Does the company you work for expect you to be available seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day? This type of workplace culture is becoming more and more common in the U.S. It’s no wonder that experts believe this practice is leading to increased health issues for employees, including stress-related anxiety and depression.
In an Employee Benefit News article, business psychologist and workplace adviser Dr. Michael Klein states that, when companies encourage employees to work anytime and anywhere, it makes it more likely that burnout will occur.
“The problem now is that you have the ability to work from wherever you want,” he says. “It’s so important for general wellness that employees make time to exercise, time for family and to not check work email.”
In May, the World Health Organization classified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” that is characterized by chronic work stress that is not successfully managed. Research shows that continued stress at work can lead to more serious mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
As a result, Klein predicts the next few years will see an increased need for on-site mental healthcare which could be offered through employee assistance programs. Offering EAPs, flexible work options and family-friendly benefits like onsite childcare are just some of the ways employers can reduce stress for workers.
And HR may need to take the lead. Misty Guinn, director of benefits and wellness at Benefitfocus, says finding HR professionals that can handle difficult conversations around mental health may be key to addressing the problem. But many are not comfortable enough to have those kinds of conversations.
“Most have yet to achieve that level of comfort with conversations around mental health,” she says, noting that younger generations are often more comfortable talking about mental health issues. “We’ve got to enable people, especially within HR, benefits and management to have those conversations and be comfortable with them.”
Guinn also says that EAPs alone may not be enough to address mental health issues for workers because these programs are often scarcely utilized. Subsidizing mental health co-pays, work-life balance and PTO policies are benefit options employers to create a meaningful difference for workers mental health, she adds.
“Too often employers make the mistake of believing that offering an employee assistance program sufficiently checks off the mental health box in a complete benefits package,” she says. “In reality, these programs generally have low utilization because employees don’t have confidence in how confidential they are.”
Klein and Guinn agree that employers should consider more ways to support the total well-being of employees. Companies who prioritize their people will do better in the long term, Guinn adds.
“Employers need to take purposeful actions within their policies and programs to reinforce their support of total well-being for employees and their families,” she says.