After surveying more than 20,000 employees and leaders in 15 countries, researchers at the O.C. Tanner Institute have published startling findings on the state of the global workforce. "In spite of some positive changes in corporate culture, we have uncovered a new wave of challenges," the organization writes in the report, citing a "growing frustration with conventional workplace practices" and an "alarming increase in burnout."
Specifically, O.C. Tanner's 2020 Global Culture Report reveals that 40 percent of employees are suffering from moderate to severe burnout, and another 39 percent are experiencing mild burnout. And this issue takes a costly—and deadly—toll. An estimated 120,000 deaths per year are attributed to burnout, and burnout is also responsible for an estimated $190 billion in healthcare spending.
These findings come just a few months after the World Health Organization included burnout as a medical diagnosis in ICD-11, the latest revision of its International Classification of Diseases. "Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed," the WHO explains. "It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy."
Amid this "new workplace crisis," workplace flexibility provides tools to help employees go from burned out to firing on all cylinders. Mollie Lombardi, co-founder and CEO of Aptitude Research Partner, names flexibility as a burnout solution. "While not all burnout can be eliminated, much of it can be avoided by balancing consistency and personalization of schedules and workload; leveraging managers as models for how their team can achieve work/life balance; and implementing tools and technology that proactively manage burnout," Lombardi says in the report.
Flexibility frameworks such as the one Werk promotes can help on all three counts—by providing a codified system for customizing the employee experience, by encouraging managers to model adaptive workdays, and by offering the technology to measure flexibility opportunities and gains to employee engagement and productivity.
Take the various types of flexibility: MicroAgility and TimeShift allow workers to rearrange or offset their work schedules from the usual 9-to-5 grind so that they can fulfill their caregiving opportunities, attend to their physical well-being, or even just capitalize on their hours of peak productivity. Remote and DeskPlus allow workers to work from anywhere for all or part of the time, which often entails finding workspaces with fewer distractions. And PartTime allows workers to reduce their hours without reducing their ambition, as this flex type keeps their feet planted on the corporate ladder.
It's all about making life and work more compatible, and thus improving the employee experience, one day and one shift at a time. As the O.C. Tanner report concludes, "Organizations need to break out of the employee lifecycle mentality to focus on the everyday micro-experiences that, for employees, define life at work."