Is preventing burnout the responsibility of the employer or the employee?

Moodmetric-blogi: IOnko vastuu työuupumuksen ennaltaehkäisyssä työnantajalla vai työntekijällä?

As a young team leader, it was difficult for me to understand family life. Having no kids, I could spend a lot of my time and energy on work, since my evenings were free of responsibilities. Having no personal experience, I had no idea of the chaos and amount of work awaiting a parent, especially mothers, on return to home after a day at the office.  

Also, luckily enough, not everyone has experienced firsthand the mental mental burden of having to go through a divorce or a family member falling seriously ill. Big life changes always affect your work too and can take away, for a long time, the joy and satisfaction you experience in your work.

Someone in a leading position can, of course, have a family and big challenges in life too; we all know life can be really hard sometimes. This does not mean, however, that all managers understand why burnouts happen. We’re all individuals, we do not react to the same issues in the same way. To enforce the argument, I’m sure everyone can think of someone they know who seemingly navigates through life without appearing to experience significant amount of stress.

What are the consequences of having a boss who never seems to be stressed out?

It can lead to behaviour such as mine as a young leader without kids, not being empathic enough to understand how strongly and wholly stress affects both free time and work.

Whether or not a manager experiences stress themselves, s/he has the duty to actively observe employees to see if the burden is getting too big. If signs appear, the first step is have a discussion with the employee in question.

The Finnish Occupational Safety and Health Act No. 738/2002, Section 8, describes the employers’ general duty to exercise care:

“Employers shall continuously monitor the working environment, the state of the working community and the safety of the work practices. Employers shall also monitor the impact of the measures put into practice on safety and health at work.”

But how do you define and measure the issues employees find stressful? Moreover, which of these can be argued to be issues the employer can control?

The employer has control over many things that can cause stress, such as company culture, salary policy or physical environment

The most important issues in this respect are equality, integrity and the sense of fairness. Equality needs to be understood broadly, consisting of gender and salary equality, equal opportunities for career advancement and raises, and fair division of tasks and responsibilities.

It is also the duty of the employer to ensure that there is a fair balance between a job description, the skills and competences of an employee, and the objectives of the employer.

Without a doubt, providing a safe and suitable physical environment for the job required is the responsibility of the employer. There are many issues to consider, but let me raise one: In the open office plans of today, is enough consideration taken to secure an environment devoid of disruption and noise for work requiring concentration?

Company culture, ways of working and organizational structure are defined and controlled by the employer, having a big impact on the well-being of an employee.

It is also the employer’s responsibility to continuously monitor the work atmosphere among the employees.

Not all factors related to well-being can be expressed as clearly set rules: The boss just needs to stay alert. Minea Ahlroth, who has studied harassment and discrimination at work, writes:

“A manager has the duty to mingle with the employees, taking the pulse of the organization   and making note of the different emerging signals.” (Ahlroth et. al. 2015, 90)

What if the employer does things by the book? All structures, salary policy, positions and ways of working are fair. The atmosphere is good, for the most part the staff seems to like both their work and the workplace. The employer can not detect shortcomings.

Being responsible for your own well-being is not a choice, it is a must

An employer has a huge responsibility for their staff. They are required to create a workplace that promotes equality and enables employees to achieve a successful work-life balance. A forward-looking employer supports an individual in many other ways too.

In turn, the employees need to tell when things are not going well.

prevent burnout

Everyone able to take part in working life has the responsibility to take care of themselves and their own well-being.

Why? Because an employer cannot know everything that is going on in one’s life. No matter how good the employer, they cannot optimize the work conditions for everyone, let alone their life outside of work. Everyone’s life has shorter or longer periods when one’s mental load is bigger than the opportunities for recovery.

How do we tackle stress at Moodmetric

At Moodmetric the mental well-being is the responsibility of both the employer and employee. But what are the concrete actions?

Naturally the method of measuring stress levels is something available for everyone. This is not obligatory, but it can be done all the time or when the person so desires. Some of us have been wearing the Moodmetric ring continuously for over 4 years now.

The greatest value from the Moodmetric measurement can be derived when the mental load is high. When the stress levels creep up, the person is like a crab in a kettle set to boil – a person does not recognize the heat build up over time.

What can the employee do?

When the Moodmetric levels get higher than recommended, the first thing an employer would need to do is to take action to lower the levels. What are these actions?

We are all individuals, which means that we need to find our own individual ways to lower our stress levels. This is where the Moodmetric real-time measurement proves to be a helpful tool: An individual learns the things which raise and lower their stress levels. Employing some commonly known ways to alleviate stress, such as getting more sleep and enjoying open air activities and nature is a good way to start one’s journey of self-discovery.

