In 2019, the World Health Organisation officially recognised ‘work burnout’ as an occupational hazard. Today, wellbeing in the workplace is as important as ever, with the promotion of health and wellbeing directly linked to higher job satisfaction and motivated employees.
Beyond the social impact of wellbeing, it is vital to note its economic benefits – people taking sick days because of work-related stress or burnout is losing UK businesses 23.3 million working days and costing the UK economy £28 billion a year.
Undeniably, there exists a transactional element within work. However, there is a universal search for meaning at work; the desire to share the same values as your company and to belong to a supportive network of people. These factors are increasingly important in why people choose to join and stay with particular companies.
The phrase ‘work-life balance’ first appeared in the 1980s, coined by the Women’s Liberation Movement in the UK as a call to employers to change inflexible working practices, enabling women to both raise their families and have meaningful careers.
Since then, the phrase has been occasionally floated as a buzzword throughout companies, though rarely implemented in any tangible manner.
Nearly one in three (31%) of UK employees feel that they do not have a good work-life balance, with 88% stating that they have experienced burnout in the last two years.
The importance of a work-life balance cannot be overstated – the companies that understand this are far more likely to have happier employees, ultimately contributing to a more a productive business in the long run.
Burnout and fatigue
Despite this evidence, far too few companies consider employee wellbeing a priority. According to Gallup, only 23% of employees around the world feel engaged in their work, while a similar number (18%) claim to be actively disengaged.
Burnout can cause fatigue, mood swings, irritability and a decrease in work performance. And on top of the impacts on the individual, burnout can also have a big effect on staff retention for the business.
It is vital that companies take burnout and fatigue seriously, and make decisions designed to eradicate them. It’s why Team ITG works closely with Mind, a mental health charity that regularly contributes to their wellbeing events and initiatives.
Covid-19 acted as a catalyst for a re-evaluation: flexible working became mandatory during lockdown and many people took stock of their careers. Therefore, when some companies started to return to their pre-pandemic work practices, it caused what became known as the Great Resignation (or Great Attrition). According to McKinsey, the most important factors behind the mass walkout are social and psychological, including employees not feeling valued by their organisation or manager, or not having a sense of belonging at work.
When it comes to wellbeing, the concept is often misconstrued: employers think of psychological issues in transactional terms, attempting to counteract them simply by adding more benefits. This approach positions wellbeing as merely an add-on.
In an effort to promote wellbeing, many companies offer benefits such as enhanced sick pay, private healthcare, access to independent advice, wellbeing days off, volunteer days, career breaks and flexi-working. While these benefits are helpful to both employees and the company, they don’t in themselves address issues around being valued or having a sense of belonging. For this, wellbeing needs to be engrained in the company’s culture.
Creating a culture of wellbeing goes beyond offering benefits and perks. It requires a holistic approach that addresses not only physical health but also mental, emotional, and social wellbeing. This includes fostering a supportive and inclusive work environment, providing opportunities for personal and professional development, promoting work-life balance, and encouraging open communication and feedback.
This approach can be seen at Team ITG, which has a team of more than 50 Wellbeing and Diversity Champions in their offices, promoting inclusivity and positivity as key pillars of their business.
In order to create a culture that is centred on wellbeing, rather than one rooted in transaction, it is vital that companies have these kinds of systems in place to listen, adapt and improve.
Simon Ward is CEO of Team ITG