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Investing in Well-being to Stem the Tides of the Great Resignation

investing in well-being

Employee turnover has become a major concern for HR professionals and business leaders, and it is impacting how they are able to strategically plan to meet business objectives. One recent study found that 38% of workers plan to switch jobs in the next 6 to 12 months. This could cost UK businesses up to £17 billion. The Great Resignation affects all businesses, but the costs are especially high for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The vast majority of SMEs cite hiring issues as the top reason they’re unable to run their business at full capacity. The talent gaps and skill shortages created by resignations gravely impact the day-to-day operations of SMEs, with fewer workers available to buffer the void.

One of the primary reasons workers today are resigning is that they are struggling to preserve their own mental health amidst the innumerable personal and professional challenges they face daily. Indeed 65% of workers cite poor mental health as a key driver for their resignation. This challenge is well known to SME owners themselves, 80% of whom have struggled with their own mental well-being in the pressure cooker of forces while trying to keep a small business afloat. These pressures are creating widespread burnout among this same population since the start of the pandemic. Burnout is a form of chronic stress that, left untreated, can evolve into mental health disorders.

How can SME business leaders address poor mental health among their workers, in order to both support their well-being and stem the tide of the Great Resignation?

Resilience as the Foundation of Mental Health

Mental health, like physical health, is something that can be proactively developed, not only to avoid bad outcomes but also to enable employees to reach their full potential. Psychological resilience is part of the core of our mental wellbeing. Resilience is often defined as an individual’s ability to bounce back from adversity. However, it also encompasses the ability to use struggle to catalyse growth.

Highly resilient individuals fare better at work and at home. During the early days of the pandemic, for example, our lab’s research showed that highly resilient individuals saw 31% greater work productivity than those with lower resilience. Highly resilient workers also stayed more socially connected, exercised more, slept more, and experienced more meaning and purpose in their work.

Importantly, we also found that leaders who are more resilient have teams that fare better. Teams of highly resilient leaders were themselves 2.7x as resilient as teams of leaders with low resilience. These teams saw 52% less burnout, and significantly, they had 78% lower intent to leave. More resilience means greater wellbeing, greater performance, and greater commitment to staying at your organisation.

Building Resilience at Work

So how, exactly, can SMEs help their workforce develop resilience?

Professional coaching has long been a service that high-performing workers turn to in order to advance their career goals. Only recently have we come to understand just how impactful this offering can be for employee mental health.

In a peer-reviewed study BetterUp published last year, our lab showed that coaching significantly improves key dimensions of worker mental health, including resilience, meaning and purpose, social connection, and emotional regulation. Professional coaching is a non-stigmatised way for workers to build their mental fitness proactively, in order to avoid negative mental health outcomes.

Professional coaching is especially impactful for managers, who need to contend with their own mental health challenges and also shore up the spirits of their reports. Coaching helps managers build resilience and better manage stressors while improving work-life balance. Our survey of 2,000 UK business leaders found a 22% improvement in stress management after coaching, and a 17% increase in resilience, encouraging stability, retention, and profitability of the business.

Because a leader’s resilience has such a profound impact on the resilience of their direct reports, as outlined above, investing in professional coaching for leaders drives tremendous returns in terms of business performance and employee retention.

For too long, business leaders have approached mental health reactively, acting only to provide clinical services when there’s a diagnosis. The Great Resignation offers yet more proof of the importance of a proactive approach to emotional well-being to get ahead of negative outcomes for the employee, their team, and the entire business.

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