As the COVID-19 pandemic and world events continue to impact the lives of Southeast Michigan residents, focusing on improving employee health and well-being is more important than ever.
At the recent Employer Forum: Supporting Maternal Health and Preventing Burnout in the Workplace hosted in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, regional health experts, Rita Patel, health strategist, employee benefits at Hylant, and Martha Walsh, medical director, clinical partnerships and engagement at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan discussed strategies for creating a culture of well-being and the importance of maternal health.
Preventing Burnout in the Workplace
- Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.
- Workplace stress causes businesses additional expenditures of anywhere from $125 to $190 billion dollars a year.
- After the pandemic, 53% of employees are now likely to prioritize health and well-being over work responsibilities.
- The first step to preventing employee burnout is establishing relationships. It’s about developing a culture of trust, inclusion, and empathy.
- Routine well-being exercises within the organization can help leaders identify early signs of burnout to better provide support.
- The responsibility to prevent burnout falls on both leaders and employees.
COVID Impact on Workplace Burnout
When employees were asked to describe how their workplace well-being changed since the beginning of COVID-19, 89% said their overall well-being at work declined. Additionally:
- 56% experienced increased job demands.
- 24% struggled with the loss of connections in the workplace.
- 14% experienced a growing feeling of disengagement.
After surviving a global pandemic, 53% of employees are now likely to prioritize their own health and well-being over work responsibilities. “The pandemic really clarified what is non-negotiable in peoples’ lives,” said Patel, “our own personal health and well-being.”
When symptoms of burnout go untreated, they can lead to more serious health issues, including depression and high cholesterol. When organizations have a large population of staff struggling with serious health issues, the organization can suffer from decreased productivity, engagement, and performance.
Improve Culture by Focusing on Relationships
“What does burnout feel like to you?” Patel asked the audience to jot down a few words during the virtual discussion. “For me, it feels like dragging a dead horse through the sand.”
With this metaphor, Patel demonstrated the help of words, metaphors, and imagery for describing feelings of burnout on a level others can relate to. By first understanding how burnout feels within ourselves, we can better share our experience and relate with others.
Finding this common ground will help build social connections and, in turn, create a culture of caring with a stronger sense of inclusion and belonging. “Everyone just wants to feel seen, heard, and valued – employees and leaders,” said Patel.
Thirty-nine percent of employees say they find the greatest sense of belonging when colleagues regularly check in with them. Something as small as asking how a coworker is, how their family is doing, if they have weekend plans, can translate into a culture of relationships rich in trust, empathy, and understanding.
The Role Employers and Employees Play in Preventing Burnout
The responsibility to prevent burnout falls on both leaders and employees – “It’s a WE approach,” said Patel. Leadership controls the demands of work while employees turn the organization’s goals into a reality. One cannot exist without the other.
A supportive work environment is formed by employee experiences. Well-being must be integrated into all aspects of the organization, not existing as a separate entity. Policies, procedures, training, norms, and behaviors should be influenced by the organization’s commitment to well-being to create a healthy workplace culture that prevents burnout.
Supporting Maternal Health in the Workplace
- The number of individuals experiencing pregnancy and childbirth complications is increasing.
- Millennial women are experiencing a 30% increase in postpartum depression diagnosis after childbirth compared to other generations.
- Health disparities have a significant impact on maternal health. Native American women and Black women are 2 to 3 times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women. Additionally, Black women have a 63% higher rate of Severe Maternal Morbidity and Hispanic women have a 32% higher rate of Severe Maternal Morbidity compared to women.
- COVID-19 symptoms are usually much more severe in pregnant individuals. COVID-19 vaccination is strongly recommended to reduce risk of preventable complications to the mother and fetus.
- Pregnancy complications and preterm births lead to decreased productivity in the workplace and future health issues in children.
- Employers should support employees with maternal health needs.
Maternal Health and Disparities
Approximately 700 women die from pregnancy-related complications in the U.S. every year. In fact, the United States has the most pregnancy-related deaths of developed nations around the world.
Black women are 2 to 3 times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women. Severe Maternal Morbidity is characterized by unexpected labor outcomes that significantly impact the short or long-term health of the mother. Black women have a 63% higher rate of Severe Maternal Morbidity and Hispanic women have a 32% higher rate of Severe Maternal Morbidity compared to white women due to disparities in health and health care in the United States.
As an employer, it is important to understand the unique challenges women face during their pregnancy journey.
Maternal Health in the Workplace
“The factors that have the largest impact on childbirth outcomes is the mother’s health before becoming pregnant and prenatal care,” said Walsh. In fact, chronic disease before pregnancy is the leading cause of birth complications.
“Pregnancy complications and preterm births lead to decreased productivity in the workplace and future health issues in children,” said Walsh.
Healthy women experience less childbirth complications. Developing a workplace culture that promotes healthy lifestyles and encourages routine wellness visits can make a significant impact on the health of soon-to-be mothers and future generations.
How Employers Can Support Maternal Health
- Allow time for child and prenatal wellness visits.
- Offer supportive maternity and paternity leave policies following birth and adoption.
- Designate a comfortable, private area of the office for breastfeeding mothers.
- Ensure behavioral health support is available.
- Enhance your maternity benefits package with coverage for IVF or fertility treatments.
Aside from the benefits listed above, ensure your organizational culture is one that recognizes the challenge of pregnancy and childbirth and genuinely supports the health of the entire family.
“Returning to work is stressful after having a baby,” said Walsh. “By supporting employees through their pregnancy and transition back to work, employees will be more loyal to your organization.”
The Strongest Method for Preventing Burnout and Supporting Maternal Care: Culture
There is an overlap in employer strategies for preventing workplace burnout and supporting maternal care. Checking off a list of benefits such as behavioral health and paternal leave are only part of the solution. The strongest method for preventing burnout and supporting maternal health in the workplace is a culture of trust, understanding, and empathy.