Only recently Professors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott (The 100-Year Life – a gift few of us are prepared for | London Business School, 2021) claim that babies born today have an average life expectancy of 100 years.
This means that the education that is taught will evolve to providing the tools we need to stay healthier for longer because our working life will be extending beyond the retirement age of previous generations. The thinking now is that wellbeing will be taught as part of the national curriculum to equip the future workforce with life skills that will enable them to perform throughout the whole of their extended careers.
It is recognised globally that current workplaces have a long way to go to provide an environment for employees to ensure they remain physically and mentally healthy. The increased focus on stress-related burnout has led to burnout now being classified by the WHA (Home 2021) as a recognised medical syndrome for the first time.
The concerns mainly concern the psychological safety of employees with stress-related health concerns topping nearly all lists citing burnout (a syndrome that results from chronic stress) in most cases. Burnout is at the end of the stress spectrum and is typified, according to Maslach & Jackson (1982), by mental and physical exhaustion, lack of engagement at work and reduced passion for life. The global pandemic has increased the spotlight more on the area of psychological safety surrounding stress with Gallup (Gallup 2021) reporting that 23% of employees are feeling burned out and 44% are feeling burned out sometimes. Burnout is serious as it can lead to physical consequences muscular/skeletal pain, heart attacks and cancer. Chronic stress can also negatively impact mental health because it’s linked to a higher risk of depression, anxiety and insomnia.
The best way to reduce stress in the workplace is to ensure that the career an employee has formed part of their work/life balance. Effectively, work should meet their goals, values and aspirations in life which can be achieved by employers displaying emotional intelligence by listening to what their employees want from their jobs.
A recent article by Dawkins and Kendall (2019) commented that Covid-19 has highlighted the need for jobs to have flexibility in terms of hours and where the job is done. The report claimed that due to many socioeconomic factors modern workplaces were an extension of the family where a person seeks help and support as much as they want a paycheck. Therefore, prioritising a healthy culture where the needs of the people on a personal level are promoted as much as career progression helps to create an environment that people are passionate about.
Indeed, as part of the UK Government driven Farmer and Stevenson (2017) report into wellbeing in the workplace confirmed that a healthy work culture that is supportive and nurturing is the single biggest factor in reducing workplace distress and can produce a return on investment of well over 1000%. It does this by developing positivity about the job and the workload whereby employees relish the stress that is placed upon them as they want to work hard to make the company successful. This positive form of stress is known as Eustress (Farmer and Stevenson, 2017) and has been shown to reduce distress dramatically and at the same time increases the discretionary effort (extra effort an employee does not need to use) an employee puts in.
It seems then the key to increasing the length, the quality and the profitability of employees’ careers is to do with the culture of the company. A culture that is supportive as well as flexible and considers meeting the emotional needs of its people meets the needs of the modern generation and will help keep those in the 100-year life cycle happier and healthier for longer.
Dawkins, M. and Kendall, J., 2019. Burnout Prevention & Education. Oncology Issues, 34(4), pp.56-61.
Jackson, S. and Maslach, C., 1982. After-effects of job-related stress: Families as victims. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 3(1), pp.63-77.
Gallup, I., 2021. Employee Burnout: The Biggest Myth. [online] Gallup.com. Available at: <https://www.gallup.com/workplace/288539/employee-burnout-biggest-myth.aspx>
London Business School. 2021. The 100-Year Life – a gift few of us are prepared for | London Business School. [online] Available at: <https://www.london.edu/news/the-100-year-life-a-gift-few-of-us-are-prepared-for>
Farmer, P. and Stevenson, D., 2017. Thriving at Work: The Independent Review of Mental Health and Employers. [online] Thriving at Work, p.5. Available at: <https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/658145/thriving-at-work-stevenson-farmer-review.pdf>
Who.int. 2021. Home. [online] Available at: <https://www.who.int/>