Workplace burnouts: Are we taking them seriously?
Employee wellness programs are on the rise. With the dependence on key skill sets growing within companies, employee well-being has slowly begun to take center stage and with it, HR professionals today are looking at keeping their workforce healthy and fit with a completely renewed focus. Both investments and buy-in from senior leaders across the board today has propelled the rise of wellness companies that focus on ensuring employee health remains a priority within talent management practices. Technology too, in the form of digital platforms and cloud computing, has enabled companies to provide interactive wellness solutions to their employees. With both technological and management practices evolving to pay more attention at keeping the workforce fit, it comes as a little surprise when reports project that the overall wellness industry can be worth over about Rs 1.5 trillion by 2021, according to a recent report by FICCI and EY.
This has, in turn, spurred a rise in corporate wellness programs as well. And not without good reason. A 2018 study by ASSOCHAM titled ‘Corporate Wellness Programs: Benefits to Organisation & Economy” estimated that Indian corporates can save $20 Billion through initiating corporate wellness programs for their employees. The report estimated that for an average for every rupee being spent on an employee wellness program, the employers get Rs. 132.33 as saving on absenteeism cost and Rs. 6.62 back as reduced healthcare costs. Although at an initial glance, the need to keep employees healthy—-both mentally and physically—might just seem to be driven by a corporate need to have their employees productive, there are other factors that make such wellness programs even more relevant today. But the immediacy of the need might just push the need for wellness programs even more. It is because the impact of workplace burnouts has skyrocketed today.
Multiple reports done on the working conditions and mental health of employees show a disturbingly rising trend among the country’s workforce; a serious case of burnout. A recent study aimed at analyzing depression levels across sectors like IT, finance, and manufacturing noted that over one out of every five employees across its survey base was suffering from workplace depression. Medical and healthcare experts blame it on lack of support systems at both workplaces and in personal circles.
A recent study aimed at analyzing depression levels across sectors like IT, finance, and manufacturing noted that over one out of every five employees across its survey base was suffering from workplace depression
Looking beyond simple measures
The growing signs of depression are but just one of the possible outcomes of work culture that points to a larger problem facing the Indian working class; the problem of employee burnout. It has been characterized by a state where a person feels physically, mentally, and emotionally drained which is affecting his/her overall well-being. A part of the impact can be felt in the fall of personal productivity— and once it begins impacting a large percentage of the working force— a reduced overall organizational productivity. But since most such costs to the company accrue over longer periods, often companies end up considering employee burnout as an employee-level or even personal problem rather than addressing it as a broader organizational problem. It is high time that companies begin treating employee burnout as one of the core talent management challenges.
Burnout has a significant impact on employee morale and engagement levels. If left unattended, the problem of burnout could spread across the organization. As its often a combination of both personal and organizational factors, employee burnout can be significantly tackled by taking a holistic view of the problem. Burnouts are often triggered by highly stressful work conditions; aspects such as toxic work environment, biased managers, unrealistic deadlines, unpredictable schedules, difficult interactions with colleagues all play a role in increasing burnout rates.
Charting the road ahead
As the problem of workplace burnout rises across the board, HR professionals have to look beyond traditional solutions to workplace issues. Studies show how employees who experience burnout are often chronically exhausted and detached from their work. In a survey of Indian working professionals by the National Mental Health Survey of India, workplace burnout was becoming a part of India’s growth story. It noted that although working extra hours had made employees better compensated and financially sound, the added baggage that current work cultures contain—and at times promote—also end up affecting their mental and physical health across companies. It added that factors like performance pressure and fear of losing jobs are the major reasons for burnout among employees. According to the report, around 15 percent of Indian adults need support for one or the other mental illness issue. Quizzed on their employer support to towards stress management, the report also noted that while nearly 46 percent received stress management backing from their employer companies, many lacked the support from their employers when it came to managing causes of burnouts. Working women were also found to be more stressed than men. This points towards the need to move towards a cognizant effort of recognizing signs of employee burnouts and using wellness programs and company culture to address critical problems.