Perhaps more prevalent than any other development spurred by the pandemic is a newfound, society-wide emphasis on mental health. Individuals and companies around the world have learned just how important (and fragile) our mental health is (and can be), and everyone seems to be taking a more proactive approach in pursuing a healthier work-life balance and mitigating the threat of burning out.
To be clear, burnout is not an isolated problem. The American Medical Association reported that half of healthcare workers have experienced burnout symptoms during the two-plus years of the coronavirus pandemic, and global employment platform Monster found that 69% of remote workers were struggling with burnout. The American Psychological Association’s 2021 Work and Well-being Survey found that 79% of employees had experienced work-related stress in the month before the survey and “reported negative impacts of work-related stress, including lack of interest, motivation, or energy (26%) and lack of effort at work (19%). Meanwhile, 36% reported cognitive weariness, 32% reported emotional exhaustion, and an astounding 44% reported physical fatigue — a 38% increase since 2019.”
Those numbers are jarring. As an entrepreneur, are you adequately addressing your company’s mental health strategy? Are you doing enough to prevent burnout among your workforce and inspire employees to prioritize their own self-care? There are quite a few ways to ensure that you’re helping your team keep its mental health in a good zone. Let’s explore a few of them.
1. Recognize individuality when making decisions.
One of the easiest ways to make people feel comfortable and valued is to recognize them for their individual talents and contributions. No one likes to feel invisible at work, nor do they want to be forced into acting like everyone else. More than ever, people demand autonomy and acceptance for who they are and what they bring to the table. By celebrating each employee’s unique abilities and characteristics, you’ll help foster a company culture that’s diverse, inclusive, positive and — not for nothing — more productive than less-empathetic competitors.
“Recognizing our individuality moves companies forward in many ways. In my experience, understanding the diversity of our colleagues’ experiences makes us stronger and opens our hearts and minds to our customers’ individual needs,” says Erica Kraus, VP of Experience Strategy at global marketing and advertising agency RAPP. “This puts companies at a competitive advantage in the job market. People want to work in spaces where they feel seen and heard. Valuing individuality boosts performance and empowers people through shared understanding.”
2. Allow for greater flexibility in the workplace.
The old expectations surrounding office work no longer apply in a post-COVID world. Now that we know remote work is both possible and profitable, why demand that folks return to the physical office from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. each day? Today’s talent won’t agree to those outdated terms. You must find ways to build flexibility into your workplace, whether in the form of flexible hours, flexible workspaces, or something else entirely.
A study from ManpowerGroup Solutions revealed that nearly 40% of global job candidates list “schedule flexibility” as one of their top three factors when making career decisions, and that number will only rise in the coming years as people continue to prioritize a healthy work-life balance. When your employees can better manage all the aspects of their lives — childcare commitments, mental and physical health, etc. — without having to worry about punching a clock, that freedom inspires better work and alleviates a lot of the stressors that lead to burnout.
3. Audit workload capacity regularly.
As an entrepreneur, you likely expect a lot out of a smaller staff. Those brilliant employees you have understand that life within a startup can be hectic and hours can be chaotic, but that’s no excuse for overloading them with an outrageous list of tasks and responsibilities. To ensure you aren’t driving your people into the ground unnecessarily, it’s important to perform regular capacity workload audits.
According to mobile work management platform Asana, “recent research shows that 80% of global knowledge workers report feeling overworked and close to burnout. Further, more than 4 in 5 (82%) of employees say they feel less engaged at work when they’re stressed. Workload management enables you to distribute work across your team more effectively, to not only reduce burnout for stressed employees, but to prevent them from feeling overworked in the first place.” The key is to regularly check in on team members’ workloads so that you can send tasks to the right people according to skill, ability, and capacity.
If you’re worried that you haven’t put enough safeguards in place to protect your team’s mental health in the workplace, start with acknowledging that each teammate has individualized needs. Make plans to ensure they feel seen and heard, double-check your policies for maximum workplace flexibility, and review your team’s workload at a regular cadence so that you can redistribute responsibilities or hire new team members as needed. When you make an intentional effort, you’re more likely to retain workers as your company grows and evolves.