Employee burnout: The hidden epidemic in health and social care sector
Employee burnout, defined by the World Health Organisation as "a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed", is a crisis afflicting health and social care services across the globe. Characterised by feelings of exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy, burnout affects both leaders and employees, becoming a significant driver of the talent shortage and presenting a costly challenge for the sector.
In this article, Dr Richard Dune discusses this topical issue and provides practical tips for health and social care managers to deal with workplace burnout.
Prevalence of workplace burnout
In 2022, an estimated 100 million employees worldwide left their jobs, a large proportion due to burnout. In the United States alone, 50.5 million employees quit their jobs.
The UK's health and social care sector has been under immense pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the inherent stresses associated with care roles.
According to Mental Health UK, 46% of UK workers feel 'more prone to extreme levels of stress' compared with a year ago (March 2020), while only 15% feel 'less prone to extreme levels of stress'. Burnout is often misunderstood and stigmatised despite its prevalence, impacting employees' health and well-being and employers' productivity.
Understanding burnout and establishing a culture of empathy
Noémie Le Pertel's recent article in Harvard Business Review brings to light the challenge managers face when an employee opens up about burnout. She emphasises that the initial reaction should not be to dismiss or downplay concerns. Instead, it is crucial to treat burnout with seriousness and empathy.
Le Pertel proposes these three pivotal questions to discern between temporary stress and burnout:
- Do they feel competent?
- Do they feel emotionally exhausted?
- Do they experience physical symptoms?
These questions help provide insight into the employee's self-perception, emotional state, and work-related attitudes.
Identifying root causes and implementing solutions
Once a leader understands the employee's experience of burnout, the following steps involve identifying the root causes and implementing immediate and long-term solutions. These causes can originate from within the workplace, such as an imbalance between work demands and available resources, or outside work, like financial stress or caregiving responsibilities.
Immediate measures include delegating some of their workloads, renegotiating deadlines, or offering time off. Long-term strategies involve adjusting job responsibilities, providing flexibility in how and where they work, or investing in their personal and professional development.
Sustaining change over time
Addressing burnout is an ongoing process. Regular check-ins with the employee can help monitor progress, adjust strategies as required, and reaffirm your commitment to their well-being. By implementing these steps, leaders can establish an empathetic, supportive environment that effectively tackles burnout and fosters retention.
Benefits of addressing burnout
Addressing burnout can result in numerous benefits, from improved employee well-being and reduced turnover to increased productivity and job satisfaction. The quality of care provided can also improve, a crucial factor for patient outcomes within the health and social care sector.
Conclusion and recommendations
Employee burnout is a hidden epidemic that can no longer be ignored, especially in the health and social care sector. Addressing this crisis requires empathy, understanding, proactive dialogue, and continuous engagement. It's not just about treating symptoms, but about implementing systemic changes to tackle the root causes of burnout.
Health and social care leaders are encouraged to create an open dialogue about mental health and burnout, invest in regular training for managers, and implement systemic changes to promote a more empathetic and supportive work culture. Remember, a healthy team is a productive team.
Let's work together to build a resilient, empathetic, and burnout-free health and social care sector.
Key points to remember
These are the key points to remember from this article:
- Burnout is a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.
- It is characterised by feelings of exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy.
- Treating burnout with seriousness and empathy is crucial.
- Identifying the root causes and implementing appropriate solutions is essential.
- Regular check-ins and ongoing support are vital for sustained change.
- Mind - Mind is a mental health charity in the UK that offers a variety of resources and information on workplace well-being, stress management, and burnout prevention. Visit their website for guidance and tools.
- NHS Every Mind Matters - The NHS Every Mind Matters website provides resources and information on mental health, including tips for managing stress and improving well-being. Visit their website for practical advice.
- Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) - ACAS provides guidance and support for employers and employees, including resources on managing workplace stress and promoting well-being. Visit their website for information specific to workplace issues.
- Mental Health Foundation - The Mental Health Foundation offers resources and guides on mental health, including information on stress management and well-being in the workplace. Explore their website for valuable tools and tips.
- Work-related stress and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - The HSE website guides work-related stress and its impact on health and well-being. Visit their website for information and resources on managing workplace stress.
- Time to Change - Time to Change is a campaign to end mental health stigma. Their website offers resources and personal stories about mental health in the workplace. Visit their website for information and support.
Remember, these resources can provide valuable insights and guidance. Still, if you are experiencing severe burnout or mental health difficulties, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional or seek support from your employer's occupational health services.
About the Mandatory Training Group
The Mandatory Training Group is one of the leading UK providers of CPDUK-accredited statutory and mandatory training, continuing professional development (CPD) courses, eLearning software and workforce development solutions for all sectors.
By making things simple and designing interactive e-learning content, we can provide meaningful training programs at all levels and enhance the capacity and resilience of individuals and organisations.
Click here to see our wide range of accredited mental health courses and training.
About Dr Richard Dune
Dr Richard Dune is a leading health and social care governance expert. Throughout his career, he has worked in various settings across the UK, including NHS Trusts, research and development, academic institutions, and private companies.
His work primarily focuses on developing, deploying and evaluating technologies, such as clinical decision support systems, educational technologies, workforce development and regulatory compliance solutions.
Dr Dune regularly writes about topical issues affecting the UK's health and social care sectors. Additionally, he speaks at conferences, stakeholder workshops, and professional forums. Dr Dune is also a research fellow at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire in the Research, Development and Innovation department. His other passions include content development, education, and coaching. Click here to read more articles by Dr Dune.
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- Why is staff training important in health and social care?
- How to Hire Health and Social Care Leaders for Success
- Importance of mandatory training in health and social care
- What is mandatory training in health and social care?
- What is statutory training in health and social care?
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