Public sector stress, anxiety, and burnout: What can you do?
Public sector workers are looking to you for help and support in this challenging environment.
Public sector workers are feeling it.
It’s Mental Health Awareness Month and it’s no secret government workers are still feeling the strain and pressure from a global pandemic. You, most likely, see the signs every day in your teams. According to a recent Eagle Hill Consulting survey, it’s a nationwide issue.
A poll of 1,001 U.S.-based workers saw job-related burnout decline slightly for government workers from last year. The bad news is that federal, state, and local workers are still reporting “notably higher” rates of burnout than their private sector counterparts. 52% of public sector respondents said they are burned out from their jobs, while 46% of private sector workers reported the same.
What’s got them overwhelmed?
More than one thing. Public sector workforce experts point to three main reasons why our people are feeling burned out:
A lot of public service careers are stressful by nature. Firefighters, police, EMT’s, 911 dispatchers, emergency and disaster response among others experience high levels of daily pressure.
Public sector workers often earn lower salaries than their private sector peers with similar qualifications. Financial worries are compounded by job stress.
Staff shortages contribute to increased workloads and time pressures. Many workers report that covering unfilled positions makes their jobs more stressful.
How can you make a difference with your teams?
Listen. The reasons for burnout vary across jurisdictions and professions. It’s crucial to listen to your people and get to the specific causes, so tailored solutions can be implemented. A public works engineer is going to have different stressors than a police officer, so having honest conversations will help on an individual level. Fortunately, research shows 65% of government workers feel comfortable going to their supervisor or HR professional with their feelings.
To promote mental health awareness, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a memo identifying federal workers’ mental well-being as chief concern for the current administration and highlighting an array of wellness resources available to federal agencies and employees.
The Navy’s a great example.
As far as specific tools and advice for workers, a good place to start is the U.S. Navy. It just released a Mental Health Playbook to help naval leaders prevent, address, and mitigate mental health issues with sailors in their command. The 26-page manual takes the approach of “preventative maintenance for people.”
The playbook focuses on three main roles a leader must play:
Build a culture and environment of open, honest two-way communication.
Leaders need to educate themselves on recognizing mental health issues. Active listening, watching for behavioral changes, and expert consultation work to identify individuals in crisis.
When someone needs mental health care, make every effort to get them help and, most importantly, keep them on the team.
PSHRA has the resources you can rely on.
One thing we know works is a preventative strategy. PSHRA can connect you with the knowledge and tools you need to get your teams the preventative maintenance to stay happy and productive.
Links to PSHRA resources
Don’t surrender to burnout in your department. PSHRA is by your side ready to help.
25 May 2023
HR News Article