Many employers are continuing to pimp up their well-being programs and employer benefits with the intention of managing mental health pressures. This is often based on advice from multinational business advisory and consulting firms in the form of trend surveys and reports about business attitudes, fears and concerns. A recent report from Mercer was the basis for an article in the Australian Financial Review (AFR, paywalled) written by Euan Black. It is instructive to subject the article and the Mercer report to a little scrutiny to determine their usefulness.
Late last week, it was announced that prominent lawyer Michael Tooma was leaving Clyde & Co for a position with Hamilton Locke, focussing on environment, social, and governance matters. This is interesting in one way, as lawyers move firms regularly, but his comments about the social harm from law firms’ reliance on billable hours was more interesting.
Plain speaking is one of the greatest challenges of any profession. Many professionals struggle to communicate their excellent work and knowledge which has created the moves for Research-To-Practice and specialised communicators (as opposed to public relations advisers). Human Resources (HR) and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) need communications specialists, or perhaps just interpreters, if a recent article on workers compensation and mental health is anything to go by.
If we are going to achieve a successful and effective change on workplace mental health, we need to start to understand each other.
Burnout will continue to be a trend for discussion papers and marketing brochures for some time to come. A recent one, from Udemy Business is a good example of discussion without action. If we were to replace the word “burnout” with “stress”, the paper could easily have been produced over twenty years ago.
Many of the data sources will be familiar – Gartner, Gallup, McKinsey, Deloitte. The Gallup Research included these top five causes of burnout:
I buy at least one new book related to occupational health and safety (OHS) every week. Yes, I have a big pile of unread or, half-read books. Every now and then, one stands out, and “Resilience by Design” did just that. Initially, it was about the formatting, but then the content grabbed me. It is not a “straight” OHS book, and much of it focuses on individual interventions, but there is enough content to further the OHS discussion about psychosocial hazards and provide insight into the non-OHS perspectives of this growing area of safety management.
Guest post from Jason van Schie
We can all (hopefully!) agree that looking after workers makes sound business sense. Look after your workers, and they will look after you.
So what is the best way to care for employees? By responding to their symptoms of distress through provision of reactive services like EAP [Employee Assistance Program] and resilience apps (fixing the fish), or by improving the design, management and social interactions at work (the aquarium)?
Let’s park that question for a minute and consider two questions:
1) What happens when we fix the worker but not the work? and
2) If population health is the goal, which approach is more likely to achieve the desired result?
A consistent, manageable workload balanced by official leave and hours allowing social reconnection and mental recharge is ideal. It is the structure on which Industrial Relations (IR) and occupational health and safety (OHS) are based. Many people struggle to achieve this ideal even when it is prescribed by workplace laws. Many jobs simply ignore this prescription. In The Age newspaper on July 15 2023, journalist Jane Cadzow wrote about one of these jobs, the “Political Chief of Staff”. The inherent harm of the job was noted in the headline:
“‘They’re driving me insane’: The 24/7 life of a political chief of staff”