Stress and burnout: an FT investigation
Hello from the newsroom of the Financial Times in London. I'm Griselda Maree Brown and this is news and focus where we offer our insights into the global news stories that matter how bad is the problem of stress and burnout in corporate jobs. Lila Raptopoulos is my co presenter on the F._T._C. fortnightly culture podcast everything else and she carried out a reader driven investigation into the topic with James Fontanella Con. Our corporate deals editor Lila takes up the story James High Heart how you doing. I'm good to be here with you same. I'm wondering if you remember where this idea of mental health and investigating mental health came from covered deals for a living and I mean this crazy world of mergers and acquisitions spend most of my evenings meeting sources in bars and going out for dinner and one thing that kind of a recurring theme apart from trying to weasel out some information from people is a tend to share stories and you get to know these people in the more person I've been covering this for now five years and the levels of stress and burnout it's sort of becoming a noticeable trend amongst people actually that with regularly and then something that came out in the news as we saw a number of lawyers in particular committing suicide I'm back it was kind of shocking and so I thought we could explore that and maybe use our readers go to find more about this topic. My job is figuring out ways that we can use our readers in our investigations and a lot of times we are you know at the Financial Times reporting on topics that our readers are experts in or have a lot of insight insight on or have tips about and so like how do we open that line of communication so that were in conversation so this is what we did. We put together a call out. It was just a little survey form that we published on our site and we said so we're looking into what what companies do to support your mental health help us investigate and also we didn't we also asked him about if they ever felt discriminated because of mental health because after me was one of the reason people weren't coming out was they were scared. They were GONNA lose a promotion or or bonus were. Are you surprised by the response we have made nearly five hundred people go back to us that was surprising to see so many people open up and like share very very personal stories. <hes> some of them were anonymous others were actually she very open about their names where they work what they did and it was honestly very touching right became from more than forty different countries across different professions from professors. We have people working for industrial companies companies scientist. It was a musician I mean it was really fascinating to see the breadth of the response and so two thirds of them said that their work had a somewhat to extremely negative effect on their health and forty four percents that they don't think mental health is taken seriously by their organization which felt very high and also half of them said that either they don't know where to go at work or they don't have anywhere to go if they need support so we thought okay we obviously need to look into to this. We knew that mental health sort of thing that a lot of places are reporting on and a lot of companies are talking about but the question was really like if you dig down burn out overwork depression anxiety are those things actually taken seriously or are they just sort of buzzwords absolutely that's the one thing that we wanted to try to break through that then try to get deeper into the subject so as we saw these themes in the responses one of the people that kept coming up was this man named name gave McConnell who had about a month before we had put the survey out died by suicide in the parking lot of his law firm Sidley Austin in Los Angeles and his widow had put out a piece in the American lawyer magazine and it was called big killed my husband and it was about how there were so many places where he could have been helped where he wasn't and that like ultimately a number of things caused this perfect storm that got her to lose him but that like the culture had to change and it was really an emergency and we were really moved by that and we were surprised that actually it came up from a number of respondents specifically pointing to the story so we requested to go out there. And it was eye opening we traveled to L._A.. After contacting his wife Joanna and Jonah with her warmth and also of her mom we spent many many many hours can getting to know gave <hes> learning about his story. Yeah you know her and her mother sat next to each other and told the story of who gave was which was a very open hearted seeming warm mentor to many people in his office yes and personally that he cared immensely about his work about law as a profession as opposed to just move your money making money <hes> and about sort of bringing people up below him and making sure that they succeeded <hes> and she talked a little bit about the difficulty that he had overtime and the signs that there were that he was struggling and how hard it can be to pick up on those and how complicated suicide is and depression is but that ultimately part of the problem for him was that there is a culture of bottling it up getting the work done and everybody else is working as hard as you and everybody else's also worried and so keep it to yourself yeah and one thing that I think we tried to make clear throughout the piece. This is a problem that everybody's facing. I mean the world health organizations and it costs in terms of productivity over trillion dollars a year for everybody and companies are where we spend most of lifetime most of our adult life and if we don't fix the workplace this is not GonNa be fixed at all and it's a cultural issue and <hes> I think it's only getting worse and we see it because people are sort of like always on and and the way that people interact in a workplace is sort of more intense and there are fewer boundaries to it and so it seems like these issues are getting worse. I remember Joanna gave us this binder at the end you remember that and we were going through it and it was just people saying like thank you for that letter. Reading it saved my life. You know like I felt just like Gabe and knowing that other people feel that way in itself was what I needed so yeah so some of the themes that we were seeing engage story and we kept seeing reflected in this call out that we did were over work there being like a cultural stigma against talking about mental health talking about burn out talking about weakness of any kind they're being. Both pressure from the top to reach impossible goals no matter where you are and also very little reflection from the top of it