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Could hybrid wotking and four-day week fuel burnout?

Sam Fuller, CEO of The Wellbeing Project and Founder of Wraw®

A report* finds that leaders have significantly higher levels of wellbeing and resilience, and are more positive and optimistic (Flexible Thinking) – especially in the face of challenging circumstances, such as the ongoing pandemic. The research shows that leaders with this attitude energise employees, because they create an open, inclusive and collaborative workplace. In particular, these leaders demonstrably motivate employees to build Strong Relationships, instil a clear sense of purpose and personal control (Future Focus), cultivate Flexible Thinking, and stimulate motivation and self-belief (Inner Drive).

The research assessment model measures employee wellbeing and resilience across a scientifically validated framework known as the 5 Pillars of Resilience: Energy, Future Focus, Inner Drive, Flexible Thinking, and Strong Relationships.  The assessment also measures overall resilience (The Wraw Index), and the extent to which someone is feeling the effects of pressures (Impact Index) – across age, gender, seniority and industry sector.

Four-day week trials risk overloading already pressured employees
Hybrid and home-based workers are the most stressed, suggesting that wellbeing and resilience extend to more than just location and good management.  Despite avoiding the daily commute and gaining more time, home-workers seem to have added to their to-do list. In turn, this has affected their overall quality of life as it is more challenging to build Strong Relationships, and maintain Inner Drive and Future Focus.  The scores of mobile and field workers across the 5 Pillars of Resilience are stronger.  In particular, they have a greater sense of personal control, autonomy and self-belief that may support their overall wellbeing.  As employers trial the 4-day week, they need to take into consideration the levels of stress employees are currently dealing with.

Sam Fuller, CEO of The Wellbeing Project and Founder of Wraw®, states: “As some employers embark on four-day week trials, they must be careful to manage the transition and not further deplete the energies of an already stressed-out workforce. We know that employee wellbeing depends on a number of factors – not just when and where you’re working. Organisations need to provide appropriate support so that all the benefits of flexible working, hybrid working, and shorter weeks outweigh the risk factors.  We are still working through the effects of the pandemic, therefore strategies that focus on re-establishing and maintaining human connection and elevating energy levels are paramount.”

Age is everything, with over 55s playing an important role in the workforce
When comparing age against the 5 Pillars of Resilience, 18 – 25 year olds struggle the most. The findings are consistent with research by the The Health Foundation, Deloitte and AXA which all suggest that younger people have been disproportionately impacted by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. This highlights the need for ongoing training and development which senior colleagues can provide, alongside mentoring schemes.  Over 55s feel better able to see things from other perspectives and navigate around challenges to find alternative approaches.  They are also less likely to make assumptions about people and situations and are able to adapt to change more quickly.

Teachers and Tech workers score themselves lowest on resilience and wellbeing
Those working in Teaching & Education and in IT & Information Services report amongst the lowest levels of resilience and wellbeing, suggesting a risk of burnout. For teachers, this backs up previous research from the National Education Union (State of Education: The Profession | NEU) that states 44% of them plan to quit the profession by 2027.

Tech workers rated themselves lower on the ability to build supportive relationships at work, implying that they are unlikely to lean on social support to bounce back from stress and pressure. The pandemic may have also had an impact given the instrumental role technology played in keeping workers connected and online. With skills shortages and under-staffed IT departments, this impacted job autonomy and induced long hours. A survey by Harvey Nash found that half of tech professionals in the UK have been concerned about their mental health due to work. When it comes to the 5 Pillars of Resilience, those in tech struggled the most than any other department, across all industry sectors.

Fuller concludes: “It’s true that we are still feeling the hangover of the pandemic and employers need help to understand how to best mitigate burnout of their employees. One of the benefits of this research is that it offers leaders an insight into how to tailor their approach to employee wellbeing and build greater resilience into their workforce. We have presented findings for different groups and industry sectors so that leaders can tailor their strategy to the real needs of their people.  In turn, this will show up in the bottom line of the business, and in the lasting health and engagement of their employees.”

Other findings include:

  • Males report feeling slightly more resilient than females, which is in line with the Deloitte report where 46% of women feel burnt out. However, the Wraw research shows that women have stronger networks of support which could protect against the impact of pressure.
  • Private sector workers have the highest resilience scores overall and are 8% higher than the public sector.
  • Strong Relationships are the least developed area of resilience across all demographics.
  • Those in Charities & Volunteer Work have among the lowest scores for purpose and personal control (Future Focus). They also score themselves lowest on maintaining self-belief and the motivation to persevere through challenges (Inner Drive).
  • Workers in Finance score amongst the highest on sustaining motivation and self-belief (Inner Drive). However, scores are lower for building trust-based relationships and networks of support.
  • Professionals in Marketing and Sales, Human Resources, and Finance score themselves highly across, Future Focus, Inner Drive and Flexible Thinking.
  • IT professionals rate themselves low on both the Wraw Index and Impact index.

The report is published at a time when unfilled job vacancies in the UK are at a record high with many people resigning in search of more supportive workplaces, meaningful work and greater job satisfaction. Employers can use the findings to help create more robust strategies to prioritise the wellbeing of their staff, which is essential for increasing employee retention.

*Wraw® Resilience Report 2022

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