Psych Group Is Blowin’ Smoke with Burnout Remedies

in burnout, Featured, industrial organizational psychology, Uncategorized

Person veiled in smoke to represent APA "blowing smoke" about burnout

The media and self-help industry offer a lot of bad advice on how to ease burnout: Be here now. Suffer through a resilience workshop. Dance to your favorite song (no, really — I witnessed a PhD-level psychologist prescribing this as a burnout remedy in a webinar for mental health coaches).

Now, in a post called Burnout: Small Changes Lead to Big Results (soon to be followed by an infographic), the American Psychiatric Association weighs in with its own tepid, unfounded advice, cloaked in a veneer of evidence: “Remind leaders…; Find opportunities…; Remind everyone…; Find ways…; Evaluate and ensure…; Consider part of the job… Find ways.”

Small Changes, Big Impact“? Well, the first half is true.

There’s no reason to think the Association’s tips will lead to any impact at all — big or small. To suggest otherwise is as dismissive of the pain of hardworking people as… well, as advice to dance to your favorite song.

I don’t mean to throw shade on the American Psychiatric Association. They don’t have much to work with. Nearly 50 years ago, psychologists came up with some compelling ideas about burnout. All these years later, we have no meaningful advice to offer employers — and no response to the folk remedies hawked by the self-help, HR consulting, and burgeoning mental health industries — because the research has been nothing other than a hot mess ever since.

Maybe it’s time for a reset? I’ll say more about this in a future post.

We have to do better than “Find ways.”

 

 

Corporate Cultures Too Wrecked To Be Fixed?

in Featured, industrial organizational psychology, total worker health, Uncategorized

shipwreck symbolizing some corporate cultures

 

I loved reading Implementation of an Organizational Intervention to Improve Low-Wage Food Service Workers’ Safety, Health and Wellbeing. As someone who has an interest in psychosocial (and physical) risk, and who has years of experience in the bizarro world of corporate dining, I find this study (which I’ve followed since it was first announced) to offer a window into what happens when worlds collide.

Many of us interested in organizational psych or corporate culture may poo-poo trendy behavior change programs, as if our organizational interventions are the panacea. This study reminds us, however, that organizations can be intractable beasts — rife with competing interests, diverse and intense demands, egos, inertia, turnover, and, of course, bureaucracy — not to be trifled with.

Comments from this publication that leave a lasting impression:

  • “…fissured work environment, with blurred accountability for worker health and safety.”
  • “…communication barriers between organizational units.”
  • “…no site manager completed the action planning tool for any of the modules, citing lack of time and job demands as barriers.”
  • “’…adding a chair and a mat for the cashier. For aesthetics, the client won’t allow this.'”
  • “Research team members… were not invited to attend huddles for the other two modules due to the sites’ time constraints and competing demands…”
  • “…challenges of a complex system with various interacting elements… The environment was characterized by low profitability, low wages, high turnover, conflicting demands, and limited potential to modify the workspace.”

A fascinating read with important lessons about the elements of organizational intervention… presented in the context of an eyes-wide-open look at the modern workplace.

A Doubt About Burnout

in burnout, Employee Wellness Programs, Featured, Uncategorized, Wellbeing

silhouette and flame representing burnout

I have doubt about burnout.

Understand, not only do I feel certain that employees experience exhaustion, cynicism, disengagement, self-doubt, and depression often as a result of work stressors, but I’ve spent the better part of my career spotlighting these processes in my work as a well-being practitioner. Further, if an employee says they’re burned out, I believe their experience is credible — it should be accepted, respected, and addressed.

Continue reading »

The Great Resignation May Be a Thing. Here’s What We Really Know.

in business, Data, Featured, Uncategorized, Wellbeing

 

The word "job" going out the doorThe data is starting to support the hype about The Great Resignation.

Don’t be too awed by media reports of “record-breaking” resignations. Record-breaking quit rates were entirely predictable based on their upward trajectory over the last 10 years. What changed was a steep drop in those rates early in the pandemic. Data released today (November 12, 2021) shows a rate (indeed, record-breaking) of 3.0% for September and, yes, this trend looks to be ramping up.

