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Flexible working must not lead to burnout, says Hays

In order to work flexibly with always on communication, workers must must strike the right balance between life and work to avoid the growing epidemic of employee burnout, says Hays.

“Organisations have taken advantage of technology to offer staff the chance to work remotely or more flexibly,” says Nick Deligiannis, managing director of Hays in Australia & New Zealand. “Employees welcome such styles of working but with smartphones meaning it is possible to be “always on” they have also been blamed in part for the rising number of people experiencing burnout.”

According to research by Willis Towers Watson, 42% of workers have suffered from stress or mental health issues at some point, and one in three believes their job impacts negatively on their mental wellbeing. The main reason people do not disclose a mental health issue, cited by 41% of those who had failed to do so, was concern that it would affect their job prospects, while 38% were worried that management or colleagues would not understand.

According to findings in the latest Hays Journal, warning signs of office burnout include:

• Becoming cynical or critical at work;
• Lacking the energy to be consistently productive at work;
• Lacking satisfaction from achievements;
• Feeling unmotivated at work;
• A change in sleep habits or appetite;
• Unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints.

Hays also offer the following ideas for organisations to help counteract burnout:

Output over hours: It is quality not quantity that counts. Make staff aware that it is their output not physical or virtual presenteeism that delivers results;
Assess overtime: If it is abnormally high, is it time to recruit an additional team member?
Set hours: Ensure employees working flexibly set clear times when they are not working;
Downtime: Ensure employees working flexibly take their full annual leave entitlement;
Review your culture: It should support wellbeing, including mental and physical health;
Email-free hours: Consider a policy regarding reading and sending emails outside standard business hours. For instance, Volkswagen famously set its servers not to forward on emails to employees out of working hours, while in France workers have the right to disconnect from work, with companies of more than 50 staff having to draw up a charter outlining the hours when staff are not supposed to send or answer emails;
Train line managers: Help them learn to spot the signs of stress or burnout in their team/s;
Access to support: What employee assistance programmes and support services are available to employees who are experiencing burnout?

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