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  • Jennifer Duckworth

Is the latest trend for 'mental health breaks' at work pointless?


Tackling stress and mental health concerns at work is clearly an important issue for all organisations.


Or it should be.


We know that the statistics are shocking. Last year, the Health & Safety Executive reported that 12.8 million working days were lost due to stress.


And recent research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development found that the main causes of stress were workload, management style, home-working challenges and Covid-related anxieties.


It's a moral issue, but a business issue too. There have been plenty of studies over recent years that spell out the link between wellbeing at work and company performance (check out my blog from earlier in the year for details).


So the question is -


Are employers doing enough to tackle stress at work? And more importantly, are they doing enough of the RIGHT things?

The latest trend seems to be for big organisations (Nike and Bumble to name a few high profile brands) to temporarily close and give all their people extra time out to 'de-stress'.


On the face of it, this seems like a generous and sensible initiative, but does it actually get to the hub of the problem? Or will the workforce simply return to their laptops a week later perhaps somewhat refreshed, yet still facing all the things that caused the stress in the first place, plus a mountain of new emails to tackle?


Picture credit: Tom Ramalho, Unsplash


Here's a thought-provoking article from HR Zone. It questions the actions of these big corporates as mere PR stunts - things that look and sound great to the external world, but don't actually address the SOURCE of the problems.


In my work, I see time and again that organisations want a quick fix for wellbeing. Interventions, whilst perhaps well-meaning, are often reactive and treat the symptoms not the cause.


However, the fact of the matter is that great wellbeing at work - the lower stress levels and higher job satisfaction that result in better engagement and performance - comes from a deeper place.




It comes from laying solid foundations of effective organisational structures, well designed job roles, clear communication, great managers who build a culture of trust and empowerment and a supportive team. These things can be harder and take longer to get right but will ultimately address the common sources of stress at work, ensuring people feel happier and healthier, and don't need an extra week off to recover!


What do you think? Is the trend for giving people an extra week off just a PR stunt, or a genuinely helpful strategy for supporting wellbeing at work?


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