Until now, we’ve known only that there’s been a Great Compression of Resignations — an inordinate amount of resignations in a short period of time. It’s a distinction of little consequence to employers, as they still have the operational hardship of a surge in people heading for the door, regardless of whether it’s a new trend or simply a snapback following the unexpected freefall of resignations that occurred at the outset of the pandemic. Continue reading »

“The Structure of Work Could Be Damaging Employee Well-Being”

in burnout, Featured, Uncategorized, Wellbeing

BandAid

 

“While some employees may benefit from using a meditation app, text therapy or other digital solutions, she cautions employers against stopping there without investigating how the structure of work itself could be damaging to employee well-being”:

From our perspective, you can’t tackle something this significant and immense just by simple Band-Aid solutions.

 —  Tara Thiagarajan, founder of nonprofit Sapien Labs

From CNBC:

Companies Prioritized Mental Health During Covid, So Why Are We Still So Burned Out?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Truth About Mental Health First Aid Training

in Featured, Mental Health First Aid, Uncategorized
The Truth About Mental Health First Aid Training

As a certified Mental Health First Aid™️ instructor, I was delighted to see this critical analysis of MHFA posted by distinguished professor of Organizational Psychology, Rob Briner…

Should Mental Health First Aid Be Required?

One of my LinkedIn connections recently posted a poll asking whether employers should be required to have a certified MHFA person at the workplace. More than 1000 folks responded, and 70% said “Yes, it should be required.” Some commenters asserted that anyone answering “No” had never experienced mental health problems and/or didn’t care about them.

In addition to revealing naïveté about workplace regulation, the responses to this poll exemplified

  1. The limited understanding of MHFA possessed by people advocating it
  2. Employers’ and HR leaders’ eagerness to solve complex problems with simplistic, trendy solutions, while ignoring substantive evidence-based strategies.

MHFA Cons and Pros

In the US, employers would have good reason to proceed with caution when implementing MHFA in the workplace.

  • MHFA certification seems unnecessary — having more to do with protecting revenue and intellectual property rather than mental health
  • As for the virtual training, to quote the CEO of National Council of Mental Wellbeing (from his “Happy New Year” email to instructors): “To put it simply, the technology just didn’t work.” (I chose not to offer virtual training until the tech problems are addressed. But NCMW was undaunted, continuing to charge thousands of dollars for virtual training that the organization acknowledged “caused countless frustrations.”) 

MHFA’s greatest potential is to play a supporting role in a comprehensive solution — albeit, I’ll maintain, a role likely to prove valuable when implemented in the proper context and with realistic expectations.

Work-from-Home Is Usually Out of Reach

in Featured, Uncategorized

hand reaching out to village of homes

The National Wellness Institute asked, in a LinkedIn poll, “What work week environment do you envision as being the most optimal for high-level wellness and high productivity?”

Confirming similar survey data from other sources,

  • 3% favored being in the office 5 days a week
  • 20% preferred 4 10-hour days a week
  • 53% said a hybrid of 3 days in the office, 2 days remote
  • 24% wanted to be remote the whole work week.

I wonder, when I see data like this, how one would have responded if they worked in a store, in a hospital, on a tarmac, at a restaurant, at construction sites, on a farm, picking up trash, or driving a bus.

Only about 45% of US employees work in occupations for which working from home (aka telework or remote work) is feasible, according to an analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This may be an overestimate, as BLS had determined just a year prior that 29% of employees “could” work from home.

Employers should grant workers as much flexibility as possible (for achieving the goals of both the organization and the employee) regarding when and where they work. But we should consider whether increased work-from-home opportunities for office workers will amplify disparities already prominent in the US.

To assume office work is the norm is a shaky way to start the conversation.

Here’s How Employee Mental Health Strategies Can Perpetuate Stigma

in Featured, Uncategorized, Wellbeing

Mental HealthWell-meaning employee mental health advocates, including wellness leaders, may — in our zeal to address mental health — inadvertently reinforce or perpetuate mental health stigma. Here’s how:

1) Viewing stigma too narrowly, especially seeing it only as failure to seek treatment. Mental health stigma includes public stigma, characterized by lack of information (and stereotyping), prejudice, and discrimination, and self stigma, which includes internalization of social stigma stereotypes, reduced self-esteem, and reduced self-efficacy. Reluctance to seek treatment (or not being aware of treatment opportunities) is a critical consequence of stigma. But people who receive treatment, and people who don’t need treatment, experience stigma, too.

2) Not understanding how to address stigma. Anti-stigma campaigns are based on protest (e.g. speaking up against stereotyping); education (like the communication tactics employers commonly implement); and contact (interacting with people who have “lived experience” with mental health problems). Continue reading »