Why wellness matters
While we are all working from home, we thought it would be a great time to revisit a Workspace Business Insight Dinner that explored the topic of Wellness at Work. Hosted at Pill Box in Bethnal Green, it brought together an expert panel to discuss the topics and share resources.
Happy, healthy employees are good for business as countless studies have demonstrated. And the impact of wellness is now more important than ever as we all must work from home during a period of lockdown.
How can we adapt to working from home?
All the advice discussed can be applied to working from your home office too. Take the time to look after your mental and physical health as you adapt to a new way of working.
We caught up with two of the panellists from the WBI Dinner: John Grumitt, Chief Executive of Changing Health, which provides evidence-based education and support for people with and at risk of Type 2 diabetes and James Routledge, founder of Sanctus, a company trying to change the perception of mental health.
1. Get the easy stuff right
Fostering wellness at work shows you care about your employees. There are plenty of fairly simple things businesses can be doing to create a positive working environment, says John. Having standing desks or walking meetings, making healthy food available, installing showers for those cycling to work or encouraging people to take breaks. While at home, these can be translated into going for a walk around the house while you take any calls and making sure you have fresh foods for meal breaks.
James recognises that the culture of work is starting to become more wellness-oriented. “An office without a fruit bowl is weird nowadays,” he says. But while bean bags and foosball tables are welcome, he says the real challenge is the lack of awareness around mental health.
While you’re at home it is even more important to take regular breaks away from your desk. If you have a garden, use it to go outside for fresh air regularly.
2. Open up the mental health conversation
Looking after your mental health is more important now than ever. Being at home every day can be harder than it initially seems, so be sure to check in with how it is making you feel each day. This is especially important if you are suddenly alone a lot or working with family or flatmates. This change in social parameters can be unsettling and you should be kind to yourself while you adjust.
“Work can be stressful and where a lot of things manifest for you,” says James. “So, it’s important to create an environment where it’s OK not be OK.” Bosses should be open with employees, acknowledge that everyone has their ups and downs, and encourage them to discuss their mental health if they want to, even when at home.
Many workplaces still have an outdated approach in which employees are expected to leave their baggage at the door. This needs to change.
“In a business, it’s important to be feel like you can take an hour out of your day to go to the gym or see a coach or therapist.”
3. Lead from the front
The best way to create this environment is for bosses to set a good example.
“Leaders need to be more aware of their own mental health but also on how the environment they create is going to impact upon the mental health of others,” says James.
The same goes for wellness in general. If your boss is working 7 till 7, eating lunch at their desk and walking round with a stressed look on their face all day, that’s going to have a negative impact on employees.
During this longer stretch of working from home, managers will need to find new and creative ways of reaching out to staff and setting a positive example. More regular face-to-face communication is key to this step.
4. Recognise that there’s no silver bullet
Flexible working hours, unlimited holiday allowance, team away days, a Friday drinks trolley…all can have their place, but none are a magic solution to wellness in the workplace. Companies have to go on their own journey and find out what works best for them.
“There’s no point having free beer in the office if people never have time to drink it because they’re too stressed trying to meet deadlines,” says James.
Equally, says John, there’s no point indulging in fads unless there’s a sound scientific basis. “Whatever you’re encouraging has to have an evidence base to it,” he says. “This is the only thing that’s sustainable.” There is plenty of evidence out there demonstrating the positive impact on productivity, reduced absenteeism and improved health risk scores. Turning this into an effective business case is usually needed to engage corporate decision makers to invest.
So - yes to anything that encourages a healthy diet, physical exercise and getting enough sleep.
The same can be said of this period of lockdown – each company will create its own solutions for staff working from home. Depending on the size of the company, group video calls will maintain morale and, using online chats, staff can share tips on everything they are trying to stay happy and healthy at home.
Get more support for mental health with Workspace partners
If you’re interested in hearing more about personal experiences of mental health in the workplace, Sanctus has a host of resources on its website.
For more information on health risk reduction programmes visit www.changinghealth.com or you can contact them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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