Nearly 2 years after the COVID-19 crisis began, there is no doubt that it has changed our world. Some might say it has triggered the motivation needed to reinvent business models and affect positive change — but what has been the impact of the unrelenting stress on employees?
In this article, we share some data-driven insights from over 1800 resilience assessments using our AURA tool and practical tips into what companies should be doing.
Everyday we read about the rising prevalence in burnout, urging companies to give employees ‘wellbeing days’, access to even more employee benefits and reduce working hours to help them destress and recharge. Are these the right remedies? Are they really going to have an impact?
Why should businesses be concerned?
AURA’s data since January 2021 points to a 10% drop in resilience levels in APAC employees. This places the average employee in the ‘languishing’ zone – the void between burnout & depression and thriving. This manifests itself in low motivation to work, a low sense of purpose and a cynical, negative attitude. In discussing this, Employers should take note – having large proportions of employees in this state presents significant risk through low productivity, presenteeism and often toxic environments. Attitudes tend to be infectious and can easily influence and bring down others.
A standard for measuring resilience
AURA Model: The Burnout-Resilience Continuum
AURA is a tool to measure resilience and provide data-driven insight into stress. AURA ranks resilience levels on a well-defined continuum ranging from fully resilient to crisis. The curved line represents the benchmark – the average employee is currently in the ‘Languishing’ zone.
A deeper dive into the data indicates three primary causes as follows:
- Telepressure and urgency – 58% of employees are fixated on checking messages at all times of day and report feeling a constant sense of urgency. This constant high level of demand is taking its toll. `Many employees have lost sight on what’s important vs urgent and often goals are unclear.
- Pressure to be perfect – 56% employees feel corporate pressure to be perfect, blaming themselves when things don’t go to plan. Many employees are being hindered by the thinking traps of taking feedback or setbacks personally and ruminating on negative events. This is often driven by impossible expectations and managers focusing on who is to blame versus being solution focused.
- Undisclosed issues – 53% of employees report not feeling comfortable talking about issues and asking for help, perhaps fearing the consequences if they do so. To add to this, 61% middle managers report avoiding tackling difficult issues head on, hoping problems will go away. This leads to issues being undisclosed and bottled up.
What can organisations do?
Despite well-meaning efforts, many organisations are still taking a reactive and ‘one size fits all’ approach to tackling employee stress and mental health issues. Many employees, including senior managers, lack awareness of the degree of impact stress is having on their wellbeing or the language to specifically describe their feelings. Moreover, whilst there has been some improvement, there is still a great stigma attached to cries for help and admitting struggling to cope.
The irony of trying to develop resilience capabilities is that it takes effort, which is in short supply in high pressure situations that require resilience. More progressive employers are using objective and deep-dive data to understand resilience risks and identify hotspots. This enables them to take a preventative approach and focused their efforts and spend to really make an impact.
One tool to gather such data is AURA (Austen Advisory’s proprietary tool) which measures individual resilience and provides detailed insight into stress and burnout warning signs. For many, this stimulates motivation to make some positive changes to support their personal resilience. AURA’s report provides personalised tips and access to a library of resilience resources with practical, evidence based tools to apply. Anonymised, aggregated reporting enables teams and leadership to identify resilience risks and target remedies to create healthier working environments.
Stress is something being faced by individuals across the corporate hierarchy – no one is immune, and businesses are increasingly recognising the need to identify areas of concern early, offer channels for safe disclosure to their workforce and take action.
Scientific data indicates many employees are feeling depleted and demoralised, lacking passion and drive, which places organisational resilience at risk.
The recruitment and retention of the best people and the desire to be an ‘employer of choice’ ‘is a major competitive frontier. Progressive employers tackle stress head on, gathering good data on stress before attempting to revise their practices, support and spend! This data can then be used to deliver the adaptations to the culture that employees really need and healthier, flourishing workplaces will follow.
Are you interested in getting proper data on stress in your organisation? Get in touch – we would love to chat!
Rachel Austen is a chartered occupational psychologist with over 16 years of experience working for two leading consultancies in the field, SHL and Mercer, providing advice to many large organisations in addressing their people issues. She is a specialist in psychometric assessment, leadership development and resilience. Having spent 10 years working in Singapore and Hong Kong, she has a wide variety of experience and insight into different cultures.
She now runs Austen Advisory which focuses on stress management and resilience, using a proprietary tool entitled AURA