We all know that work can be stressful sometimes. Whether it’s just the pressures of the job, a bad working environment, or a multitude of other issues, work can become a stress factor on our mental health.
According to a Gallup report, “76% of employees experience burnout on the job at least sometimes, and 28% say they are burned out “very often” or “always” at work.”
But it needn’t be this way. It’s up to businesses and employees to work out practical solutions, find ways of making work fulfilling and stress free. One of the best way of doing so, might be to make your workplace more open to flexible working options.
It cuts on the commute
No one really much likes being on the tube. Tolerate it, sure, but not many people would say that their happy place is being stuck on a cramped Northern Line tube to Vauxhall.
In fact, 71% of the people in a survey conducted by Mental Health America suggested that being able to manage commute-related stress better would help with their feelings of burnout. That number increased, predictably, for people whose commute was an hour or longer, round trip.
Commuting is also an economic worry for a lot of people – constantly rising rail fare, managing travelcards and railpasses. If people are allowed some flexibility with when and where they work, these economic worries become easier to manage.
It allows for more family time
This is a real struggle for a lot of people. In a bill in parliament from last year on the subject of flexible work, the story of a mother who failed to pick up her kids on time because she was held up on her commute was told. A story that is no doubt familiar to many working parents. She put in a request for an extra 15 minutes either side of her shift and had it denied, so she left.
For the sake of 15 extra minutes, that company lost what was probably a very valuable worker; someone who was trained, experienced, and already within the company culture. They had burnout from balancing it all, and so they left, taking their skill and competency with them.
In a report from Working Families in 2019, 50% of parents say that working in the office impinges on their ability to spend time with their family. Flexible work on its own isn’t enough to solve this problem, but it is necessary, according to the report’s conclusion.
People value their families, and an inability to be there for them, will make them burnout. 21% of sick days, by some studies, are as a result of taking care of sick family members.
Employee’s feel more empowered with their health
Flexible work necessarily loosens the belt for a lot of people. If they can plan their work around their day, rather than having to plan their day around their work, they can better make decisions for their own wellbeing. According to the previous MHA study, 77% of respondents felt that flexible work would better enable them to take care of their own health.
This includes their mental health. 12% of all sick days in the country are as a result of mental health difficulties. This can often start a spiral. A bad mental health day can lead to work piling up, increasing pressure building up from work, which worsens mental health, and you can see how that’s a recipe for disaster.
The growing phenomenon of ‘presenteeism’ makes this worse. Workers might be turning up not feeling their best, which impacts their work, even if they do turn up. Enabling employees to take proactive steps to help their mental health cuts this off at the pass.
It’s good to show your employees that you trust them
This is because of one of the inherent risks of flexible work: the perception that flexible workers are more prone to skiving, less productive (a stereotype increasingly looking untrue). Regardless of whether or not it’s the case, employees value the trust placed in them by management. This is also partly due to not feeling micromanaged.
Because they feel more trusted, employees feel more satisfied with their company, and feel happier accomplishing their work. Happier, more fulfilled workers are less likely to get burnout. They are more likely to view their work as important, and valued, and therefore will have a more positive impression of the work they do.
This will require a change in some management practices – there might be growing pains. Chiefly, it means having an outcome focused perspective. And that means you actually do have to trust them to have these better outcomes. If you don’t, it’ll only exacerbate issues. Organisational support is key for all of this, but especially in this area. If you can pull it off, your employees will be glad for it.
A good night’s sleep
This might sound trivial, but it is far from it. Sleep is absolutely vital to proper functioning. And, studies suggest, we as a society don’t get enough of it. Sleep deprivation is consistently linked to increased rates of anxiety and depression, as well as a variety of physical health problems, from heart disease to cancer and strokes.
The effects of sleep loss are clearly indicated by Mind to have a severe effect on the mental health of the sleep deprived; and just like anything else related to burnout, it can spiral from there.
And sleep deprivation doesn’t always present the way we imagine; it’s not always zombies wandering around with purple bags under the eyes. Maybe it’s “needing” that one coffee to function properly. Maybe it’s just a second or two slower on the uptake, brain fog creeping in more often, finding yourself more irritable, or hungry.
But why does flexible work solve this problem? Well, we all have different circadian rhythms. These can be changed, but not without consequence, and it’s definitely more effective to accommodate them, rather than try and make everyone fit the same square peg.
Sleep studies have suggested that people generally fall into one of two camps; night owls and larks. To cut down on burnout from sleep deprivation, allowing these two camps to work at a time that suits them will alleviate the sleep issues that would come from forcing people to do one or the other.
The future is flexible
It’s a truth we have to face; mental health matters. If flexible working solutions can improve employee mental health, then you’ll have more productive employees. Fewer workers will need to take time out for their mental health, and they’ll be more able to take control of their own well-being. All this, combined with the feeling of trust employees will have for their employers, and the benefits to their sleep health, are excellent reasons to embark on a flexible solution.
There is a workplace revolution coming, and part of that means cutting down on burnt-out employees.
Check out our article here for tips on how to get your work-life balance started out right.
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