Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 8 months or so, you’ve likely heard mention of the Great Resignation. This pertains to the voluntary job exodus of 15 million workers since April of 2021; a number that continues to grow with each passing quarter.
Unlike the Great Depression of the last century when workers were desperately accepting any job they could find, we are experiencing the opposite: workers who are leaving their jobs in great haste.
Many have speculated that a major factor in this phenomenon is the high population of younger workers, in which their character flaws are the cause. These character flaws include laziness, less resiliency, and less likelihood of maintaining a long-term job than their older counterparts.
However, these are all myths; a larger issue is at play here when we look deeper. At the center of this issue lies a topic that can be easily overlooked: the lack of consideration for the mental health of the employees packing up their desks for good.
Mental Health Plays a Major Role
Mental health has traditionally been a subject that gets “swept under the rug” in general society, as evidenced by the millions of undiagnosed or untreated individuals that walk our streets each day with a mental health condition.
It’s seen as taboo, unimportant, or secondary to the “real” issues at hand, when in fact, it can be — and is — just as important as our physical health.
If companies were to invest the time and consideration into addressing mental health in the workplace that they do in their sales and profit margins, we might have a different scenario on our hands.
Alas, this is not the case. Although many corporations provide health insurance to their employees, the mental health department is usually lacking, if not completely non-existent.
Mental Exhaustion/Employee Burnout
One factor that plays a significant role in mental health is exhaustion—doing the same tasks, day in, day out, combined with long hours and little recognition or appreciation leads to this, among other factors. Prolonged feelings of this exhaustion and an inability to cope can lead to burnout—a decrease in determination or motivation in work leading to reduced performance. According to a recent Indeed report, Burnout has been on the rise, as 52% of workers stated experiencing burnout in 2021 and 67% of workers feel the burnout has worsened since the pandemic.
As humans we are designed to experience new things, connect with people, and explore our world to satisfy our natural curiosity. The mundane, though often necessary, must be supplemented in some way to keep us from mental exhaustion.
Sadly, companies are looking less at what they can do to help their employees avoid the possibility of burnout and more at what they can do to “fix the problem,” which often results in hiring new workers to replace the ones who are leaving — only to find themselves in a similar situation down the road.
Simply hiring new workers may be a short-term solution, but even this has proven difficult in recent times due to the pandemic; more people are opting to work from home than they were two years ago, and understandably so given our current environment.
Adults and children alike are struggling with the effects of our now 20 months of pandemic living, with mental health issues and stress on the rise in all parts of the world. This applies to onsite workers and home workers equally; more support is needed for workers everywhere.
What Can Be Done Differently?
So, what can employers do to help the situation — besides simply replacing these workers who choose to leave due to burnout?
The answer is not a simple one, but it starts with a conversation. Taking the time to assess what employees consider important regarding their work environment, offering more wide-ranging health benefits (to include mental health care, for example), and addressing mental health in the workplace are all good places to start but this won’t be a one-time quick fix.
An ongoing investigation into the wellbeing of employees is critical to retaining workers who are happier, more relaxed, and ultimately better able to perform their jobs.
Taking care of employees means more than just supplying aesthetically pleasing coffee lounges and updated office equipment; people need to feel heard, seen, and acknowledged, especially when they experience hard times.
Workers are people, after all, and they need to be treated as such, including getting the help they need for their wellbeing — mental health included.