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Work policies are failing to help staff switch off

Research from Wellbeing Partners reveals that employers lack policies to support the work-life balance of their staff. Just 2 in 10 have policies discouraging employees from emailing others outside of working hours – despite rising calls for employees’ ‘right to disconnect’. More than two thirds (76%) also don’t offer guidance for employees to regularly take annual leave.

Despite rising calls for employees’ ‘right to disconnect’, a recent survey* reveals that just 2 in 10 (20%) employers have policies in place to discourage staff from emailing other employees outside of working hours. This coincides with research from Ipsos which reveals that 60% of UK adults are in favour of laws restricting workplace interactions outside of contracted hours.

The data from Wellbeing Partners, clinical experts in employee mental health, reveals that employer effort is lacking when it comes to supporting a positive work-life balance and reducing burnout among workers. More than two thirds (76%) of employers don’t offer guidance for employees to regularly take annual leave; 76% also don’t give guidance on safely using and taking breaks from technology. Less than a third (29%) organise regular one-to-one check-ins for employees with their line managers.

Even though there are low levels of support, 90% of HR managers say they notice signs of burnout in their workforce and 4 in 10 (42%) feel their employees are regularly tired or drained at work.

The survey also highlights that employer support for remote and home working employees is insufficient, even though more than half of HR managers (55%) feel that homeworking is increasing the risk of burnout.

For organisations currently operating as a remote or hybrid workforce, just 41% provide employees with guidance on how to maintain a positive work-life balance and less than 2 in 10 (19%) offer health guidance (physical, mental or nutritional) that is tailored to employees working from home. Fewer than a quarter (22%) organise activities to increase social interaction.

Lou Campbell, Programmes Director at Wellbeing Partners, states:

“Burnout is a type of stress-related exhaustion that can dramatically impact a person’s professional and personal lifestyle. Reducing it is not only about supporting employees at work but ensuring they have the means to disconnect from work responsibilities in their home lives.

“While employers recognise the detrimental impacts of burnout on their organisation, they still aren’t providing employees with the necessary tools to overcome the issue. As a result, many employees are in the habit of overworking and checking emails in their time off. While employees should seek to understand whether these habits are workplace driven or self driven, employers must set clear expectations to help them.

“Giving guidance on recommended screen time and regular breaks for holidays is essential. But ultimately, creating a culture at work in which employees are actively encouraged to step away from daily responsibilities boosts productivity, concentration and morale.”

Wellbeing Partners’ survey also reveals that 43% of HR managers state that burnout is leading to decreased employee productivity in their organisation. One in 3 (33%) say it’s decreasing employee engagement, 28% say it’s increasing staff resignations, 26% feel it’s weakening workplace culture and 23% say it’s damaging the employer brand.

Campbell adds: “Supporting staff to disconnect from work is important for both the employee and the employer. In the last year, we’ve increasingly seen the effects that mass burnout can have on an organisation – whether it’s on staff turnover, an employer’s ability to attract new employees or to create a healthy and motivated workforce. Fundamentally, providing employees with the means to rest and take time away from work will not negatively impact their working capacity and output – instead, it will likely improve it.”

*Wellbeing Partners

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