How to reduce anxiety, burnout and loneliness at work
Dipping into the August edition of our workplace wellbeing report, we found that 58% of employees said their wellbeing was negatively affected in July 2020. They also reported anxiety, burnout and loneliness as growing challenges. Alarmingly, most employers we surveyed said that these challenges are becoming less of an issue.
To help you identify the current emotional wellbeing issues facing employees and provide the support they need, this post will cover:
- Recognising anxiety in the workforce
- Preventing burnout from rising
- Making remote workers feel less lonely
- Provide mindfulness for anxiety
- Give more time off to stop burnout
- Open your workplace to reduce loneliness
And you’ll also get access to our latest checklist which includes five steps to improving emotional wellbeing at work!
Let’s start with the challenges.
What are the current anxiety, burnout and loneliness challenges?
By collecting the opinions of 6,732 employees and 301 business leaders, our workplace wellbeing report built an accurate picture of how anxiety, burnout and loneliness are affecting the emotional wellbeing of workforces across the UK.
Recognising anxiety in the workforce
For office-based businesses, 40% of employees say managing their emotional wellbeing (including anxiety) is a remote working challenge – a view shared by just 18% of employers.
If employers are underestimating the rising challenge of anxiety in the workforce, they’ll soon see their team’s happiness, health and productivity dip. And that’s not to be taken lightly. A study led by the World Health Organisation estimates that productivity lost to anxiety disorders contributes to £756 billion being taken each year from the global economy.
You may look at such a huge number and glaze over slightly, but the current environment is draining productivity from businesses all over the UK. At the most recent calculations, productivity has fallen by just over 20% – measured by the GDP output of the country. This is not a stat to ignore as it means companies across the nation are seeing productivity drop. Recognising the link with increased anxiety in the workforce is a big step to increasing productivity.
Preventing burnout from rising
35% of employees say their biggest wellbeing challenge is ‘burnout due to balancing work/life in a home environment’. This is an increase on our findings from the previous month indicating that burnout is on the increase across UK workforces.
With the lines continuing to blur between where work ends and home begins, it’s not surprising to see this rise. What’s worrying is that more employees are now ranking burnout as a bigger issue than their employers. Managers and leaders can’t rest on their laurels to keep people from burning out – it’s a continued effort.
There could also be signs that remote working is blurring the lines of work and life even further. Keep an eye out for an increase in the late-night working culture. While some may relish it, every late-night email sent might be received by a colleague who feels a pressure to reply and work longer to keep up. That colleague then sends a late-night message to someone else and the cycle continues.
Making remote workers feel less lonely
32% of employees say their biggest wellbeing challenge is ‘increased loneliness/feelings of isolation’. Perhaps exacerbated by 36% of employees saying they also feel less connected to company/colleagues.
To understand the loneliness I’d been feeling, I worked out exactly how much social interaction at work I’d lost to lockdown. Combining lunch hours, general chit chat and the odd drink after work comes in at around 15 hours a week of social interaction which I’ve missed out on. Given we’re on roughly 23 weeks since lockdown at time of publishing, that’s 345 hours of at-work socialising I’ve personally lost. I also do work – if the boss is reading!
And I’m by no means alone in this. Thousands, if not millions of people have been taken away from the workplace and had their regular socialising routines taken from them.
How do you reduce anxiety, burnout and loneliness at work?
Provide mindfulness for anxiety
Anxiety can manifest in many forms. For example, 61% of furloughed employees are worried about job security. While this anxiety is less easy to spot than someone panicking about giving a presentation, it’s still all part of the same response. Practising mindfulness can help get to the root causes of these anxieties.
Whether in the form of meditation or breathing exercises when feeling anxious, mindfulness is proven to reduce anxiety. Using mindfulness apps such as Aura gives employees the tools to take a few moments to themselves and recentre their state of mind away from feeling anxious.
Give employees the opportunity to get away from their work without feeling guilty too. Even if this is one lunch hour a week where they have to eat away from their computer, it will help them to relax away from the pressures of always being “on”.
We’ve also created a checklist which you can use to support the wellbeing of furloughed employees, available here.
Give more time off to stop burnout
Making sure employees are well-rested can go a long way to prevent burnout and also stop employees from feeling burned out – that’s why it’s crucial to make sure your workforce takes time off before they reach their breaking point.
Understanding when employees are close to burnout should come from their managers. It might be that a short afternoon of training to spot the signs of burnout is needed to give them the tools. You can use our six ways to prevent burnout in the workplace blog post to educate managers on what to look for. We’d also recommend regularly surveying your staff to keep an eye on how they say they’re feeling from month to month.
You can also be more vigilant as a business as to how the use of time off is viewed. Consider allowing employees to take a ‘personal day’ for the good of their mental health, and make sure that a minimum amount of annual leave is taken each quarter. The people team at Perkbox recently gave the whole company the Friday off as a way to help us recharge – and it was very well received!
Open your workplace to reduce loneliness
Social wellbeing is how connected employees feel with their colleagues and the wider world. 49% of office-based employees rate their social wellbeing negatively, compared to 36% of those non-office-based. This shows that employees who work remotely are feeling more isolated and alone – a possible side effect of losing that daily face to face interaction.
We’d recommend speaking with your employees to find out how many are feeling lonely from the extended periods of remote working and how many would be prepared to come back to the workplace. From there you can make plans to welcome back teams who want to work face-to-face again. Should you get more employees asking to come in than you think is safe, draw up an ‘in the office’ rota.
We’ve also created a return to work checklist which provides more ways for you to safely reopen your workplace to your employees in line with the latest government advice.
So, how are your employees coping with anxiety, burnout and loneliness?
For more guidance, we’ve produced a checklist which you can use to navigate the challenges of anxiety, burnout and loneliness. From this checklist, you’ll take away:
- More ways to reduce anxiety, burnout and loneliness
- How to get people together safely
- Five steps to improving emotional wellbeing at work