Can L&D help workers' mental health?

'When an employee mentions burnout… they don't feel like what they're doing on a day-to-day basis is accomplishing their goals'

Can L&D help workers' mental health?

Professional training and development at work plays a crucial part in addressing workers’ mental health troubles, according to one expert.

The lack of opportunities to grow and develop in their field is a huge part of the stress for many workers, says Dan Terner, co-founder and COO at GrowthSpace.

“If you look at employees who go back home and they're stressed at home, many times it's because their work environment doesn't support what they feel it should support,” he says.

“They're not productive, or they are having trouble with their boss or manager. And those are the real issues that are causing stress that then gets taken out at home or exacerbated at home. So it is a virtuous cycle.”

Nearly all (97 per cent) of 18- to 34-year-olds are burned out, according to a previous report from Cigna, a global health service company. Forty per cent are worried by the rising costs of living and 20 per cent say a lack of learning and development opportunities is also causing stress.

Vicious stress cycle

This points to a need for employers to create “the right growth environment for employees,” says Terner, where they have a path to improving their worker status.

“If you don't build the right growth environment for employees, meaning that… their setup doesn't support their productivity, then they are going to be under a lot of stress.”

This is a vicious cycle, he says. 

“If you think about it, the key factor that contributes or that hinders employees’ mental health is stress. That stress comes from the workplace. And the majority of that stress is either employees that are in environments where they're not productive, or they're not growing sufficiently. 

“So by building a growth trajectory for them, and enabling them to improve in their roles and beyond, employers are actually able to reduce the stress levels for the employees and therefore positively impact their mental well being, and therefore alleviate some of that stress.”

Burnout issues

Even burnout has its roots in a lack of professional development, says Terner.

“When an employee mentions burnout… it's not necessarily that they've been overworked. It's that they don't feel like what they're doing on a day-to-day basis is accomplishing their goals. People who are working towards their professional goals, I can tell you that they will work as long as they need to [accomplish those goals], because they feel like they're doing the right thing for themselves.”

The key to resolve burnout issues among employees is to provide a growth trajectory to them, he says.

“Offer employees [something] that enables them to understand, ‘Okay, here's where I am’, ‘Here's where I need to be’ and ‘This is what I need to do in order to get there’. 

And if you can do that, then [any issue with] burnout goes out the window, because you're at a point where all of your employees know that they're working towards their actual goal. You have 100 per cent alignment between what your employee wants to do and what you want them to do.”

Nine in 10 workers have felt stuck in their role over the past year, according to Ceridian.

Mental health programs

That doesn’t mean, however, that specific mental health problems do not help, says Terner.

Having a program that supports workers dealing with these issues, allowing them to take days off, encouraging them to seek out professional help and getting them to use mental health apps can all be part of a “successful program,” he says.

And employers should be on the lookout for red flags that might show in the workplace. These include workers “frequently missing workdays, cutting workdays short, employees that might be more agitated at the workplace than they used to, adverse behavior from individuals that you haven't seen before”.

Nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of Canadian professionals feel their company offers adequate resources to meet their mental healht needs, reports Robert Half.


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