Could online Employee Assistance Programmes be part of the way employers can help colleagues manage burnout at work? How can they help?
Mental health is something that impacts all of us, whether directly or indirectly. It is incredible to think about how many people are affected by mental illnesses each year and we are proud at Bravo Benefits in assisting with any challenges your team may face! We set out with the goal to provide practical tools that support the mental health of employees everywhere.
So, it was with great interest, and in all honesty a bit of sadness, that we learned of the results of the recent Women@Work 2022 report conducted by Deloitte Global. The report focused on women’s experiences in the workplace and how these experiences shape their career progression long-term. The report surveyed over 5,000 women across ten countries.
The results were staggering. Women are reporting significantly high levels of stress and burnout. 46% of women polled said that they felt burned out and 33% said that they have had to take time off work due to mental health challenges. Most sadly, the report said that only 39% felt comfortable disclosing mental health challenges as the reason for their absence from work.
Although we have made great strides toward making mental health a less taboo topic in our society, the report suggests that we still have a long way to go before people feel able to come forward and openly discuss their mental health challenges in the workplace. The causes of mental health at work are varied, interconnected, and nuanced, and will not be fixed with a magic bullet overnight. But we believe that accessible support in the form of Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) can work well to address a lot of the issues that people are facing around this issue.
But before we talk about the reasons we feel online EAPs can help, a few definitions are needed in order to ensure we understand what burnout is and why it is a problem that employers should care about enough to address by investing in an EAP.
Deloitte Global’s report spends time discussing the rate of “burnout” amongst women. But what exactly is “burnout”?
“Burnout” was recognised as a syndrome by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2020. It is characterised by feelings of emotional detachment from work. It is accompanied by extreme exhaustion. A staff member with burnout is more likely to feel that their work is inadequate, resulting in a lack of motivation and subsequent poor quality work.
Burnout is not classed as a medical condition but is recognised as a reason why employees may need to access health and wellbeing support.
Lots of factors can contribute to and lead to burnout. The most significant factor is stress. Stress itself can be caused by a multitude of factors, such as a feeling of being out of control at work, toxic workplace dynamics, and an imbalance caused by work being too overpowering or not engaging enough. Stress is recognised as a key cause of mental health illness, and recognising the signs that you are under lots of stress can play a role in preventing burnout in the workplace. So using tools that are designed to help employees deal with stress and other mental illnesses can help them recognise that they are heading for burnout and stop it from becoming a problem.
Burnout is a significant problem in the workplace. There can be major consequences for one’s physical health, psychological state, and occupational experience.
Many studies have found that burnout was often a predictor of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and raised cholesterol. The syndrome has also been linked to changes in how people experience pain. Psychologically, burnout can lead to depression and other mental health conditions.
Anyone can recognise the very real impact of these sorts of physical and psychological consequences on a person. But the repercussion is also felt throughout the workplace. Burnout causes employees to take more days off work. Some surveys have found that as many as 44% of employees polled have admitted to taking time off work due to feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, or unmotivated at work. Absent employees reduce the work rate of a company and put additional pressure on other colleagues to take the slack. An employee suffering from the phenomenon will be less likely to produce high-quality work, meaning the whole team struggles to get the results that the company wants.
Ultimately, colleagues suffering from burnout suffer personally, but also unintentionally cause other team members to struggle, meaning the company as a whole feels the effect. The moral imperative of an employer to support their staff is obvious, but the benefit the company will feel is also noteworthy. Many employers are aiming to give proactive support in this area of working life by providing online employee assistance programmes as an employee benefit.
An online Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is a website or app that contains a range of resources designed to help users access some form of mental health support.
Some platforms focus on preventative techniques, providing exercises that build up personal resilience, manage stress, and boost constructive thinking. One such platform is MyMindPal. These platforms can really help staff recognise when they are feeling stressed and put techniques in place to combat it.
Others, like Togetherall, stress the importance of peer-to-peer support and provide online communities where employees can find help and advice when suffering from mental health problems. Just the recognition from peers that the workplace can be challenging can help people feel more able to cope with their working life.
