If the pandemic has taught us anything as leaders, it’s that our employees need a wellness support strategy that addresses the intricacies of mental health. The lines between home and work have blurred, professionals around the world–especially in healthcare–have had to face unimaginable circumstances and life-changing trauma, and the stress of current events have all added up to what’s been dubbed “The Great Resignation.” Since the spring of 2021, roughly 33 million Americans have quit their jobs.
Not only are these record-setting levels of employee distress endangering the well-being of our workers, but also the well-being of our organizations. To improve the mental health of our teams and the financial health of our institutions, it is vital that we invest in effective employee wellness programming now.
Burnout in the Workplace: The Current Picture
In January 2022, the American Psychological Association (APA) published an overview of increased burnout and stress in the workplace. Unsurprisingly, those working in healthcare and other key or essential roles were cited as being at higher risk of stress, but all employees are at greater risk of burnout because of the relentless and continuous nature of the pandemic situation. The APA report tells us that 79% of Americans experience workplace stress, and 44% of these reported that the stress led to feelings of physical unwellness and fatigue. That figure has increased 38% in a period of 12 months.
The financial impact of employee distress
Many of the causes of this burden on mental health were related to the pandemic, but this threat to the mental health of staff and the financial well-being of organizations has been growing for years. Data pulled just before the COVID-19 pandemic began showed that nearly $5 billion in costs is attributable to physician burnout each year in the United States.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association elaborated on the business case for investing in physician wellness:
“Although there is a strong moral and ethical case for organizations to address physician burnout, financial principles (eg, return on investment) can also be applied to determine the economic cost of burnout and guide appropriate investment to address the problem. The business case to address physician burnout is multifaceted and includes costs associated with turnover, lost revenue associated with decreased productivity, as well as financial risk and threats to the organization’s long-term viability due to the relationship between burnout and lower quality of care, decreased patient satisfaction, and problems with patient safety.”
The study went on to detail how not adequately supporting our clinical workforce can lead to:
- Decreased productivity
- Decreased quality of patient care
- Increased risk of major medical error
- Increased turnover rates
- Increased risk of suicidal ideation
Just as we’ve seen in healthcare, employee distress and burnout pose a huge risk to organizations. A risk that can be mitigated through strategic wellness support.
employee Wellness Support for Increased Productivity
It’s clear that we as leaders need to address the very real threat of burnout and workplace stress. Employees cannot be expected to do more, work harder, and feel no impact from the external and internal stressors they face daily. Conversely, with the right support, employees are naturally more productive and happier in the workplace.
If your employees are in the workplace but not able to perform to their full potential due to increased job stress and burnout–a phenomenon known as presenteeism–that’s a loss to the business in terms of productivity. When 100 employees are in the same state, that’s a devastating blow to business continuity. Research shows that presenteeism can cost an organization two to three times more than absenteeism.
In addition, HubSpot’s recent examination of productivity in the workplace included some alarming financial figures:
- When employees aren’t engaged with their job, it costs American companies $550 billion
- Failing to address stressors such as lack of childcare support cost companies $300 billion
- Alcohol abuse outside the workplace could have an impact of $160 billion
- Insomnia, a common symptom of stress, could also cost companies $63 billion
The Bottom Line: Employee Wellness is a Financial Necessity
Employee wellness comes into clear focus when examining the financial implications of stress and burnout in our organizations. Addressing the causes and symptoms of mental health issues related to workplace distress is a powerful strategy in protecting the health of our institutions.
It’s worth assessing your own business case for employee wellness support. How many days of productivity have been lost due to employees suffering from mental health conditions? How many of those were caused by workplace stress?
Being able to identify burnout in the workplace is one step towards supporting struggling individuals, and helps us proactively implement employee wellness programs that prevent burnout before it happens – and protect the financial interests of your organization.
Not only is there a moral obligation for investing in well-being, but there is also a financial case to be made. As stated in the JAMA study on the business case for clinician wellness support, “evidence suggests that improvement is possible, investment is justified, and return on investment measurable. Addressing this issue is not only the organization’s ethical responsibility, it is also the fiscally responsible one.”