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43% Of Employees Want More Flexibility To Improve Health—This Chief Well-Being Officer Shares Advice

According to a recent Gallup report, 76% of employees sometimes experience burnout and 28% say they are burned out “very often” or “always.” Another report by Gallup found that employees whose manager is always willing to listen to their work-related problems are 62% less likely to be burned out. Managers have always been critical to healthy work environments […]

According to a recent Gallup report, 76% of employees sometimes experience burnout and 28% say they are burned out “very often” or “always.” Another report by Gallup found that employees whose manager is always willing to listen to their work-related problems are 62% less likely to be burned out. Managers have always been critical to healthy work environments and an employee’s career growth. When millennial employees are given a choice on deciding what tasks to do, when to do them and how much time to spend on them, they are 43% less likely to experience high levels of burnout.

I recently spoke to Jen Fisher, the U.S. Chief Well-being Officer at Deloitte, to discuss key areas of corporate wellness.  

New research from Deloitte found the following:

  • Professionals want more flexibility to improve mental health (43%) and work-life integration (38%) 

Rachel Montañez: What are you currently focused on in your role?

Jen Fisher: My role is to lead, develop and execute on strategy, programs, tools and resources around the employee experience when it comes to well-being. We look at well-being from a whole person or holistic perspective so body, mind, purpose and financial health. When we create a culture that empowers people to take care of themselves, that’s the way they show up at work. 

Another area of importance, which kind of seems to have exploded, is mental health. We launched a mental health at work program last year, where we provide a series of tools and resources, and we’re really trying to help remove the stigma of mental health. It’s important to normalize mental health in the workplace and take care of it very much like we would our physical health.  

Montañez: What’s your definition of work-life integration? 

Fisher: For me, the notion of work-life integration is creating a way of living and working that acknowledges our humanity. Sometimes, you’re going to spend more time or give more of your time and energy to work, and sometimes you’re going to spend more time and energy focused on things in your personal life. You don’t have a work life and home life. You have one life. Having a meaningful career as part of a thriving life is absolutely something that we should all be able to achieve. 

Montañez: When thinking about burnout, what bothers you most? 

Fisher: I think the thing that bothers me most about it is that burnout can and should be avoided.

How we currently work is creating higher instances of burnout. We’re not encouraged to feel good and empowered about creating boundaries. If organizations don’t actively promote wellness as part of the culture, we’re just going to continue to see more and more instances of people burning out. 

Montañez: Besides flexible working, how can employers create cultures to support an employee’s well-being?

Fisher: Many organizations are rolling out programs, tools and technologies to help, but they’re not really digging into the kind of cultural norms that are potentially keeping people from taking care of themselves, to begin with.

Also, we certainly need leadership support, truly authentic leadership support, which involves communication across all levels. The power of example and the power of story are incredibly strong. Leaders need to walk the talk and share openly and authentically what work-life integration and well-being mean to them. 

Although leaders are critical when it comes to setting the tone, everybody in the organization owns a piece of the culture.

Montañez: What are three things you think leaders can do today to improve their mental health? 

Fisher: Well, I think number one is if you’re struggling with your mental health, ask for help and seek it out. No one needs to fight it alone. 

Secondly, make sure you’re getting adequate sleep. I can’t stress this enough. The science related to our mental health and our physical health and the impact sleep deprivation has on our overall health is pretty astounding.

I would also say boundaries around our technology use so we can disconnect from the world that is always spinning around us and that seems to always want and need something.

Montañez: According to Deloitte’s research, 30 to 40% of physical workspaces are vacant at any given moment on a regular business day. Yet, the average company pays between $12,000 and $15,000 per employee in facility costs. Commuting is costly, too, as traffic jams cost Americans in urban areas an estimated 4.2 billion hours that flexible workers can convert into productive time.

What would you recommend to companies who wish to improve their offerings around flexibility?

Fisher: People are uncomfortable with flexible working, and we’ve worked a certain way for a long time. We first need to change our mindset and understand that we hire people and professionals to do a job and where, when and how they do it may not be as important as are they doing their job and are you happy with the output. 

There always will be a need for people to connect face-to-face, but I just don’t think that it needs to be every single day at the same time, in the same place and in the same way.

I think it’s also essential for companies to understand the unique needs of their workforce. The future of work is flexible, and organizations stand to benefit from allowing their employees to work flexibly.

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity. It was first published here on Forbes.

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