Burnout threatens Malaysian workforce
KUALA LUMPUR - As businesses worldwide return to normal working hours and with offices, employers and workers adjusting to flexible situations, a new and somewhat worrisome phenomenon is becoming more evident within many workplaces.
Poor employee mental health or ‘employee burnout’ is fast rearing its ugly head and as a developing economy, Malaysia has not been spared.
"Employee burnout really exists and is not a medical diagnosis," said Nisha Langdon, programme director at Happiness2Life (H2L), a 15-year-old health and mindfulness organisation based in Petaling Jaya.
It is defined as a special type of work-related depression, a state of physical or emotional exhaustion.
According to Langdon, people suffering from burnout appear to have lost their personal identity or do not seem to care whether they have properly accomplished or completed something or other.
"Silently, many cases are being reported at workplaces; employees seem not to be able to cope with their employers’ demanding ways and increasing workloads, and are becoming very stressed out. This, ultimately, leads to poor mental health, anxiety and depression,” she said.
Burnout occurs as a result of a variety of factors that build up over a period of time, including lack of clarity at work, unfair treatment, lack of communication or proper directions, poor time management and compounding workplace issues.
Also, employees are expected to complete unmanageable workloads within unreasonable time schedules.
More than half of Malaysian employees admitted they experience burnout due to work, according to the Employee Wellness Report 2022 by human resource solutions provider Employment Hero.
"A major finding is that 58 per cent of employees admitted to feeling burned out from their work," said Langdon.
"Another interesting fact is that employees are 32 per cent more loyal to their employers and their workplaces when the employers are committed to their wellness and well-being. In contrast, when employers did not care for their employees’ wellness, the reverse was true with a significant number of employees saying they did not feel loyal to their employers.”
H2L, meanwhile, runs ‘Mindfulness for Productivity’ courses for both small and medium enterprises and big corporations, in partnership with QIC Sdn Bhd - an up-and-coming human resources (HR) training company - and a growing number of local HR consultancies whose clients are facing the issue of burnout amongst their employees.
Severe manpower problems
Sharing his views on burnout, Dinesh Sekar, director of QIC (Quantum Inno-Creat) Sdn Bhd - a corporate HR training company formed in 2019 - explained that many HR directors are beginning to notice signs of poor performance among employees who are prone to lying and absenting themselves from work frequently.
Their declining physical, emotional and mental health may eventually lead to them being reprimanded by their employers and even facing legal action.
"To address their predicament, these employees may self-medicate and resort to substance abuse (with substances) such as alcohol, inhalants, stimulants and even prescription drugs like sleeping pills and anti-depressant pills.
"And when their workplaces, family members and home environments are intrinsically affected, it causes severe manpower problems socially and economically, much to the detriment of the whole country,” warned Dinesh.
Langdon outlined H2L’s overall objective which is to help employers better understand their workforce’s mental health, thus making it easier for them to recognise symptoms of poor mental health such as depression and anxiety.
She said participants - both employees and employers - attending their courses are extended a toolkit to utilise in their daily lives to help them to maintain good mental health and cope with stressful situations at their workplaces so that they do not eventually reach the burnout stage.
Langdon said H2L has a one-day course that is aimed at staff from all divisions and teaches them ways to manage their mental health and address and eliminate burnout.
It also has a two-day course with a programme that includes mindfulness exercises and tools to help the mind.
"We look at and analyse the stigma of mental health and how we can overcome that,” she added.
Mindfulness for productivity
H2L has another two-day course which is an intensive programme for management-level staff and outlines ways and means to identify mental health issues among employees.
"It teaches them to better understand what their employees are experiencing,” Langdon said.
H2L also teaches management staff how to create a conducive, functioning and supportive workplace. She said corporations in Asia are only just beginning to understand the importance of maintaining good mental health in the work environment and how crucial it is to have the necessary tools readily accessible to staff to enable them to manage their own mindfulness and mental health.
"Ultimately, such a conducive arrangement, regardless of modern technology, evolving work culture, demanding work talents and flexible working arrangements, can help ensure a healthier and more productive workforce in companies, big or small.
"Burnout can definitely be nipped in the bud when identified and addressed early,” added Langdon. - BERNAMA