being okay to be having a hard time or absolute lack of leadership in many ways exactly and they're not being clarity from the top that actually if you're not doing well that should be treated the same as if you've broken a leg. I think this is at the heart of the problem and this was the moment when we're talking to drama. I'm her mom where her mom said. If only had a heart attack I mean they would have saved them in many ways because you've gone to the hospital he would have got his heart fakes and he would have had a lot of compassion instead mental health health people don't WanNa talk about it and when Jonah suggests that he might want to tell work to take some time off he said like we need to keep this secret because otherwise it could negatively impact my career I think you said it will be the end of my career and whether that is actually true or not we don't know that but like the fact that he felt like that is a feeling that is shared by millions of people <hes> and then the last thing that we saw more than we expected to was this idea that when people did come out they were penalized and that actually there were situations in which people were demoted or fired or discriminated against on the basis of their mental health and in some cases where they were signing. N._D._A.'s were forced to sign N._D._A.'s to sweep that under the rug reinforcing the silence and Tabu through these N._B._a.'s and that was kind of very shocking and how it's institutionalize right especially in many of these law firms where secrecy is paramount may right one of the things that I remember that stands out to me is when somebody said actually it's in the company's interest to make sure that nobody's talking about this because once one person feels comfortable saying you know what I'm burned out. I can't live like this it sort of gives permission to your other employees to do the same and that's really a strange way and not an effective way to deal with your employees like at the end of the day. That's what makes them burn out. That's what makes them leave. You end up losing more money and more. More Resources and the happiness of your employees if you think that way and this is one of the big goals of our stories to get companies to realize dealing and preventing mental health is actually good for the bottom line. They say you make more money he has if your employees are happy for your employees a healthy both physically and mentally they will give back more <hes>. It's actually we'll make your company richer. It will make the C._e._O.'s bring home more money. If you needed an economic incentive rather than more importantly immoral one there you go. The evidence is in front of you. We also talked to two companies that stand out to me. The first was Lloyds Bank right. Yes the U K Bank. <hes> Antonio Horta Osorio audio is the C._e._O.. At the helm a few years ago when he took over he actually took some time off for I think it was stress. Based insomnia was what they called it but he sort of describes it in many interviews as sort of he burned out and having gone through it he went back to his position much stronger and much better and has succeeded in many ways and part of what he has implemented is the sense that like okay. This is an open issue like this is something that I I went through. I'm going to tell my story. I'm GONNA tell publicly. I'm gonNA tell it internally and I'm GonNa make sure that all of you know that like we care about you by talking about it. He's breaking that stick me. The boss is openly about mental health and his own on personal problems then everybody else can do it inner call out so many people even people who didn't work Lloyd's told us how inspiring that was yeah the other example that I really find interesting is prudential chill which is an insurance company <hes> and they have a chief medical officer which in itself is very interesting. His name is Andrew Crichton and he when he started began to quantitatively measure employee productivity and wellbeing so he we use an employee questionnaire and gave them incentives so like eighty percent of people were actually filling it out and he was tracking wellbeing and productivity using that questionnaire and and happiness and <hes> asking like very specific. If it questions so they would ask questions and then they would see where people were unhappy and then they would provide services to help with those things and then they could continue to actually see the outcome and the productivity changes based on how that questionnaire was answered over our time so it gave just like another quantitative data point for them to bring to the top to say actually this is working. Our retention is better. Happiness is higher and productivity is higher and I thought like that's that's the kind of thing that should be done especially at big companies in order to get people to buy in the first place in both correct and that there was very very helpful to learn that so what's next <hes> well we're not done. This is just you know the first of hopefully series as of pieces where we're going to keep on investigating on the subject so we're GonNa look at for example the role that insurance companies have because again one of the big themes that we just briefly touch upon and the pieces like how so often companies on insurance companies these are working together to effectively deny mental health care to their employees. That's one area the we we're going to investigate in the other. One is about Andy as we touched upon you and talk about that for a second sure the other thing we're interested. Dan Is people who feel they've been discriminated against on the basis of their mental health and have taken legal action and have been asked or pressured to sign N._D._A.'s <hes> to keep their story under wraps <hes> we have been seeing that in Dr Responses and we know there are more stories and we want to hear from everybody so like if you're listening and you think Oh my company is doing something sketchy around how it deals with mental health or you have any stories about <music> someone you or someone you know who's had to sign an N._D._A.. <hes> or you have any knowledge about <hes> that relationship between companies and insurance companies we want to hear from you absolutely so getting talked. How should they do that? I'm GONNA use your email address because it's easier than mine <hes> it's J._F._k.. At F. T. Dot com you can also find us on twitter or there are a number of ways that you can reach us. I'm Lila Raptopoulos. James is James Fontanella con- yeah we want to hear from you. Don't don't be shy. We'd love to hear from you that was lineup. Topless took it to James Fontanella con our corporate deals editor. That story is free to read and you can find F._T.. Dot Com slash mental health.