Culture

Battling burnout: what North American workers need right now

The results of a Staples survey of more than 3,000 office workers in the US and Canada revealed that more needs to be done to improve employee engagement and morale

Research commissioned by Staples Business Advantage in the United States and Canada has revealed that the office is where workers feel they’re most productive – far more so than at home or in a communal workspace – but burnout and stress remains a prevalent issue in many organisations.

According to our online survey of more than 3,000 employees in North America, people say they’re working longer hours simply to catch up on work they couldn’t tackle during an eight-hour day. That workload is taking its toll: 65 per cent of office employees say that they are impacted by workplace stress, while 12 per cent say that stress has led to a leave of absence.

For employers, keeping productive workers happy is a balancing act that can often come to a lopsided conclusion. Our study into workplace productivity taught us that there are a number of ways in the modern office that can keep employees happy while they work.

Bring on latest technology

Technology is vital for all office workers. As I sit typing these words, there are eight pieces of technology on my desk that are all supporting me in doing my job, not to mention the software installed on my laptop, or the internet connecting me to the world and the coffee machine keeping me active. If the tech slowed, I would slow; if the tech stopped, I would stop.

Three out of four respondents say that their employers do not give them access to the latest technology to help them do their jobs more efficiently. Even those who feel productive at work report that they could be doing more with the right tools.

Make breaks part of culture

It’s a fairly common belief amongst employees that breaks increase productivity; in fact, we found that only 13 per cent of office workers say that breaks lower their productivity. With this in mind, many offices provide break rooms and other solutions to help give staff a place to rest and recuperate. However, that’s not the end of the problem.

Office workers are still reluctant to take breaks voluntarily, for fear of being judged as lazy or distracted. For offices of the future to strive, reasonable breaks must become part of accepted office culture.

Show leadership on sustainability

Employee engagement has many faces – personal developments profiles, team outings, free crumpet for breakfast. However the most underrated one of them all is the employee’s belief that their company is doing the right thing, ethically, socially, environmentally.

Our Staples survey found that 72 per of office workers say that eco-friendly practices are an important consideration when making an employment decision. Employees who engage in their company’s sustainability and CSR initiatives have statistically significant increases in their overall engagement rate. Implementing or improving these initiatives is in the interest of the company, the employee and the planet.

George Marsden is a consultant at Morar, which conducted the Staples Business Advantage research survey