New statistics reveal a tidal wave in employee demand for health and mental health support as workers succumb to work-related stress and burnout.
The mental health scene for workers today
The number of UK workers accessing the confidential employee mental health support services available via the wellbeing and benefits app Engage has risen by 155%, according to our data as the company behind the app.
Other research has found that 92% of UK GPs have reported a rise in patients seeking help for work-related stress since the onset of COVID-19, with a separate study revealing that nearly one in three (29%) people have taken time off work for mental health reasons.
The rise of technostress and work pressures
Workers are under unprecedented pressure to maintain productivity and efficiency as this year’s National Stress Awareness Week gets underway. This is triggering many worrying mental and emotional issues from the stress and negative psychological impact of so much online working and virtual meetings, which is still more than ever, despite the return to the office for many, and the trend for hybrid working.
The main symptoms of technostress to look out for are fatigue, irritability, insomnia, and fragile mental health, as well as frustration and feeling, overwhelmed and ineffective.
Furthermore, the situation is set to worsen as the struggle to recruit and retain staff puts the existing workforce under even more pressure. In fact, demand for workers has been the highest since 1997, with 69% of UK companies reporting talent shortages and difficulty hiring.
Providing the tools and benefits that support employees’ happiness and wellbeing is a must, and it’s essential that workers’ health and wellbeing sit at the heart of a company’s culture.
The key here is a clear strategy on technology use and creating an employee benefits programme that is in-tune with what they want when they need it.
Below are six steps to help workers prevent and overcome technostress and, in turn, limit their chances of stress and burnout:
Six steps to reduce technostress (including employee stress and burnout)
- Assess the risk – get a clear picture of the current situation. Many digital communication platforms offer a tool that without invading employees’ privacy, allow investigation of key insights on productivity trends, tools used and ‘screen time’. This provides an idea of extra time spent on new tools, especially outside of usual work hours, and if employees may be struggling.
- Raise awareness – one of the biggest ways to combat any kind of mental health issue in the workplace is to raise awareness of it, so ensure all employees know the signs, causes and dangers of technostress.
- Encourage a work/life balance – to avoid technostress, employees should be encouraged to switch off from work at home, i.e) don’t reply to work emails outside of work hours. By allowing employees to disconnect from work, they’ll be happier, healthier and more productive.
- Training – sufficient, accessible resources and training for technology and mental health awareness for managers is key.
- Review processes and procedures – adjust and re-design workdays to avoid unnecessary workload. This is vital in the current predominantly home-based working model, as it helps consider external stressors and factors that may not have impacted procedures and policies prior to COVID-19.
- Reduce unnecessary communication – current levels of communication with colleagues, teams, clients and suppliers are unprecedented, but sometimes there is an expectation that people will respond all the time, bringing a risk of overloading team members, so strive to minimise unnecessary communication to help reduce the associated stress.
David McCormack is CEO of employee benefits and outsourced payroll provider HIVE360.