How would you define wellbeing? In very simple terms, it’s the same as feeling that life is going well. But then again, what does that mean?
According to the CDC, wellbeing is influenced by (and influences) our health, job, family and economic matters of life. The feeling that life is going well, or not, is the result of a combination of variables, but it could be summarised into two overarching subjects: the perception of our physical and mental health.
The state of wellbeing of a company’s workforce should be of great importance to HR professionals worldwide. To better understand how employees’ wellbeing affects their work and personal lives, we invited two of our Senior Advisors to share their view on work-life wellness.
In a three-part blog series, Luca Solari¹ and Karl Simons OBE² will discuss the connection between mental and physical health and its impacts in the workplace, as well as their biggest learnings from 2022 and what to expect in 2023.
One in four people in the UK will suffer from a mental health condition at some point in life. While anxiety and depression are the most common problems, high levels of work-related stress can lead to burnout, which in 2019 was classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an occupational phenomenon.
But employees also suffer from other mental health issues that could be impacting their work – or even be caused by it. Whatever the situation may be, leaders and peers need to take action if they notice signs of mental fatigue by another team member. It is also the company’s responsibility to provide help whenever needed.
A recent local survey revealed that one out of two workers experience anxiety and insomnia as a consequence of work related issues, while four out of five show at least one [indicator for] burnout. However, HR managers are not aware of this, and lack the understanding of how it impacts productivity, absenteeism and work-related injuries.
We rely on occasional surveys [among Italian companies] to reveal the extension of workers’ mental health [conditions]. We lack a full understanding of how these issues reflect on companies’ everyday operations. – Luca Solari
We are seeing again another year where so many organisations continue to introduce initiatives geared towards creating a culture of care through embracing tools that aid their employees and managers. I still believe though many organisations still haven’t seen what good truly looks like.
The more progressive leaders are reaching out and bringing in external individuals who have a demonstrable track record to share their experience so others can learn. All leaders need to listen to what has been implemented, what works and what the outcomes achieved are. – Karl Simons OBE
According to the WHO, burnout refers to chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been successfully managed. Burnout is primarily impactful to the employee who is feeling exhausted and mentally drained, but it also impacts organisations as a whole due to less confidence in performance, more sick days and higher search for new jobs.
Research by Ipsos shows that mental health is now the second biggest health concern globally, surpassing cancer for the first time and standing only behind Covid-19. The same research shows that 59% of British respondents think about their mental wellbeing very or fairly often, a 5 point increase from 2021, and a trend seen in most countries worldwide.
The long-term effects of the pandemic on mental health are still being analysed, but there’s a need to take action right now to tackle these issues efficiently, especially in the workplace. To Karl Simons, organisations can take steps to prevent workplace burnout, such as introducing a health policy, competency upskilling, encouraging employees to take vacation time, training employees to be mindful of messaging and offering flexible working hours.
The lines between work and home life have become increasingly blurred. Many people now have a hybrid working environment and thus working longer hours as a result of back to back calls has become increasingly more common. The culture of ‘always on’ is a real concern. – Karl Simons OBE
The shift in values and expectations by people, and the toll we have paid due to the pandemic, are rendering less acceptable traditional ways of organising [businesses]. What once could have been dealt with quite easily might currently result in significant pressure on people. Existing processes and goals are out of alignment with what people can absorb. There is a need to revise how organisations operate. – Luca Solari
The Role of Line Managers
Managers have an important part to play in helping employees struggling with mental health. To an employee, doing certain activities, working with specific team members or even the office’s environment could be triggers to their mental wellbeing. Gallup suggests organisations take a three-step approach to handling employee burnout:
- Make wellbeing part of your culture
- Equip managers to prevent burnout
- Design an employee experience to reduce workplace stress.
Despite many efforts by HR [professionals] to promote wellbeing across organisations, the actual work conditions of most workers are determined by their supervisors and peers. The lack of training and explicit commitment to improve mental health [by managers] leaves workers to cope with the outcomes without support. Line managers should acknowledge the problem and act accordingly, promoting an inclusive culture and work conditions which sustain people [going] through mental health issues, be they temporary or permanent. – Luca Solari
It’s not the psychological health condition that prevents a person [from] thriving at work, it’s the environment in which they are placed – there are many things that make up this environment, but top of them is the line manager. People follow great leaders and in my experience, it is those that take the time to create a culture of care within their team that obtain the greatest results. Fundamental to this is a culture where speaking up about personal challenges comes without fear of reprisal. – Karl Simons OBE
In next month’s Ask the Experts Series, Luca Solari and Karl Simons will share how they see the connection between mind and body, and how companies can help employees improve their physical health to increase overall wellbeing. Stay tuned!
¹Luca Solari is a professor at the Milano University, as well as a company consultant and founder of Orgtech. He provides advice to top managers on how to enact strategies through powerful people-centred initiatives, coaching and mentoring.
²Karl Simons OBE is an experienced Non-Exec and Executive Director with over 30 years of employment experience, having worked internationally across all continents and in numerous critical industries. He is currently the Chief Customer Officer at FYLD, an AI Technology company.