What kind of strategies can employers use today to avoid the business-breaking costs of burnout?
This article was sponsored by Altum Health.
Burnout is not a new problem. Employers and insurers in Canada have faced the risks in the years before the pandemic. In 2022 and beyond, however, the risk is about to get higher, and the problem is about to get worse.
Employers face increasing pressure to address the well-being of their employees, increase productivity with flexible employee policies and programs, and provide appropriate supports. The risks of under delivering are high: resignation, presenteeism, absenteeism, and an increase in short and long-term disability claims.
Uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 Pandemic, bigger workloads, lack of social support, and blurred lines between work and home increase the risk of burnout. Those with pre-existing physical and mental health comorbidities are at an even greater risk of burnout and progression to mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
The results are unfortunate for the employee, who is seeking to maintain job productivity alongside work life balance, and the employer, who is looking to support the employee while avoiding the high costs associated with burnout or mental health disorders. The good news is that there is greater recognition of the problem and employers now have access to strategies that can help turn the tide.
What can employers do?
Employers can set up psychologically safe workplaces that emphasize supportive policies. They can pursue best practices such as clarity in job expectations and flexible work arrangements where possible.
Managers, through education, can learn to recognize the initial signs of mental stress and burnout amongst employees, and be comfortable when and how to offer support. Learning how to listen to employees and identify stressors or performance issues in a supportive manner goes a long way.
Employees, when supported, learn to manage with minimal interventions, particularly at the first signs of mental stress. Changes to policies help support employees to make small changes in the workday. Taking vacation time, practicing self-care, rest and relaxation result. Counseling services available through employee assistance programs, including virtual options, help manage the early signs of burnout.
Employees with multiple physical and mental health comorbidities often require a complex care plan customized to individual needs. Choosing the right provider who can navigate the system in such cases is of the utmost importance. Providers require clinical expertise rooted in evidence. They require proficiency in specialized areas to address complex barriers to recovery. Employees need help with early, effective navigation of the health care system, coupled with a thorough assessment of psychological and physical functioning. Getting employees back to their productive selves in a timely fashion means recommendations from a provider must address individual barriers to recovery and ensure excellent communication amongst all stakeholders.
Despite worrying trends, there is an answer for employers and their employees to avoid the business-breaking costs associated with burnout. A psychologically safe workplace culture supported by management and appropriate policies, as well as the ability to refer to a trusted employee assistance program or expert provider builds trust, resiliency, and significantly reduces the risks of burnout.
About Altum Health
Altum Health, a division of University Health Network, is a leading hospital-based, trusted provider offering its services across 12 locations and virtually. We’ve partnered with employers, insurers, worker’s compensation boards and other 3rd party payors for over 30 years, to offer care navigation, solve acute and complex injury and disability problems, effectively enabling people to receive the right care to stay at work or get back to work and life. Altum has 350 employees and 300 medical consultants that care for over 10,000 individuals annually. All profits are given back to UHN to fund public health.
Altum Health offers expertise in Musculoskeletal Injuries / Conditions, Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury, Secondary Diagnosis Mental Health Condition, and Post Covid Recovery.
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Senior Director, Business Development
Altum Health, University Health Network
About the Contributor
Dr. Martin Svihra is the Medical Director of Altum Health’s Mental Health and Wellness Program, which includes the WSIB Mental Health Specialty Program and Employer/Insurer programs and services. He is a Staff Psychiatrist at University Health Network Centre for Mental Health, and lecturer in the University Of Toronto’s Department Of Psychiatry.