Global multinationals already invest in smart healthcare initiatives – Google offices have on-site chiropractors, massage therapists and physical therapists. Head down to law firm Allen & Overy in Spitalfields, and you’ll find a resident doctor and dentist to keep its lawyers fighting fit. From less absenteeism to better mental health, workplace wellness is a trend that could pay dividends in the long run.
Featured in our HomeWork magazine we interviewed the experts to find out how you can boost your physical and mental health – as well as eat and sleep clean – to be the very best version of you at work.
The physical advantage
Good physical health is the foundation of wellbeing. Numerous studies have shown that regular exercise helps to release fell-good hormones (endorphins) and can reduce the number of employee suck days.
Tom Cheeseman, Co-founder and Director of City Wellness, which provides bespoke wellness packages to the workplace, says exercise can help to set you up for the day or relieve office stress.
There’s no one-size-fits all approach to fitness, he says. Everyone has a slightly different chronobiology and circadian rhythm, meaning that some people find it optimal to train in the morning before work, others in the evening.
Work long hours? Find a flexible 24-hour gym, such as the PureGym at Workspace’s headquarters in Canterbury Court, Kennington.
Fitness retailer Sweaty Betty offers online exercise videos for those who prefer the flexibility of a home workout, plus hundreds of free classes at its stores across the UK every day of the week.
Make simple tweaks from the comfort of your own desk. “Simple static stretches include wrist flexion and extension exercises that are fantastic for individuals who spend a large proportion of their working day typing,” says Cheeseman. “Complement this with light massage of the forearms to ease tension.”
Standing desks are great for employees with postural pain. Placing the spine in its natural anatomical position can help to maintain its longevity and optimal health. If opting for a standing desk, gradually build into this new position as it will initially put a strain on the body.
Walk to meetings (recent research from Stanford University found walking leads to increases in creative thinking) or get up from your desk every half hour. Six million Brits can’t even manage 10 minutes a month, something that’s proven to harm health.
“Not only will walking improve your mood, mental clarity and reduce stress, it could assist exercise recovery from earlier in the day, by preventing blood pooling and potentially aid muscle soreness,” says Cheeseman.
TOP TIP: Slouching over your desk? “A simple tip I offer clients is to place a finger on the middle of the ribcage and then feel yourself opening up to a neutral spine position. Raise both arms above your head and feel the side of your back loosening and your shoulders freeing up.”
The mental advantage
Stress accounts for almost half (45%) of all working days lost due to ill health. James Routledge, founder of mental health gym Sanctus in Shoreditch, believes the state of our minds should be viewed like physical health. “If you could improve the mental wellbeing of your workforce by about 10-20%, imagine what that could do to your business, not just in terms of absenteeism, but growth.”
It’s a view that Workspace customer Leanne Spencer – entrepreneur, performance coach, TEDx speaker, author and Founder of Bodyshot Performance – shares. Spencer ditched a stressful career in sales to set up her business helping clients improve their health, fitness and nutrition. “It’s not just about revenue,” she says. “It’s about attracting and retaining talent and just generally being better human beings in terms of responsibility.”
TOP TIP: Give yourself a breather after completing a deadline and be willing to negotiate the next deadline if it comes too soon, or ask for help to spread the load.
Train your brain
Spencer uses a “disconnect and reconnect” concept to stay on track mentally, taking five minutes every other hour to disconnect – metaphorically and literally – from work to do something calming like meditation.
These exercises could be the secret weapon in protecting mental wellbeing. Hope Bastine, a mindfulness psychology expert at Fresh Perception, hosts corporate wellbeing workshops.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, Bastine recommends focusing on breathing. From a physiological perspective, oxygen and airflow is crucial to our brain activity. Deep breathing through the nose quickly reregulates our heart rate. Try inhaling and exhaling for equal amounts of time – inhale for four seconds, pause, and then exhale for four seconds.
Deadlines stressing you out? Then you need a “rest and restore”, says Bastine. “If you’re tackling one deadline after another without a restoration period, you’ll fall into an energy debt – and it’s not a sustainable way of living,” she says.
The diet advantage
Nutrition is intrinsic to performance at work. Rob Hobson, registered nutritionist and Head of Nutrition at health supplement retailer Healthspan, explains that missed meals and punishing work schedules can affect nutrient intake and impact energy levels, mood and overall health, including digestion. However, contrary to perceived knowledge, rigid meal times aren’t the be-all-and-end-all. He says: “Just make sure you make time for food!”
Foods in their most natural state offer a source of nutrients, such as B vitamins, magnesium and iron that are involved in energy metabolism and healthy red blood cell production.
Vitamin D – the supplement du jour – is a no-brainer during the winter months when you arrive at and leave work in the dark, says Hobson.
On top of bone health, it boosts immunity and regulation of cell growth. Scientists at the University of Surrey recommend the D3 form of the vitamin, as it could be twice as effective as vitamin D2.
A word of warning, however: choose your supplements wisely. Hobson says: “Very high-strength supplements, especially individual nutrients, can inhibit the absorption of other nutrients from food.”
Our Wellness at Work theme at the Workspace Business Insights Dinner in July proved to be popular, with plenty of panel discussion and helpful tips for improving work/life balance and you can read more tips and tricks for staying happy and healthy at work here.
Keen to move your business to a Workspace building? Check out all we have to offer here. We can’t wait for you to join us!