Given the current cost of living pressures people are facing there’s a rise in the number of individuals working two jobs, starting side hustles or finding new ways to support their costs. This is a worrying problem for many employers, who will have employees facing burnout very quickly which will ultimately impact their work and mental health.

In this feature, Vicky Walker, Group Director of People at Westfield Health gives advice on what employers should be doing to support the wellbeing of these individuals who are struggling to keep up with the cost-of-living crisis, and are now turning to multiple jobs or new ways to support themselves.

The rise of side hustles

Reports suggest that nearly half of Brits (46%) have set up ‘side hustles’, which is when someone completes paying work in their free time while also maintaining their primary job. This may involve people profiting from a hobby or skill set they have developed over the years.

The influx of people setting up side hustles has been motivated by rising costs, with 55% stating they need an additional source of income to help them feel financially comfortable and over a third (36%) of those with a side hustle worried about rising energy costs.

The impact of financial worries

Our research found that financial worries were impacting mental health the most, with 43% of workers saying it was a concern. As people struggle with financial pressures and businesses also find it tough to financially support their employees, setting up a side hustle or working more than one job can seem an easy solution for some. If employees are still doing the required work in their day jobs, it technically shouldn’t cause an issue. However, the main concern is that people are at risk of burning themselves out. There’s a reason we have the Working Time Regulations to limit how many hours we should work a day and enforce breaks in between.

Needing more money is likely to greatly impact someone’s decision to take a second job, but personal finances can be a complicated and emotive topic. It’s important for employees to have access to signposting to dedicated providers and tools where they can get specialist financial support.

The impact of burnout

We’ve found that almost half (46%) of UK workers are close to burnout and more than three-quarters (79%) of the respondents have considered leaving their current job due to stress. This is concerning in itself.

Burnout impacts both people and businesses. People need rest and downtime. Not only does it have a wellbeing impact, but it also affects productivity. Ignoring the issue of burnout and employee wellbeing can be a sign of a more toxic workplace culture – which can leave employees feeling further demotivated and disconnected from their workplace. Raising awareness of the signs to look out for within your workforce can help catch issues earlier.

Signs of burnout include: fatigue – either due to sleeping too little or experiencing ongoing levels of high stress; difficulty with everyday tasks, such as eating three meals a day or experiencing a strong lack of motivation; mood swings and frustration; an increased level of anxiety, which may spur on headaches, gastrointestinal issues and muscle pain.

Making sure employees are aware of these signs is only the first step. It’s also important to give managers the awareness they need to spot the signs of burnout in their teams. Cultivating an open workplace culture, where employees feel comfortable enough to voice when they are struggling, is ideal. This isn’t a quick fix, however, so offering different support through your employee wellbeing programme is essential.

The wellbeing benefits that can prevent burnout

Looking after wellbeing is mutually beneficial for both employees and employers – it reduces the risks for businesses associated with absences, absenteeism and general productivity. Supporting employees with their wellbeing ensures they feel valued by their employer. On average, employees take a week off work due to mental health per year, which should be a major concern for businesses as ultimately it impacts the bottom line. Employees who are working a side hustle or second job to support themselves will benefit from extra support to tackle burnout.

Our research has found that the top wellbeing benefits are: private healthcare, access to counselling and personal/mental health days. Such benefits can help balance the personal needs of employees working extra time outside of work by keeping on top of their physical health and mental wellbeing.  They allow employees to keep any external stressors in check. However, not everyone is the same and a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work. Employers should make sure they also check that the benefits they can offer workers are in line with what they would prefer and need to look after their wellbeing.

The good news is that more and more employers are investing in wellbeing support for their workers and it’s working; future expectations are more positive, with 43% of employees expecting their mental health to improve in 2023.

Having enough rest is vital for those that do have to work an extra job or side hustle. Even something as simple as going for a walk or doing something you enjoy in the evening can help refresh and relax your mind. Employers should communicate the importance of this to employees, while also making sure that they allow their employees to switch off, get some daily movement in and relax throughout the day. Getting the right amount of quality sleep and eating a balanced diet is also vital when it comes to building resilience to stress. Having open discussions about balanced lifestyle practices is a good way to ensure employees know the measures to take to destress. Again, employers should make sure that the workload and what they ask of their workers allows their employees to fit in a balanced lifestyle.

This means businesses need to make sure they are allowing their employees to take some time to incorporate the above, so they have time to reflect and destress. This is particularly important if a side hustle is the cause of their burnout and can allow them to make changes to their lifestyle to prevent it from reoccurring.

Finally, employers should ensure that the communication between managers and teams is as effective as it can be, with a two-way flow of communication to make sure that employees can speak up if they are struggling. By creating a non-judgemental work culture, employers can help their workers to deal with the challenges of managing a side hustle, rather than potentially adding pressure.

Vicky Walker
Group Director of People at Westfield Health | Website | + posts

Vicky has over 20 years' experience in client-centric HR environments, and is a solution orientated leader with a natural ability to build relationships across all levels. Vicky has a responsibility to deliver Westfield Health's strategic vision, and enjoys sharing insight into her experience in finding a balance between engaging employees and preventing burnout.