In the middle of a global mental health crisis, burnout is a key threat for businesses. We explore the steps firms can take to mitigate the risk and protect employees

Risk managers are warning that mental health issues are a critical threat facing organisations today.

In particular, employee burnout due to crisis fatigue is mounting, with 80% of risk experts saying this will likely have a significant impact on their business and employees this year, according to research from International SOS.

stressed businessman

The Risk Outlook 2024 also shows that managing mental health issues is not straighfoward - around two-thirds of surveyed professionals anticipate increased complexity in ensuring the health, wellbeing and security of their workforces this year, a higher proportion than any other time in the past five years.

But with 72% saying stress is likely to have a negative impact on the business, organisations must urgently take steps to proactively address the causes of burnout among their employees.

Key statistics include:

  • 80% of surveyed risk management experts believe stress and burnout will impact their business in the year ahead.
  • 70% believe mental health issues will also have a significant impact on business and their employees.
  • 49% of risk management experts believe they’re least prepared to mitigate this issue.
  • 75% of survey respondents believe people have higher duty of care expectations from their employers than ever before.

A mental health crisis

The cumulative impact of ongoing crises, coupled with personal stressors such as rising living costs, concerns about climate change and political polarisation, has significantly impacted individual wellbeing.

This convergence of crises has fuelled a state of permacrisis, where the traditional cycle of crisis and recovery is replaced by a continuous state of flux and uncertainty.

Prolonged exposure to crises contributes to a rise in employee burnout, characterised by feelings of emotional exhaustion and reduced productivity.

With the possibility of future pandemics and other unforeseen events, employers need to transition from reactive crisis management to proactive preparedness.

“These challenges have propelled employees into uncharted territory, where the lines between professional and personal wellbeing blur.”

This shift is crucial to mitigate the negative effects of both permacrisis and burnout within the workforce.

Dr Kate O’Reilly, regional medical director at International SOS, highlights the gravity of the situation.

She says: “The current landscape presents a concerning trend of burnout permeating workplaces globally. We are observing a convergence of factors, including increased workloads, a lack of work-life balance and a climate of constant change and unpredictability.

“These challenges have propelled employees into uncharted territory, where the lines between professional and personal wellbeing blur.”

How to tackle the threats

The prevalence of burnout brings organisations to a critical juncture demanding immediate attention.

Employers must recognise the significance of this issue and implement preventive measures to mitigate its effects.

This requires a deep understanding of the root causes and precursors of burnout, followed by a focus on job design and fostering a work environment that prioritises employees’ holistic wellbeing and sustainable performance.

International SOS’ top strategies for businesses looking to address burnout amongst the workforce:

  • Recognise the signs: Implement regular check-ins with employees to gauge their wellbeing and identify early signs of burnout. Train managers to recognise signs of burnout and provide them with resources to support their teams effectively. Encourage open dialogue about mental health and destigmatise seeking help for stress-related issues.
  • Proactive measures: Take proactive steps to address burnout by providing access to mental health support programmes, including counselling services or employee assistance programmes. Organise stress management workshops to equip employees with coping strategies and resilience-building techniques.
  • Enhance resilience: Foster a culture of resilience within the organisation by promoting work-life balance. Provide resources for employees to seek support if needed. Establish clear protocols for managing stress-related absences and create a supportive environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their challenges.
  • Strategic planning: Develop comprehensive crisis management plans that specifically address burnout and stress-related challenges. Include protocols for managing workload distribution during times of increased stress and establish mechanisms for monitoring and addressing employee wellbeing.
  • Collaborative efforts: Foster collaboration with external experts and organisations to leverage their expertise in addressing burnout and supporting employee well-being. Share best practices and learnings to collectively strengthen resilience and enhance support systems.