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It is beneficial for employers to provide greater flexibility and autonomy to their workforces, as 40% of workers report that they are experiencing burnout. That is according to research findings from the International SOS Foundation and Affinity Health at Work[1]. Affinity Health at Work is a specialist consultancy and one of the research groups contracted by the WHO Steering Group to perform the supporting evidence work for WHO guidelines on mental health at work, recently published in September 2022.

International SOS Foundation and Affinity Health at Work's report Managing Duty of Care for Wellbeing Within a Hybrid Workforce, draws on data from workers across the world to investigate the impact of hybrid work on wellbeing and Duty of Care. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards hybrid working and brought about change in Duty of Care expectations and responsibilities over the last three years. Findings from Managing Duty of Care for Wellbeing Within a Hybrid Workforce show that on average, workers put in 20% more hours than they are expected to per week and that working hours are the most significant contributor to stress and mental ill-health. This could provide evidence for some of the reasons why the trend of 'quiet quitting' – when workers mentally disconnect from their jobs and start to only provide minimal effort – may be on the rise, as many workforce experts have noted.

Employers will be well placed to recognise the power of autonomy and flexibility, as the research indicates that these themes are often linked to greater mental wellbeing. The key issue for many workers is autonomy, as regardless of their working structure having a sense of control and power over their own work is often crucially important. Those employees who reported to have autonomy demonstrated a higher satisfaction overall with clearer responsibilities, better manager and colleague relationships and were more likely to disclose mental health issues with managers and colleagues.

Dr Rodrigo Rodriguez-Fernandez – Global Health Advisor, Wellness & Mental Health at International SOS, comments "Clearly workplace burnout is an issue that both hybrid and non-hybrid workers are experiencing. Both working environments come with their own challenges, which employers must account for in their mental wellness strategies. For instance, hybrid workers may experience wellbeing benefits associated with more work flexibility, but they may also miss out on in-person training for mental health awareness. Listening to employees is integral to this, as this research highlights how vital it is that employees feel empowered when it comes to their mental health and wellbeing."

[1] An evidence-based-practice approach was taken to the research, using evidence from a number of sources – academic literature, practitioner literature, the local context, experts and those affected (in this case employees working a range of working patterns). Evidence from these three stages was then combined to develop the most accurate picture on which to base recommendations. 1,069 responses were received for the survey portion of the research. Results were analysed in order to gain further insights into the experience, needs and expectations of hybrid workers in terms of management of wellbeing.

Wellbeing as a Strategic Priority for Organisations

The extent of burnout and low levels of wellbeing in employees highlighted by the research demonstrates the importance of supporting mental health and wellbeing as a strategic priority for organisations. When creating solutions within organisations to support this strategic priority it is beneficial for organisations to gain an understanding of their employees' needs and expectations. These then can be addressed through offering a range of tailored solutions for employees to support their wellbeing regardless of whether they are working in hybrid or non-hybrid environments. The research shows that just implementing training or a wellbeing hotline may not be enough. Organisations need a range of offerings to support employee wellbeing whilst also considering global differences in how useful different activities were perceived to be by workers. Offering a range of options of support means that the workers' needs are acknowledged, which will in turn will increase the perceived level of fairness within the organisation. This approach can help combat the Great Resignation, maintain productivity levels, and protect the mental resilience of employees.


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