Health: Firm advice for companies after Leeds study finds best ways to combat staff burnout

Picture by PA Photo/ Thinkstockphotos.
Picture by PA Photo/ Thinkstockphotos.
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Stressed-out workers can benefit more from changes to workloads and practices than from individual support, Leeds researchers have found.

A study conducted by a team at Leeds Beckett University has revealed that broader changes to working practices can offer “longer-lasting reductions” in stress and factors that can lead to burnout than individual-focused methods like staff training, workshops or psychotherapy.

The most stressed-out workers were identified as health professionals such as nurses, people working in education and caring personal services like welfare.

The new report was commissioned by Public Health England in a bid to enhance what is known on cutting in-work stress levels.

It is hoped that the findings will educate firms on how best to prevent work-related burnout and stress, which has been linked to physical and mental health problems like type 2 diabetes, depression and heart disease.

Dr Justin Varney, interim deputy director for health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said: “This evidence review highlights workplaces as a key setting for improving people’s mental and physical health, as well as their overall wellbeing.

“Having a healthy workforce can reduce sickness absence, lower staff turnover and boost productivity. Employers can’t afford to wait until staff burnout happens; it is in their interest to implement healthy interventions which can prevent the main causes of it.”

Estimates from the Labour Force Survey in 2013-14 suggested that the total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety accounts for 39 per cent of all cases of work-related illnesses.

Researchers are hoping to expand their research to look at how such practices work in small and medium-sized workplaces, as opposed to large-scale organisations.

Findings from the Leeds Beckett University study

- Interventions designed to reduce symptoms and impact on burnout and work-related stress were conducted more often at an individual or small-group level than at an organisational level.

- Individual interventions that can reduce burnout include staff training, workshops and cognitive behavioural programmes.

- Organisational interventions such as changes to workload and working practices produce longer-lasting effects than individual approaches.

- Combining both approaches promotes open communication, manager and peer support and a culture of learning.