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In this digital age when we are inundated with twenty-four hour news cycles, a constant flow of emails and the incessant need to be engaging with social media people are faced with a new set of issues that define our society in the modern era and cause a range of stressors and anxieties that greatly impact on an individuals psychological well-being. This paradigmatic shift in our society is often best exemplified throughout corporate culture and it is critical that organizations from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies recognize that these seismic shifts are not only changing the way we communicate, but also the way we work. Companies must realize that investing in creating a healthy corporate culture is a central component of their business model and paramount to their long-term success.
In recent weeks The World Health Organization (WHO) has for the first time officially classified workplace burnout as an occupational phenomenon in its latest revision of the International Classification of Diseases. The agency previously defined burnout as a “state of vital exhaustion” but now acknowledges as being directly linked in its classification of diseases as a work hazard. WHO went onto to state that “Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” The organization continued to explain that this category of burnout specifically refers to phenomena that happen in a workplace context and should not be used to describe experiences in other areas of life. The organization said burnout, which the WHO does not call a medical condition, is grouped by three main features:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
- and reduced professional efficacy
Burnout has continued to be a growing problem within the corporate environment exacerbating a host of other mental health issues including stress, anxiety, and depression. According to a recent study done by the Kronos Corporation and Future Workplace, the biggest threat to employee engagement is employee burnout. According to the study, nearly half of human resource leaders surveyed (46%) say employee burnout is responsible for between 20% to 50% of their annual workforce turnover. Though burnout effects organizations of all sizes, it is the larger organizations that seem to be impacted even more. In fact, one in five human resource leaders at organizations with 100 to 500 employees cited burnout as the cause of 10% or less of their turnover while 15% of human resource executives at organizations larger than 2,500 employees say burnout causes 50% or more of annual turnover.
Companies are faced with a new challenge; they are being confronted with the question of how to grapple with this growing epidemic and deal with this mental health crisis that could potentially have a catastrophic impact to their organization and their ability to do business. One novel approach is to think about a potential solution through the language of happiness. Tal Ben-Shahar, professor and writer in the areas of positive psychology and leadership writes that “Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable.”Companies need to rethink employee engagement and see happiness can be a key ingredient in tackling some of the biggest issues facing burnout which include a decline in productivity and an increase in absenteeism. Happiness is about being able to make the most of the good times while coping effectively with the inevitable bad times in order to experience the best possible life overall. As professor Ben-Shahar illustrates employees need to recognize the value and meaning of happiness and corporate leadership need to make that a priority in order to shape a culture of success.
Tony Hsieh, founder, and CEO of Zappos.com, Inc. truly embodies this ethos of happiness and certainly has reaped the benefits of seeing this model work with great success. For Hsieh happiness is a philosophy that he has embedded into the culture of his organization as his daily protocol. He believes that the idea of delivering happiness is based on three factors:
- You must carefully choose your battles and balance your life
- Make your life path
- Be patient, understand your nature, contribute to society
Tony Hsieh has understood a valuable lesson that is critical to why choosing happiness is essential for long term business success, the idea that happiness is about creating a sense of balance and meaning even within the context of one’s work life. As we close on Mental Health Awareness month it is more important than ever for leaders across the corporate ecosystem to embrace the fact that invisible disabilities are very much a part of the human experience. To create a truly sustainable company that is prepared for doing business in the 21st century choosing happiness offers a social innovation to get the most out of one’s employees and create a competitive advantage that will be vital for building a long-term enduring business and brand.
May 30, 2019 at 12:12PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs