With two-thirds of employees experiencing burnout or fatigue and millions off sick with work-related stress, employers are asking advisors to help them address the problem.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, surprised the world when she announced she was quitting because she ‘no longer had enough left in the tank’. However, she’s far from alone. According to the latest Health at Work report, two-thirds of UK employees have experienced fatigue and burnout, and two-fifths say work has undermined their health.
Add to that official data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) showing that half of work-related ill-health is due to work-related stress, anxiety and depression, and it’s no wonder employees are protecting their mental health by ‘quiet quitting’ or actually quitting.
Employers who are keen to retain talent, especially during a time of skills shortages, are now looking to their employee benefits advisors for solutions that will keep employees healthy and productive, without causing them to burnout. Here are five ways to respond:
Five ways employee benefits advisors can help to prevent burnout
1. Focus on in-work solutions
Mental health benefits that only come into effect once the employee has become too sick to work do nothing to prevent issues such as burnout. They also mean most employees don’t get to feel supported until they start to feel unwell and reinforce the view that mental health support is only for those in crisis.
Burnout, for example, is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion, often preceded by feelings of unchecked stress and fatigue. Proactive in-work solutions, such as fatigue assessments, can support the working well to stay healthy and nip problems in the bud by helping employees to take stock of their energy levels and take proactive steps to improve their energy levels. One government department we piloted the approach with, once it realised how exhausted keyworkers were becoming, saw a 40% improvement in outcomes.
2. Offer a proactive employee assistance programme (EAP)
EAPs are one of the most effective tools advisors can offer employees to prevent stress and burnout, so long as employees actually use the support. According to the latest data from the EAP Association, just over one in ten (11.4%) of employees utilise their EAP, even though three quarters (75%) of employees say they are extremely or somewhat affected by stress.
This is because many of the ‘free’ EAPs that employee benefit advisors can secure for their clients at no extra costs, as part of a wider benefits package, tend to be less advertised, have limited features and are not available to all employees (due to cover only being offered to insured members of another service for example). This can drive usage down to as little as 3%, meaning employees are not getting the support now needed, at a time when the mental health crisis and NHS waiting lists are driving up demand. When purchased as a standalone service, EAPs will provide full coverage and help support to drive-up usage that can proactively support more people to keep them in work.
3. Utilise self-care and digital solutions
The days of selecting a service that will have the most appeal to the most people are long gone. Burnout driven by a high achiever pushing themselves past their limits, because they feel like they won’t be valued the second they’re not attaining, is different to someone constantly working overtime due to financial worries.
It’s often difficult to identify what people’s needs are, especially for sensitive issues, so the rise of digital wellbeing apps and other self-care solutions is a game changer. These tools allow employees to access support tailored to their individual needs, ranging from financial wellbeing support to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Ideally these tools should also be backed up by wider talking therapy or occupational support services, that provided more in-depth support, including counselling and physical health support if needed.
4. Increase access to counselling and CBT
Many employers want to be more proactive when it comes to mental health but then only want to pay for access to up to five counselling sessions for example, or ask employees to co-pay for counselling, in a way that can deter them from seeking this support. Instead, by putting in place treatment pathways that make it easier and more affordable for employees to access counselling and CBT, you can save employers more money in the long run and encourage more people to come forward for support.
These treatment pathways can be accessed via the normal EAP route, but then extend to more detailed and structured support that directs employees into broader services as needed. For example, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for trauma-related cases, without the employee being turned away or sent back to their GP. According to the EAPA, for every £1 spent on more proactive EAP services, employers can expect to generate nearly an £11 return on their investment.
5. Help boost resilience
The ability of employees to thrive in the high-pressure environments that can lead to burnout isn’t about how much pressure they can take, but rather how they can discharge that pressure.
Often when we feel overwhelmed, we think we don’t have time to see family and friends, take part in a hobby, exercise or cook nutritious food, when these things are critical to staying resilient. This means it’s important that employee benefits advisors work in partnership with suppliers that offer an element of mental health education as part of their solutions, so that employees can be educated and motivated about the importance of self-care.
Brandon Collins is the managing director for PAM Wellbeing
Symptoms of fatigue:
- Chronic tiredness or sleepiness
- Slowed reflexes and responses
- Forgetfulness and lack of focus
- Lack of concentration and memory
- Dizziness and headaches
- Sore, weak or aching muscles
- Moodiness, such as irritability
- Impaired decision-making
How can PAM Wellbeing help with fatigue prevention?
Our comprehensive wellbeing services can strengthen your employee benefits offering in the following ways:
Manager training & wellbeing webinars: Train employees how to proactively manage their mental health and cope with issues ranging from burnout and fatigue to anxiety and work-life balance with our online workshops
PAM Wellbeing EAP: Round-the-clock access to professional counsellors, health, legal and financial experts. Including digital access to expert health and wellbeing resources and CBT Therapy.
PAM Wellbeing App: Innovative health and wellbeing tool providing personalised access to physical and mental health assessments, healthy habits tracking, virtual gym and mindfulness and meditation.
Additional workshops: Create a culture that supports mental health with further workshops on topics ranging from Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) to mediation services.
Structured Professional Support: This service provides an opportunity to look at the impacts of life on work, and work on life. It provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on self-care, embed coping strategies and boost an employee’s emotional resilience.
Enhanced and Managed Psychological Services
- CBT – commonly used for more complex mental health issues or trauma
- Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) – a therapy commonly used where trauma is an underlying issue
- Integrative counselling and other specialist therapies – longer term models that fall outside of a short term EAP services
“The Mini Mental Health Fatigue Assessment proved popular with colleagues and resulted in a 40% improvement in outcomes after colleagues were assessed again.” Department for Work and Pensions