In our work with organisations, I have noticed a rise in those who are regularly stressed, diagnosed as clinically depressed or suffering from mental health problems. This can show itself through emotions rising to the surface and emerging as tears or disruptive comments and behaviour. Some would say that these cases are infrequent and represent individual personal problems, unrelated to the business. However, I am starting to think that workplaces are becoming increasingly hazardous to our health!
Work is a major part of our adult lives so it is no wonder that everything is stretched to breaking point when you consider what the average person has to contend with on a daily basis in a struggling economy:
• Constantly changing goal posts
• Increased targets and work but no more time or resource
• Fear of being laid off and a sense that you lack control
• Low morale and job satisfaction
• Criticism and blame culture when things go wrong
• No remuneration for hard work
So what is the cost of workplace related illness? Employees are more likely to be absent and even when they are at work they are sure to become less productive , which represents an enormous loss for UK business. The HSE Self-Reported Work-Related Illness Survey 2010/2011 shows that work associated stress caused UK businesses to lose 10.8 million working days last year. Surely it makes good commercial sense to consider the well-being of employees faced with this figure?
Have you been noticing any signals that suggest your health is not in good order? If you ignore the warning signs, they can lead to bigger problems in the long run. Think about it:
• Physically: Are you losing weight? Putting weight on? Is your blood pressure OK? Are you fatigued? Detrimental changes in your physical well-being are indicators that something is not right.
• Mentally: Are you able to cope with the demands made by work? Or are you demotivated, suffering from low self-esteem or anxious? Our mental health is often neglected over physical signs but ignoring our mental well-being will only lead to a burnout.
• Spiritually: Are you really ‘you’ anymore? Or has work altered your personality so much that friends and family notice a change in character? Are you experiencing apathy, social withdrawal or even turning to alcohol? The essence of yourself should be promoted at work and not repressed.
How can the workplace support you? If your company is lacking perhaps a risk assessment is in order to evaluate where work practices are impacting health. Charities like Mind promote the importance of mental health in the workplace; check out their advice here or take a look at the example John Lewis is setting.
Do you really want to wait until you are on the verge of cracking to consider your physical, mental and spiritual health? This World Health Day, why not think about your well-being and take action to restore your workplace vitality with these tips:
• Be proactive- ask for help if work is too much. Talking about your concerns with a manager may relieve some stress.
• Get out more- take your lunch breaks! Too often we sit in the office working till the end of the day (or more). Use the time to relax and tune out.
• Change your routine- rearranging what you do every day may prove to be effective in helping you to cope with the monotony of tasks.
• Get active- exercising will release happy hormones to combat the stress produced by conditions at work.
• Look for a new job – not all jobs are bad! If you really feel you cannot change your current situation take a look at the list of top companies in the UK and see if they are hiring.
Good Luck and stay healthy!