We have all been aware of stress and the need for wellbeing at work for a long time, not just in terms of feeling it, that’s pretty much a given going back to the dawn of time, but in terms of talking about it. Now we are moving towards doing something about it.
Last month Bristol based company Coexist made headlines because of their period policy, created with the belief that by working with women and their menstrual cycles they would feel better at work and consequently be more productive, as well as contributing to a wider happy and harmonious working environment.
It’s this kind of attitude that’s changing attitudes to wellbeing in the workplace and making it extremely exciting. Of course there will always be more that can be done in terms of tackling stress, particularly where work and responsibility is involved, that, it appears, is part of human nature and a valuable one at that, but a focus on how that can be used and managed positively rather than having a detrimental impact on health and wellbeing in the long term is now vital and very much in demand.
One can’t help but feel that part of the reason for change is living in the wake of the most recent recession, which has provided an impetus for reflection, forcing us to consider what we value and why. When a golden bubble bursts we’re forced to take a look at what we glorified in the first place, and to some degree it seems to have made us think about whether industry that considers burnout a measure of success is perhaps not quite the right route to universal happiness.
So if the ‘80s and ‘90s were about big business, big buildings and burning the candle at both ends, it appears that the noughties are moving towards being the era of streamlined industry and using technology to facilitate a better work/life balance. Remote working, flexible hours, split maternity and paternity leave, relaxation areas, natural light in the work environment and provisions for healthy food and exercise all feature on the spectrum to create a greater sense of wellbeing.
This isn’t something that’s being done for the sake of niceties however, what business leaders at the forefront of some of the decade’s most successful businesses are realising is that a happy, healthy workforce is more motivated, more productive and loyal workforce, which is good news all round.
In a survey reported on by The Telegraph in 2015 it showed that “[companies] with the strongest health and wellbeing cultures had a 45% lower cost of lost productivity compared with those that had the worst cultures” and in fact “lost productivity for the most supportive companies measured 5.9% of the wage bill, compared with 10.7% for those with the worst ethos.”
Meanwhile a recent study on mindfulness at Case Western Reserve University has suggested that “injecting a corporate culture of mindfulness not only improves focus, but the ability to manage stress and how employees work together” according to Spa Opportunities.
That’s not to say that there aren’t still horror stories around about people being pushed far to far with multiple days in the office without sleeping on Wall Street or in the city and simply finding it too much with tragic consequences.
The New York Times for example reported last year on one such incident and said that “individuals who work in financial services are 1.5 times more likely to commit suicide than the national average.” Of course it’s impossible to say that work alone could be responsible for the suicide of any individual, but the article also reiterates “Wall Street [by way of example] has always thrived, in part, on its eat-or-be-eaten culture.”
So which companies are amongst the happiest and healthiest to work for? Well, it will come as little surprise that Google are very much leading the game. Their working environment has practically become the stuff of legends over the last decade, they launched an Optimize Your Life programme in 2010 as an extension to their healthcare plan, they offer courses on elements of wellbeing, and employees can donate holiday to fellow employees, to name a few points. “It all comes back to the family and friends mentality at Google,” said one employee.
In the 2015 Britain’s Healthiest Company Awards Johnson & Johnson came out top with a competitive benefits programme designed to meet the needs of employees and their families. In the research conducted by awards sponsors VitalityHealth they reminded us that absenteeism costs UK businesses more than £15 billion every year.
The research also showed that nearly 60%of companies now provide stress-management information; almost all offer bicycle storage racks and more than three-quarters have bicycle purchase schemes.
Of course there is still a long way to go with all of this, and doctors are still being met regularly with issues stemming from ‘cultural stress’ as Dr. Murad (best known as the founder of Murad skincare) puts it.
Dr. Murad points out that while some stress is good, too much of it causes aging as well as having a catalogue of other negative effects on health, and as a result he recommends an ‘inclusive’ approach to wellbeing that includes emotional, nutritional and topical care.
He states that “by taking healthy measures to eradicate Cultural Stress, we can dramatically increase the odds of unlocking our potential to look younger, feel younger and live healthier, happier and more rewarding lives” – all of which seem like things we all hope for in our lives.
So while a work/life/wellbeing are all working towards their way to being in harmonious balance it seems that some employers are working with us all to make a change. The question is, what are YOU doing?
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.