In previous articles, we’ve discussed issues related to mental health and staff shortages in the NHS. This week we will be merging the two subjects and talking about the burn-out epidemic: the rise of chronic stress and overwork, causing employees or employers to ‘burn out’. It is distinguished by three feelings: 
  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion 
  • Increased mental health from one’s jobs, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s jobs 
  • Reduced professional efficacy
The high rate of burn-out is difficult to ignore. This condition is not a sign of weakness. A lot of people are experiencing it, and it is important to talk about it. Please reach out to your employers if you are struggling or go to the helplines at the end of the Article.
Burn-out is a well-known issue, and in 2019 it was included in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon (‘Burn-out an “occupational phenomenon”: International Classification of Diseases.’, World Health Organisation, May 2019)

Women are at particular risk. (Why women are more burned out than men, BBC Worklife)  Many people feel uncomfortable talking to their boss about how they feel, and women in particular, “feel a need to prove themselves more often at work than men,”(Women feel they have to prove themselves more than men at work, Working Mums) due to gender equality and unequal demands of home and work. While this has improved somewhat in recent years, there is still that confidence gap. (When Vacations Aren’t Enough: The Employee Burnout Epidemic, Forbes)

It causes serious issues for not only employees but employers as well. Issues such as company failures, unavailability of hitting targets and losing staff. This links back to one of our previous articles, Mental Health Matters; A day inside of a Mental Health ward. Burn-out can cause employees to leave their place of work, leaving the employees that still work there to Burn-out even more and suffer due to having to pick up extra shifts and have an overload of work.

TIPS FOR ALLEVIATING EMPLOYEE BURN-OUT AS AN EMPLOYER (FROM AN EMPLOYEE)

  • Make sure your employees can reach out to you or have help available if needed.

Being able to talk to someone who your employees look up to and speak to daily can cause a large impact on their work ethics. As an employee myself, throughout my working life in previous job roles, I’ve struggled with feeling like I can speak to my employer openly. It’s easy to fear repercussions from expressing discomfort with workload or issues with mental health. Being open as an employer and showing that you are there for your staff reduces a lot of stress and worry.

  • Be aware of the causes of poor performance.

For an employer, it can be incredibly frustrating if it feels like staff are not performing at the expected standard, especially if it’s causing issues within the workplace. But it’s important to keep an open mind and investigate what is causing poor performance, and whether the employee can be supported. Not everyone feels comfortable opening up about their issues mentally, but reassurance helps a lot. Ask employees regularly how they are feeling mentally, about the workload, and overall how they are. Even letting an employee know that you notice their struggle can encourage them to speak up or feel more relaxed within the workplace. 

  • Avoid overworking staff.

There may be a lot of work that needs to be done but realistically it’s not going to be done correctly if your staff are struggling. Focus on what is strategically important and balance workload out between staff. I’ve personally noticed that employers tend to depend on their employees who will constantly say yes to a shift because they need the money or feel bad saying no. This is understandable but it can cause a massive strain on their mental state and even their personal life. 

  • Balancing work schedule. 

Speak to your employees about which hours suit them best and whether it’s having the same schedule or it being different each shift. It will give you an understanding as to what hours will make them more efficient and productive. Letting your employees work where they are comfortable can help a lot too. For example in retail; say your employee is incredible in one department but struggles/stressed in another, don’t throw them in the deep end. Speak to them as to how they feel about it and what support they need. Or another example for office-based work; is if your employee has options to be able to work from home/somewhere they feel more comfortable or go into the office. Speak to them about it, find out what is more efficient for them to get the work done or which will reduce their workplace stress. 

 

Overall as an employer, it is important to know your employees and make sure they are as comfortable and stable as possible. Doing so will increase workload efficiency and the environment you work in. Remember your employees are all different and handle things differently. One person’s strength may be different from another’s weakness. 

TIPS FOR EMPLOYEES ON HOW TO DEAL WITH BURN-OUT:

  • Don’t be afraid to speak up! 

This is a major point. Whether you speak to another employee or your employer, it’s nice to get it off your chest. Letting it build up and fester will only harm you more in the long term. 

  • Don’t be disheartened.

Feeling like this is normal and, as hard as it is, don’t let it bring you down (easier said than done, right?). But there are ways to go around not feeling like this and things in place to help you. 

  • Figure out what helps you.

Whether it’s talking about it or doing things differently. Don’t be afraid to try a new way to overcome challenges and obstacles. 

  • Take care of yourself.

Make sure to take the time off that you need, don’t be afraid to say no to overtime even if you may need that extra money. Your mental wellbeing is more important. Getting enough sleep, eating properly, and taking extra steps to alleviate mental health like making time for relaxing, spending time with friends/family will help you a lot. 

  • Recognising and accepting you are not okay.  

Learn to recognise the key signs of burn-out/mental health. This is normal so don’t feel like you are in the wrong for feeling this way. It’s more serious than you may think it is. Feeling mentally down can keep you from spending time with family or doing things that you love, it can even increase the risk for health issues. Figure out what it is that is making you feel this way, trying to do too much alone can drag you down. Think about what immediate changes you can make to stop feeling this way whether it be talking about it, cutting down workload/hours, or finding a distraction in something you love. You can take back control of your stress. Don’t let it consume you, set boundaries, and love yourself. 

I know I’ve gone into a lot about mental health talk rather than just burn-out but what you may not realise is that burn-out can provoke feelings of helplessness and depression.  I cannot stress this enough, communication helps more than you think. If you are mentally struggling and don’t feel like you have anyone to talk to or think it’s more serious and you need to reach out to a professional, contact your GP or click on the links below.  Or if you are unsure on what help you need you can visit the following websites for more information. 
Meg Wheller
Media Marketer, Spatial Quotient