World Mental Health Day 2022: economic turbulence fuelling burnout

A new survey highlights how for many the end of the pandemic has not improved mental wellbeing. Amid economic turbulence and rising prices, quiet quitting and retention are also challenges as employees seek to safeguard their state of mind.

Mature man sits at a table in the house and uses a calculator to add up the amount of his bills to pay
The impact of financial headwinds is being felt among British business leaders.A nationally representative survey of 2,071 people by corporate finance advisory Trachet ahead of World Mental Health Day on 10 October finds 34% of British business leaders are suffering from burnout amidst economic downturn, with 62% of Britons happy to compromise their career aspirations/business goals in order to avoid burnout.Around a third (29%) are also actively looking for another job as their pay cannot keep pace with the rising cost of living.
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The challenge is being felt across all sectors, including the vibrant start-up scene. Corporate finance expert, Claire Trachet, founder of the eponymous advisory, says that leaders are struggling to motivate and maintain staff as funding opportunities decline.“In recent years, there has been a wealth of funding available for founders to help accelerate growth – billions of pounds of capital have been invested into start-ups through private equity and public markets.“Start-ups have been attracting the best of UK talent thanks to competitive salaries and forward-thinking company culture, with big flexible working and personal benefits.“However, as these companies face major layoffs because of reduced funding and their high cash-burning nature, the atmosphere at these cheery start-ups has dramatically changed. Many start-up founders can attribute their success to having high versatility in playing different roles, from finance and fundraising to product management, founders take on a series of responsibilities that many would find overwhelming. Over a scarcity of resource and funding, this will lead to a highly strained workforce across the sector.”

Tackling mental health through inclusion

Simon Blake OBE, Chief Executive of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England agrees economic uncertainty is having a negative impact on mental wellbeing, which currently costs the UK economy alone over £56 billion a year.Left unchecked, the cost-of-living crisis will exacerbate existing strains on people’s mental wellbeing and accelerate a public health emergency, the social enterprise warned. Launching new training and support for Mental Health First Aiders, Simon Blake said, “No-one has been left untouched by the events of the past few years.“The impact of the pandemic, economic uncertainty, and huge changes to the way we live and work have created a perfect storm and many people are tired and worried at best, with significant numbers experiencing mental distress and illness.“The cost-of-living crisis will only exacerbate this, particularly for those who have already been the hardest hit. Tackling these inequalities by building more inclusive workplaces should be a business priority for all.”

Is your employee wellbeing approach fit for purpose?

With research already showing that employee support needs to be more tailored to individuals, and the role of truly inclusive workplaces in supporting authenticity and employee wellbeing, Towergate Health & Protection is reinforcing the importance of having mental health support that is fit purpose and takes into account different global cultures.

This World Mental Health Day, the independent specialist adviser is encouraging employers to use the opportunity to review the support they offer and how it is communicated.“Employers with staff overseas have the added challenge that views and attitudes to mental health differ hugely around the world,” says Sarah Dennis, Head of International at Towergate Health & Protection. “It’s not taken seriously in every country, and this can hold employees back from utilising any support they’re offered. 

“Employees abroad face very specific challenges that can affect their mental wellbeing – being away from friends and family, coupled with high expectations to deliver for the business – the effect of these challenges can be exacerbated when working in a culture that doesn’t openly appreciate the toll it can take. 

“So, not only do employers with staff overseas need to ensure the support they offer is right, but they also need to pay particular attention to communicating it effectively and give great emphasis on encouraging its usage. This can include making support available out of hours, letting staff know that support is confidential, ensuring support is offered by people who understand their specific needs, and using every opportunity – such as World Mental Health Day – to communicate the help on offer.

“If employers underestimate the impact of different cultures on mental wellbeing, it will be to the detriment of the health of their staff.”

‘Talk to staff’

Debra Clark, Head of Specialist Consulting, Towergate Health & Protection added: “The market is flooded with potential support that employers can offer their staff, from EAPs to in-patient psychiatric care, and it can be confusing for employers to know what to offer. We would urge employers not to take the first thing they’re offered or simply follow the current trend: if it’s not right for their staff, it won’t provide the support their staff need.

“The starting point must be to talk to staff. Companies need to understand their particular workforce demographic, their mental resilience, and what mental health risks they face. They need to ask employees what they might be struggling with and what help they need. In our experience, this often throws up many surprises. This then enables companies to offer tailored, personalised support that’s actually going to make a difference. Without going through this process, companies need to accept that any support they offer may not be fit for purpose, and the mental wellbeing of their staff may well suffer.”

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