Other EAPs focus on providing a comprehensive package of care. Companies like LifeWorks include information about mental health issues, provided in easily-digestible formats such as videos and podcasts that employees can access when they want. They also include the facility to access a counsellor when required, either online or in person. These EAPs allow staff to learn the early indicators of stress, put techniques in place to combat these symptoms, and get help if their condition escalates.
Once the impact of burnout is recognised why should an employer use precious resources providing an EAP as an employee benefit? How can an Employee Assistance Programme help?
One of the major benefits of these forms of EAPs is that they are online. With an increasing number of workplaces opting for a hybrid model of working, the challenge of providing support to a geographically disparate workforce is significant. Many can be accessed via a smartphone app, meaning workers who are mobile operatives or who do not use a computer in their line of work can access the support that they need when they need it.
Online EAPs also help to support colleagues who are registered disabled. The online or app format can be accessed easily, particularly when combined with additional accessibility programmes.
Getting quick access to mental health information and support can mean employees learn to identify causes, manage their symptoms, and resolve difficult issues before they impact areas of their life and before they lead to stress and then burnout.
Most of the online EAPs out there allow employees to personalise their mental health support. Whether it is by a preventative programme of exercises they can complete at their own pace in the case of MyMindPal, or by providing resources in different formats to take into account employees’ personal learning styles like LifeWorks, most EAPs allow for a degree of individual choice that empowers staff to access the resource in a way that suits them.
Rather than provide mental health awareness programmes that deliver generic information on mental health issues as a tokenistic approach to the problem, the personalised function of EAPs allows staff to access the information pertinent to their situation. From there they can make informed steps to manage their situation, leading to a real change in outcome for them. The causes of burnout are nuanced and complex, and people respond to stress in different ways. It is only logical that people will require different pathways of support to manage their work-life and identify the symptoms of burnout before they begin.
This point is the logical result of the first two benefits of EAPs. If your team can access the resource in a way that suits them, from anywhere and at a time that suits them, all members of your team can benefit equally. Let’s look at a few examples of how this might play out in practice.
A woman with a young family works three days a week and then looks after her children for the other two days. She has to make sure she has completed all her work within those three days as otherwise the rest of the team struggles to meet deadlines when she is caring for her children. Her only free time is when the children go to sleep. As her EAP is online, she can easily access it after 7 pm on her smartphone from the sofa in her living room. Her phase of life is physically and mentally demanding, as she juggles multiple responsibilities and provides care for her children. An online EAP that is accessible anytime would really support her during this challenging season, ensuring she maintains a good work/life balance and a constructive attitude towards her responsibilities. Maintaining balance will help her reduce the chance of burnout.
Another example might be a mobile cleaning operative. They are not office-based, and although they might occasionally return to stores to collect supplies, the majority of their working day is spent travelling from building to building within their region. They do not get to interact with co-workers often, meaning that fewer people would be around to spot signs of mental illness should they arise. An online EAP that can be accessed through a smartphone app would be a perfect way for an employer to support such a member of staff. The mobile operative could access the app anywhere, getting peer interaction and support when needed. This means that his job role is not restricting his access to mental health support. Feeling connected to his work colleagues in this way could help him maintain a positive attitude toward work and the company as a whole, ensuring he feels satisfaction from his role. This can reduce the chance of burnout happening.
Also, think of a colleague that might have suffered an accident. Whilst they are recuperating at home, they may be struggling with their rehabilitation or with concerns over returning to work. An EAP that provides them access to an online community would really support them during a challenging time in their life. They will understand that they are not alone, that their company still cares for them even though they are recuperating at work. This will help them feel valued and energised to return to work.
Because Employee Assistance Programmes can be accessed anywhere and personalised, it means that your provision of mental health support is equitable. People from different walks of life, people undertaking different roles in your workplace, and people who have had different life experiences, will all experience mental health struggles in different ways. There is no “one-method-fits-all” and people will require different resources to manage their situations. A support program that allows true personalisation is the only way to ensure that everyone in your workplace can benefit.
Regardless of life stage, personal circumstances, mobility issues, or job type, we believe that online EAPs provide accessible, personalised, and equitable mental health support. They are one of the ways that employers can really help their team prevent burnout before it happens, reducing the impact this syndrome could have on individuals, the team, and the business.