And what is the role of the employer?

What are the responsibilities of an employer to support an individual’s search for balance? The best results can be achieved by the employer supporting the individual in the measures s/he has chosen. If there is a need for some days off or shorter workdays or weeks, there should be a way to try and find an optimum solution for all. Personalized options are the key: Even longer breaks during workdays can have a significant effect on productivity.

The goal is common

The employer and employee should work together to prevent chronic stress and often long absences due to burnout. A single burnout is a grave symptom and requires immediate actions in the workplace. The reputation of a company can be severely impacted by its employees going public about their stress and lack of well-being.

Both employees and companies have the common goal of preserving health, attaining a positive mindset and longevity of life. Employees with a healthy work-life balance help companies and organizations to prosper. A happy and healthy employee spreads positive attitude around him or her. In the end, it is, for example, our families who emerge as the ultimate beneficiaries if our well-being at work is taken care of.

Ask us about the Moodmetric-measurement

New technology for workplace wellness

Meditating business partners

Emotional health as a part of workplace wellness programs has begun to enter organizations. Active tracking and measuring are also new to employee health. Moodmetric combines all this and brings emotion measurement to the office.

The Moodmetric technology is based on measuring small conductivity changes in skin which tell about emotional reactions. A smartphone app gives you both live data and long term trends. Moodmetric helps to manage stress by identifying high and low activity of mind during the day.

Moodmetric provides a simple and nonintrusive way to measure emotional load at work. It also supports in meditation and mindfulness exercises.

 

Examples for workplace

Below are examples on how you can support emotional well-being at work with Moodmetric measurement. You can enhance your wellness program by adding this new component to it – work together with your employee health partner to create the best program for you.

Measuring emotional wellbeing

Using the Moodmetric ring for 2-4 weeks gives a good picture of emotional load and how it is distributed over workdays. Stressful meetings, and calm periods of the days are well visible. The daily average figure shows if there is a shift towards higher or lower emotional levels during the measurement period. Analyzing the results together with a coach or a psychologist helps to better understand the current state of mind at work.

Stress management training programme

Are you already aware that you experience a heavy emotional load? You can wear the Moodmetric ring at work for 1-2 weeks and meet with you coach once a week. An individual programme can be drawn based on measurement results. It can combine mindfulness and breathing exercises, small breaks outside – all during the working day. A second sequence of the Moodmetric measurement can be done in one to two months.

Measuring mindfulness or meditation

The Moodmetric app contains an exercise to measure calmness of mind. A clear curve is drawn during meditation showing how well the focus is kept. This is a great tool to take a measured break, even for 10 minutes during the day. Any disturbing thought declines the performance, so the result motivates to really clear the mind. If you are new to meditation or mindfulness, it is good to start with a guided exercise.

Specifications

– Battery life: ~40 hours
– Charging time: 1,5 hours
– Memory: 270 hours
– Bluetooth range: 5 meters
– Compatibility: iOS – (iPhone 4S or newer, iPads using bluetooth4)

 

 

Measuring Workplace Well-being

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Is measuring workplace well-being a plot by the employer? Can the employee benefit of it? What is worth tracking and what do the results tell? If I take 10000 steps per day, sleep 8 hours per night and eat healthy meals at regular intervals, will I sell more cars than my colleague car salesman?

At the end of the day the person with better sales skills might still get bigger bonuses. On the other hand, I might feel better and spend less days off sick. I might even feel energetic despite hectic workdays and take setbacks like loosing a deal lighter.

Should workplace measuring only take place in the workplace?

Activity trackers and other wearables are already part of our lives. They were initially intended for personal use with goals set by the wearer. A sleep monitor can hardly be a tracker used in workplace and collecting thousands of steps in the office is only possible with the running mat under the desk.

These devices can be used to monitor general well-being and they can potentially give valuable information. They can also contribute to better work performance if the person is a motivated wearer. Someone else (the boss) reading the results might still not have the full picture. Only the measured person can put the results into context and know if today is a good day to make great results.

Pulse, heart rate variability, electrodermal activity (EDA) /skin conductance and EEG measurements can be done at the office, while sitting down. Heart rate signal however needs processing before it tells about stress levels. EDA and EEG give instant emotional load results which are not tied to physical reactions. EDA is best measured from palmar skin, EEG requires a headband with at minimum three contact points to forehead.

The workplace well-being measurement might be best done in the workplace and only if the employee thinks it is a good idea. Tracking outside the office could be part of a wellness program with limited length, on a voluntary basis.

Having the employer know when I go to sleep or how many times I was waked up by my kids – maybe not. But being able to show which meetings are the most stressful or how calming it is to take a 5 min walking break outside, why not!