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By Jane Upson
Asia is tipped to have rapid economic growth until 2030, but will it come at the cost of employees in the workplace? Work burnout and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are on the rise even in countries with robust economies such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.
Studies have found that unhealthy workplace practices such as excessive overtime can have negative effects on employees’ wellbeing. While companies are becoming more proactive in improving workplace mental health, there are also several things HR can do to prevent employee burnout.
What is work burnout and how can HR help employees avoid it?
Work burnout is defined as a psychological response to chronic exposure to stressors in the workplace. As a result of this condition, employees run the risk of becoming exhausted, experience a decline in work performance and feel a sense of failure, among other negative effects.
In response to work burnout, a growing number of companies have introduced workplace programmes to improve their employees’ mental health and wellbeing.
Exercise and physical activity are a great tonic
Employees can be encouraged to choose activities that suit their emotional, physical and spiritual needs. Regular physical activity is one of the best ways to avoid work burnout. Whether it’s sports or just simple walking, doing repetitive and structured physical movements can decrease stress levels brought about by work burnout. Yoga is another great stress reliever, which can bring about spiritual healing as well.
Encourage employees to join company-sponsored programmes as these activities give them time away from the office to refresh.
Communicate to ease the burden
Encouraging employees to talk about their work stress and experiences – whether it’s with a friend or a mental health professional – can help them avoid or alleviate work burnout.
The more that negative feelings are bottled up, the more an employee is likely to experience a mental breakdown or other psychological issues. So try to ensure that there is available in your organisation at least one person who is receptive to their feelings and can support them during stressful times.
Practising mindfulness in the workplace
One way to avoid work burnout is through mindfulness-based interventions, which have become a staple in some workplaces.
While mindfulness in the workplace is a relatively new concept, the benefits of mindfulness meditation are well-established. Studies have found that mindfulness meditation is effective in combating work-related stress and burnout.
Employees don’t have to join workshops or classes to practise mindfulness. It can be as easy as finding a comfortable spot in the office – away from noise and other distractions – and doing mindfulness breathing for 10 to 15 minutes each day. Mindfulness and breathing apps are available to give initial guidance on the process.