This week marked Blue Monday, claiming to be the most depressing day of the year as a result of freezing temperatures and post-Christmas financial strain. While Blue Monday may offer a natural opportunity to talk about our feelings, discussion of mental health should take place all year round. This is especially true as a quarter of us will experience a mental illness in our lifetimes.
Mental health in the workplace is an increasingly relevant topic. This can be seen as 1 in 6 workers will experience depression, anxiety or stress at any one time. These can account for up to 44% of cases of work-related ill health and 54% of workplace absences, costing up to £99bn per year.
Despite this, only 13% of UK line managers have received mental health training. This may mean that it is harder for line managers to identify cases of work stress or burnout – considered an ‘occupational phenomenon’ - without increased access to mental health awareness and support.
As such, here are some points that may be helpful in considering if your workforce is happy and healthy, or on the brink of burnout.
Common signs of burnout
Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion, which may occur when facing overwhelming or long-term work stress.
Burnout may be difficult to spot as symptoms usually come on gradually over time, with the latter stages resulting in chronic exhaustion and fatigue. The quicker burnout is recognised, the quicker it can be treated.
This highlights how important it is for employers and employees to recognise the symptoms of burnout so that they are able to embark on the road to recovery as soon as possible.
Here are some signs to watch out for:
1. HONEYMOON STAGE
When undertaking a new job, we often experience high levels of job satisfaction, commitment, energy and creativity. We may display a commitment to the job at hand, compulsion to prove ourselves, enhanced creativity and productivity, as well as increased energy levels, optimism and job satisfaction.
2. ONSET OF STRESS
As our role progresses, we may find that some days are more difficult than others, with optimism decreasing and an onset of stress related symptoms, including: anxiety, avoidance, fatigue and forgetfulness, irritability and an inability to focus.
3. CHRONIC STRESS
If these symptoms persist, this may lead into the third stage of burnout: chronic stress. This may result in: a marked change in behaviour, chronic exhaustion and cynicism, physical illness and increased alcohol or drug consumption.
Stage four is considered critical as it becomes increasingly difficult to cope. It is important to seek intervention immediately if experiencing any of the following symptoms: chronic headaches or stomach problems, feeling empty inside, obsession over work and family problems, self-doubt and social isolation.
5. HABITUAL BURNOUT
The final stage of burnout is habitual burnout. This stage is usually marked by chronic mental and physical fatigue, chronic sadness, depression and even suicidal thoughts. It is imperative to seek help from your GP at this stage.
Here is a guide to recognising some of the common symptoms of burnout. It is important to note that this list is non-exhaustive, and it is important to seek help for any mental health symptoms that you may experience. It is also important to reach out if you notice a colleague struggling; why not ask them how they are doing over a cup of coffee?
Here are some resources that may be useful if you are concerned about your mental health:
· Samaritans: freephone 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a reply within 24 hours.
· Text “SHOUT” to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line, or text “YM” if you’re under 19.
· In an emergency, always contact 999.