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Building Breaks into Workplace Culture May Build Long-Term Workforce Success

Way back when, Friday afternoons used to be considered the best time to carefully release bad news. The reasoning behind the Friday news dump was that people were already in their weekend state of mind and thereby less likely to read an afternoon edition, listen to a news broadcast or watch the news.

The rise of the 24/7 news cycle began draining the effectiveness of the Friday News Dump, and social media downright demolished it: in an age where people are habituated to consuming content at all hours, there is no longer a down cycle in the news media.

So it goes with the American workforce too. There used to be slow seasons or down cycles, but now, according to MetLife’s 22nd Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, employees are in a state of "permacrisis."

Two components to this permacrisis should be top of mind for any workplace strategist. First, employees are struggling with mental health. According to MetLife:

Employees are now more likely to experience negative feelings at work, including stress (12% more likely) and burnout (17% more likely) than they were pre-pandemic (2019). Employees are also 51% more likely to feel depressed at work than they were pre-pandemic as they face a complex macro environment and permacrisis state.

As we learned last week, the rise in mental health challenges has powered a rise of employee incidents that HR departments must manage.

The second component is a decline in employee engagement. As HR Drive reported:

Nearly half of CHROs surveyed for The Conference Board’s CHRO Confidence Index said their organizations plan to offer new well-being benefits this year as engagement levels declined year over year in 2024’s first quarter (of 2024).

Paying attention to employees' mental health has triple benefits for a workplace strategist: it boosts employee well-being, it boosts employee engagement, and it reduces one of the biggest contributing factors to the kind of workplace situations that require HR intervention.

So what's stopping more companies from pouring the resources into addressing the permacrisis? Just as the lack of a Friday news dump is the result of an always-on news culture, the lack of effective wellness at work might be linked to an always-on work culture. A 2023 report by primary care service One Medical found that 45% of employees who did not seek mental healthcare said they were too busy.

Workplace strategists have one advantage that the media industry doesn't: they can build in down cycles. Summer's coming -- what better time to get started? Taking time off might be profitable in the long run.