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03 May 2023
by Chris Jones

Ways to use physical wellbeing benefits to prevent employee burnout

Mental and physical wellbeing are often closely connected. Supporting employee physical health can go a long way to helping their mental resilience

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In 2021/22, more than 900,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety, while another 447,000 workers suffered from a work-related musculoskeletal disorder, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

While employers may have wellbeing strategies to tackle these issues, physical health issues and mental health issues are not mutually exclusive. They are, in fact, intertwined.

HCML data shows that out of 34,000 employees experiencing mental health issues:

  • 70% were overweight
  • 95% did not meet the recommended activity guidelines

Here are 3 ways to use your physical wellbeing strategy to help prevent stress and burnout among employees.

1. Identify underlying and contributory factors

While clinical intervention such as talking therapies may be needed in some circumstances, understanding the factors that increase the risk of stress and burnout can mitigate the condition in the first place. As data has shown, many employees who report mental health concerns are not meeting recommended physical activity levels.

Identifying underlying/contributory factors means taking a data-led approach, ensuring you have access to data from all your health and wellbeing providers and the means to analyse and spot trends in health conditions across the whole of your workforce.

Only once you have this can you start to address the underlying causes and put measures in place which may include components of physical wellbeing strategies. The key is having all health data – both physical and mental - in one place to identify risk.

2. Avoid a siloed approach

As well as avoiding looking at data in siloes, it follows that any interventions to address stress and burn out are also not administered in isolation.

While it may seem obvious to signpost an employee experiencing stress or burnout to an employee assistance programme service or counselling/talking therapies, having options in place to support their physical health alongside these can target some of those underlying causes or contributing factors.

This can include services that support employees with nutrition, sleep, exercise and weight management.

3. Help employees to help themselves

While employers have a duty of care to look after their employees, it is ultimately down to the employee to take care of their own health.

Helping them to recognise when they may be at risk of stress or burnout can prevent ill health.

The Sink Model helps illustrate supporting employees to take control of their health issues.

The sink represents the body. In the sink there is always a bit of water. This symbolises ‘stress’, or what we physically describe as neuro-muscular tension. Taps add more water – or ‘stress’ to the sink and it fills up. Stressors will turn the tap on and add more tension and stress to the body. These stressors can include work pressures, poor sleep, anger or fear, not enough activity, poor nutrition and much more.

If the sink fills too much, the water starts to overflow, signifying that stress has exceeded our capacity, resulting in potential burn out. This is where we need a release – to pull the plug and allow the water, aka stress, to empty out faster.

The plug will be different things for different people, but at work employers can support employees with ways of reducing stress such as ensuring they are taking breaks, enabling flexible working to allow people the opportunity to exercise at a time that is convenient to them and providing suitable working spaces that enable employees to move around, interact and change their set up.

Providing the education, tools and support is something you can do to support them and, in doing this, improve the overall health and wellbeing of your workforce.

In partnership with HCML

HCML is a health and wellbeing provider, offering integrated and personalised healthcare solutions.

Contact us today