Maximize Health and Wellness in the Workplace and Minimize Burnout
It is no secret that the past few years have brought turmoil and revolutionized how companies operate. Businesses have had to reassess and realign values, and leaders have learned to provide more flexibility in employee schedules. Even with this willingness to adapt to change, many companies are seeing an increasing rate of burnout among employees. When holistic workplace needs are met - and employees are supported – everyone wins.
Experts from GHJ, an accounting and advisory firm headquartered in Los Angeles, recently sat down to discuss the top health and wellness issues specifically impacting women today. GHJ Partner and Nonprofit Practice Leader Donella Wilson and Managing Director Anita Wu are both leaders within GHJ’s Women’s Empowerment Cohort and share their advice to minimize burnout and maximize employee potential.
Donella Wilson Nonprofit Practice Leader and Partner, GHJ: To begin, McKinsey’s annual “Women in the Workplace” report found that 42% of women reported feeling often or always burned out, which is 10% higher than last year’s report. Despite this added stress and exhaustion, women are rising to the challenge of taking on extra work compared to male counterparts at the same level - and they are doing more to support teams and advance diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) efforts. GHJ’s Women’s Empowerment Cohort recently held a meeting about stress management, and I thought the discussion was enlightening. What did you take away from that dialogue?
Anita Wu, Managing Director, GHJ: It may seem obvious, but it is incredibly important to make time for exercise, meditation and activities that make you laugh. Humor can go a long way in managing stress levels. Furthermore, it is critical to be present and engaged in the workplace, but simple initiatives such as no-camera Fridays for virtual meetings can minimize burnout. Even the ability to take a nap during the day while working from home can make a big difference. According to Gallup, incorporating these types of well-being practices into part of a company’s culture is one of the critical steps to alleviate stress.
DW: Speaking of well-being practices, how can companies better support employees’ health and wellness? Are there certain benefits or programs that are often overlooked?
AW: When it comes to benefits, it is important to establish a strong foundation. Rather than throwing a bunch of shiny benefits at employees without any strategy behind them, employers should understand what is meaningful to employees, get the basics right and fill in the gaps. At GHJ, we conducted an engagement survey that allowed us to drill down what is important to our employees.
We are all still processing a lot from the last several years, and employers need to ensure they are supporting employees holistically. Offering programs to help with mental health and minimizing daily stressors is a good place to start. GHJ, for example, offers employees a free subscription to the Calm app, as well as monthly wellness webinars. We also took an enterprise-wide break to rest and recharge this past July and the feedback was so overwhelmingly positive, we will be doing it again in 2023!
This culture of support should extend across the organization. By building a team that truly supports one another, leaders are able to encourage and enable employees to take time off, knowing there will be sufficient coverage. When people work together and support one another, the workload gets lighter, and challenges seem smaller.
DW: Employee resource groups (ERGs) and cohorts are an increasingly popular way to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace within organizations. We see this type of open dialogue around mental health and wellness also becoming more and more common in recent years. Has this impacted the conversations you have with your colleagues and clients?
AW: Oh, of course. It is a tall order to take care of oneself, relationships and career. A silver lining of the pandemic is that it shed light on this issue, whereas before this was assumed but not discussed. Now there is an increased focus on time management and setting boundaries - something that is critical to avoid burnout. It is essential to check in with each other and learn how to better support and advocate for the self-care and wellness of our friends and colleagues. DW: We have talked about women in the workplace, but an employee’s experience may be informed by race, sexual orientation and many other factors in addition to gender. How can companies ensure they are offering an intersectional approach that addresses a variety of experiences? AW: The first step is raising awareness. At GHJ, all employees go through unconscious bias training to identify and work through prejudices. Second, create and maintain a pipeline of leaders with diverse backgrounds and experiences. These leaders also act as mentors and a mentoring program needs to have inclusion, balance and fair representation.
Finally, companies should reframe DEIA as an initiative that affects and involves everyone. McKinsey’s report noted that, compared to men, women are twice as likely to spend substantial time on DEIA work that falls outside of their formal job responsibilities. Involvement in these programs by all is vital to building allyship and a sense of belonging. Ultimately, the health of a company is only as good as the overall health and well-being of its employees. Leaders should support employee work-life balance and make this a priority in company culture to foster an environment in which everyone succeeds.