resulting ‘from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’. This puts the onus firmly on the employer, and once leaders confront the problem at an organisational level, they can use organisational measures and resources to address it.

Burnout is characterised by three dimensions: a feeling of energy depletion or mental exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings towards one’s career, and reduced professional productivity and accomplishment. It is caused primarily by heavy workloads, job insecurity and a perceived lack of control, lack of reward or recognition, poor relationships at work, a lack of fairness and a values mismatch with the organisation; all of which clearly indicates that the root cause of burnout can be averted in the right cultural environment.

Research shows that the top three things employees are looking for coming out of the pandemic are flexible or remote working options (43%), a pay rise (40%), and more wellbeing support (35%). Modern and proactive businesses will have to listen and adapt to what their employees are saying. A salary increase in these times may be challenging, but there are many other things which can be introduced at little cost.

Much of the resolution will stem from empathic leadership. Workplace wellbeing will need to be increasingly prominent on the Boardroom agenda, with employees kept well informed, respected, heard, listened to, recognised, and their input valued and appreciated. ‘Thank you’ may not be everything, but it certainly goes a long way.

Jersey has limited resources, with many sectors already experiencing a recruitment crisis. It will be more important than ever to adapt to what employees want. This is workplace wellbeing.

World Wellbeing Week 2024

June 24 – June 30

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