Stress Awareness Month returns this April, raising awareness of the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic. The last two years have been the most challenging we have faced, with 2020/21 recording an overwhelming number of people seeking mental health support.

According to the HSE 2021 report into work-related stress, anxiety or depression in Great Britain, the total number of cases of work-related stress in 2020/21 was 822,000, with the number of new cases for the period totalling 451,000. This equates to 50% of all work-related ill health cases.

Whilst there are many causes of stress within the workplace, burnout remains a high contributing factor and one that shouldn’t be ignored.

What is burnout?

According to Mental Health UK, burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. It can occur when you experience long-term stress in your job, or when you have worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time.

How does burnout occur?

In the ever-changing working arena, the pressure to be ‘always on’ is a significant cause of burnout. The digital era has meant we are accessible in one way or another pretty much 24/7. Emails, text messages, WhatsApp groups, zoom calls… The lines between the working day and our own time have become vastly blurred, with more and more employees answering ‘just one more email’ during their own, private hours.

The ‘always on’ culture has blurred work-home boundaries, increased workloads and reduced interaction with the current WFH guidelines, thereby changing the world that we live and work in forever. But, the support for employees has not. Mental Health UK reports that just 23% of people knew what plans their employers had in place to help spot signs of chronic stress and burnout in employees. Meanwhile, a staggering 1 in 5 reported they felt ‘unable to manage stress and pressure in the workplace’.

What are the dangers of burnout?

When employees refer to themselves or others as experiencing burnout, they mostly refer to the symptoms of extreme physical and mental fatigue, as well as feelings of emotional exhaustion and depletion.

However, these symptoms can cause further damage to the workplace environment. Emotionally drained and physically exhausted, employees can become withdrawn from both their work and co-workers. They are also more likely to initiate interpersonal conflicts at work, be hostile towards others and exhibit a lack of concern.

Recognising signs of burnout early can help deter long-term effects and workplace conflicts. Ensuring your workplace has a wellbeing plan or stress risk assessment are some simple steps to take. Tell Jane offers a full policy review, with our HR specialists stepping in to review documents at all stages of the employee lifecycle. We also offer wellbeing at work training, supporting organisations their leaders to prioritise employee wellbeing. Email to find out more.

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