Workplace wellbeing is one of the biggest initiatives to come out of the pandemic. With a huge shift towards the importance of physical and mental wellbeing, organisations are now making employee wellbeing an integral part of company culture and identity.
The corporate wellbeing industry was worth over £600m in 2022, and continues to grow today with an app for everything, AI providing real time health prompts to GPs and therapists available at the click of a button. Work place stress is recognised not only as a contributor to poor mental health, but as one of the key drivers to chronic or long term conditions, like obesity, cardiovascular incidents (stroke, heart attack etc.), to increased risk of diabetes, cancer and pregnancy complications!
It's no surprise when modern life making it all too accessible to slip back into work mode, with our desktops available at our fingertips, the home now also considered the office for some, and general concerns around job security and steeply rising living costs.
Even with huge efforts from companies, it is often difficult to have your own individual needs met through company wide initiatives designed to address general wellbeing. And that can be difficult to achieve if we ourselves don't understand how to take control of things and cope with staying afloat and maintain good health at the same time.
Here are a few things you can take into your own hands, to ensure better health regardless of how your workplace address your wellbeing:
- Consider your commute
Finding a window of time in your day, however small, is key to starting change. Your commute might be the perfect opportunity for you to pause and consider ways to be mindful, and help you cope better with pressures from the rest of the day.
Instead of scrolling social media or drafting an email before you've even stepped into the office, why not use the time on the train or waiting for the bus to do some mindful breathing. Spend 2-5min breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Or listen to soothing music or a relaxing podcast. Peaceful activity like this helps to lower your overall stress, improve mood and help you manage your day better.
- Be realistic about your workload
I get it, its all good and well me telling you to manage your workload, when its you on the other end having to work to an impossible deadline. Again. And you can't possibly rely on anyone else to do it as well as you will! But if you're regularly working past your hours most nights, over dinner, in bed and on the way in, you might want to reconsider your priorities.
Symptoms that are commonly associated with overworking can include low energy, problems falling asleep and waking up, weight fluctuations and low mood. They might sound like very common problems, but can quickly manifest into more sinister issues such as burnout, depression and infection.
We have a culture to work for free, doing overtime is seen as a badge of honour. Going above and beyond. And while I accept there are occasions when this is required and you're happy to do so for that proposal, the important client meeting, or so you can relax on holiday, you will know when it feels like too much. You just find it too hard to say no.
Whether you have any symptoms or not, recognising that you have too much on your plate is the first step. Next is to have a conversation with the relevant person to address what is manageable for you and what support might be required. A good boss will be open to listen to you and help you figure out.
- Leave work at work
Tech is actually bloody brilliant. I for example, can work from anywhere in the world, which my 94 year old grandfather just cannot fathom! We are more connected than every before, can work across different time zones and set up virtual rooms with people from all corners of the world to join. What that does means however, is that sometimes it can be difficult to switch off. Even when we want to. All it takes is that 'ping' of your phone with a notification of a new message or email and before you know it, you're answering a message or thinking about what to respond.
Even if you don't a
ctually respond, studies show that just hearing the sound of the notification causes a micro stress response, with one article from the Telegraph citing mobile phone alerts as 'toxic'.
Turn your phone on silent, switch off notifications and create boundaries by setting expectations in the work place, for example with an automatic out of office to state your working hours. If you work from home, it can be difficult to break up the work day. Create a disturbance, such as leaving the room, going on a walk or to the gym, to imitate your leaving the 'office', to help you unwind and switch off from work.
- Plan your meals
The one thing clients consistently want support with, is finding the time to eat better meals. And the one thing I tell them, is to simply get organised. Plan what you can do with the time you have and prepare before hand. Even if you can't do this for everyday and each meal, use the weekends and evenings to put together breakfasts, lunches, smoothies, snacks that help you create some balance with your meals in the week. It is so easy otherwise, to rely on sweet treats in the office, quick meals from the supermarket or skipping meals altogether. Even if this isn't possible for every day, start with one meal on one day and work from there. Use time at the weekend to plan and prep for the week, with overnight oats and smoothies for breakfast, or leftovers for lunch. You will feel great not only for eating more mindfully, but for feeling in control of what you're eating regularly. It feels great to save some money too!
- Get social
One of the most important elements of what it means to be human, is a sense of belonging. It's a very innate, human need, to feel part of something bigger, part of a community that we can feel safe in. Prehistorically, we needed to stay amongst others in order to survive as it would have been much more difficult to do so alone. It's the reason why loneliness is so harmful to health (loneliness is as harmful as smoking 20 cigarettes a day). While it might not replace your family and friends, friendships in the workplace are so important to our everyday livelihood, and a big part of how well we might perform or stay in a job.
Whether it's Monday night netball with the girls or drinks and table tennis on a Friday night, get involved and take part if you don't already. If none of those things exist in your work place or you don't work in an office, set up lunch or dinner dates with colleagues, engage in social spaces and get to know one another. Feeling part of a team with like minded people can have a tremendous impact on our mental wellbeing and physical health, too. These relationships give us a sense of belonging and joy that are often overlooked when it comes to wellbeing, yet account for an essential human need.
- Your Values vs Company Values
True happiness comes from when what you say and what you do are aligned. When it comes to the workplace, if you don't agree with what your company stands for, the people or the way they conduct business (environmentally, socially etc.), you're much less likely to perform at your best, last in the job or more importantly, be happy.
That might sounds really obvious, but if who and what you represent at work goes against the things that you are true for you- what we might call your values- then you are much more like to be demotivated, triggered and led to burnout quicker. I realise of course that not everyone has the luxury working for a place whose brand and cultural values align perfectly with their own, but its often something that's overlooked when we see a big name on the door, big salary and big perks. If you are really unhappy in your work place, this may be something you want to think about. Is there a way you can bring more of your true self to the role, a conversation you can have in the work place about how others feel and if any changes can be made. Or would you consider jumping ship to work in an environment that is more true to who you are, has the same morals as you and where you can feel more like your true self? Social awareness has never been so prime in the workplace. Start the conversation and feel into the possibility of change. It's likely others feel the same way too, you might just start a revolution.