So how do organisations really help their employees achieve that illusive work/life blend? With more and more businesses making a conscious and determined effort to improve the office environment to benefit and nurture employees’ general health, the topics of mental health and wellness are on almost everyone’s agenda.
Day to day stresses from working long hours, meeting tight deadlines and busy commutes are being combatted with offices that make space for staff to relax, exercise and eat healthily. The Workspace panellists are all experts in the subject of wellbeing. So after a warm welcome from Workspace Energy & Sustainability Manager, Karen Jamison, Leanne Spencer, CEO of Bodyshot Performance chaired a discussion around the issues of wellness at work.
Kicking off with a quote from Arianna Huffington, who previously ran The Huffington Post, Leanne posed the question of how important it is that an employer or corporation take responsibility for the health and wellbeing of staff:
“This is a tough economy. Stress reduction and mindfulness don’t just make us happier and healthier, they’re a proven competitive advantage for any business.”
The three panellists, James Routledge Co-Founder of Sanctus, Alyssia White, Instructor at House of Voga and John Grummit, Vice President of Diabetes UK and CEO of Changing Health tackled the issue and discussed how important it is that companies recognise that by looking after their staff, they can reduce staff turnover and foster a happier working environment for everyone.
There was an agreement among the panellists that there is a difference between good stress and bad or chronic stress. So often we only associate the word with negative connotations, but as Leanne reminded the audience “I put myself through an hour of HIIT this morning, now that’s stress”, but it set her up for the day and had a positive impact.
John added that there is a lot of evidence to suggest that if we expose ourselves to intermittent bouts of stress, it can help us to focus and grow, but if stress is sustained our bodies cease to be able to deal with it properly. It is far easier for the body to cope with moving in and out of stressful situations, such as the daily commute, than to deal with them for overly long periods of time.
Alyssia explained how a Voga class can help channel stress and turn it into something positive. Much like Leanne’s workout, Voga is a physical challenge for the body, but includes aspects of yoga to reduce stress, increase calm and balance and improve muscle tone and core strength.
Further to talking about the responsibility an employer has to employees to encourage a healthy work/life balance and improve attitudes towards mental health, the panel discussed an email that recently went viral. Madalyn Parker, a web developer at Olark, recently took a couple days off work, to "focus on my mental health." Olark's CEO replied to her email, and his response was quickly spread across the internet as a signal to others that this is how mental health should be dealt with in the workplace.
James expressed his concern that many managers and businesses see stress and mental health as something to manage or pay lip-service to. His company, Sanctus, are hoping to create the world’s first mental health gym. After experiencing burnout in his own career, James knows the importance of being able to talk about mental health freely and without stigma. His brand aims to transform how people perceive these issues and create an environment where people can become the best version of themselves and be happier at work.
Other topics the panel delved into included the power of social media, how much sleep comes into play when it comes to keeping healthy and the little changes we can all begin to make to improve our own health and wellbeing.
Alyssia demonstrated a useful ‘power pose’ that she finds helps with feeling confident and dealing with difficult situations. She explained “when people first come to a Voga class, they’ve been used to sitting at their desk and are stuck in the same routine, they can be quite timid. That’s why we add music to it, so they can switch off and be freer. When you’re free you are more open and you can let yourself go and that’s how you can start to build on a new posture or pose you might previously have been struggling with.”
Voga encourages participants to take each class as it comes, one step at a time and most of all they want people to have fun and enjoy the time.
When it comes to technology, the panel agreed that it can be a complex matter. On the one hand, being connected to people can help with feeling supported or gaining advice from someone on an issue you might be facing. But they also explored the issue that sometimes social media can be detrimental, especially if we compare our lives to others on platforms such as Instagram.
James said: “our life is full of what the other person down the road’s doing… They might not mean to make us feel bad, but they might share a picture of an amazing lunch they just had and you just spent £7 on a sandwich.”
He explained that it can feel suffocating to see all the things we ‘should’ be doing and that social media has in some ways ‘flipped our world upside down’ and we’re not sure what to do about it yet.
Leanne suggested the concept of putting yourself on ‘flight mode’ which can be as literal as putting your phone to that setting, or a more in-depth thing of making yourself “unreceptive to anything that’s incoming” just for a while.
The panel concluded with a chat about sleep and how important it is. They agreed that less emphasis should be placed on the quantity and more on the quality of the rest we get. Then the audience settled down to enjoy some delicious food and had time to chat amongst themselves before the illuminating Q&A portion of the evening.
The Workspace Business Insight Dinner organised by the business network Knowledge Peers provided an opportunity for businesses all over London to come together. There was a lot of positive feedback from the event, with many people relishing the chance to talk to others about how their business could improve when it comes to dealing with mental health.
Farah Qureshi - Jewellery designer and maker based at Record Hall said: “The #WBIDinner was the first event that I have attended as I have just recently moved to Workspace. I enjoyed attending the latest event and learning more about the topics discussed; it was great to meet other businesses and the food was good too.”
“Thought-provoking discussion and excellent networking opportunities” said Ben Ellison from Urban Jungle based at Kennington Park.
Make sure you visit Workspace’s Facebook page for your chance to watch the Facebook Live stream of the panel discussion and don't forget to 'Like' our page to keep up-to-date on future events.
If you’re a Workspace customer and you’d like to come to our next quarterly Business Insights Dinner, keep your eyes on our Events Calendar which is packed with insightful workshops and seminars held at many of our business centres each week.
With her company, Bodyshot Performance, Leanne has recently launched a podcast. Remove the Guesswork: health, fitness and wellbeing for busy professionals is for people who want to improve their health, fitness and wellbeing, but are also very busy. Each episode is 30 minutes long and focuses on a topic as well as featuring interviews from people who have transformed their health – and how they did it. You can listen and download it, here.