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Wellbeing in the Workplace: Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Stress has become one of the great public health challenges of our time, but it still isn’t being taken as seriously as physical health concerns. April sees the return of Stress Awareness Month, now in its 30th year, to help increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, around 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. Whether work-related or personal, stress can place demands on both the physical and mental health of employees with symptoms influencing their behaviour, relationships with colleagues and performance.

Stress is often a leading cause of work absences and 2019 alone saw over 602,000 cases of work-related stress and anxiety in the UK. Stress affects everyone, and it’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s a human response to the stressors and strains of modern life. But what causes it and how can we spot it within the workplace?

Causes

Stress in the workplace isn’t always caused by one singular event or incident, it can often be a culmination of day-to-day stressors that build up over time into a more sustained period of stress. Some key stressors include;

  • excessive workload and/or unrealistic deadlines 
  • poor work/life balance
  • difficulties maintaining relationships with colleagues
  • lack of control over how to complete a job 
  • lack of support and information to complete tasks
  • being unclear of job role and responsibilities

It is worth noting that stress affects everyone differently, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to solving the issue. Individual factors such as skills, experience, age, disability, tolerance and personality may all have an impact on someone’s ability to deal with stressors.  

Symptoms 

Stress isn’t always easy to diagnose due to its wide-ranging impact on both physical and mental health which means it can be expressed in a variety of ways. Physically, long-term stress can increase the likelihood of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, immunosuppression, insomnia, headaches and much more which left untreated or managed can cause complications later in life. 

Mentally, a simple sign of stress is ‘Brain Fog’ which is often described as a cloudy or muddled feeling, it is mainly characterised by confusion, forgetfulness, and a lack of focus and mental clarity. However, some key symptom indicators in the workplace could be identified by;

  • Performance at Work;
    • Declining performance
    • Unexpected errors
    • Loss of motivation or commitment
    • Memory lapses
    • Lack of interaction 
    • Arriving late / leaving early 
  • Behaviour Changes
    • Irritable/moodiness
    • Over-reactionary
    • Argumentative/temperamental
    • Noticeable mood swings 
    • Overly critical 
    • Clashes with colleagues

The Knock-On Effect

Alongside the individual effects, stress and mental ill health is responsible for 72 million working days lost every year, costing over £40bn to the economy, highlighting the importance of employers taking stock of the impact that work, demands, deadlines, support (or lack thereof), and much more has on an individual. 

To help support you and your colleagues, hero has a range of engaging and thought-provoking packages available to identify and understand stressors, and work to help prevent stress in the future:

Mental Resilience Programme

  • Webinar 30mins + Q&A (£600)
  • Digital Workshop – <90mins (£800)
  • Physical Activity Webinar – 20 mins (£150)
  • Full Package (£1,495 + VAT)

Sessions can include; Introduction to Wellbeing, Mental Health Awareness, Positive Mindset, Better Sleep, Understanding Stress, Winter Wellbeing, Brain Health, Power of the Breath, Positive Psychology, Food & Mood, Movement for Mood, Mindfulness, Managing Anxiety, Overcoming Imposter Syndrome, Post-Pandemic Resilience, Seasonal Affective Disorder

With access to hero’s award-winning whole-person health wellbeing platform, Navigator, your team will gain access to evidence-based, research-led solutions and resources. For more information please get in touch with hero.

Wellbeing in the Workplace: Time to start counting sheep!

Sleep. It’s something we spend a third of our life doing, but why is it important for workplace wellbeing? As technology has advanced and attention spans have dwindled, combined with the 24/7 “always on” culture in today’s modern society, sleep has never before been pushed so far down the pecking order in terms of importance.

Sleep is crucial for the core functionality and efficiency of the human body and without enough of it, it can cause serious and lasting health complications. It’s important that employers realise the impact that work, demands, deadlines, support (or lack thereof), and much more has on an individual’s sleep, and that more can always be done to sufficiently support their colleagues.

Physical Complications

Put simply, a lack of sleep can have an extremely negative effect on the body. Physically, poor sleep health can also put the body at a higher risk of serious medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes. Not to mention that sleeping less can lead to weight gain due to reduced levels of leptin (the chemical that makes you feel full) and increased levels of ghrelin (the hunger-stimulating hormone). Poor sleep also has a detrimental effect on the immune system, putting the body at greater risk of infections, bugs and common viruses.

Mentally, a lack of sleep can cause the brain to fog, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions, making work and completing simple tasks harder and taking longer to complete. The risk of injury and accidents at home, work and on the road also increases. It can also cause employees to feel fatigued, short tempered, and irritable. Chronic sleep debt may also lead to long-term mood disorders like clinical depression and generalised anxiety disorder in adults.

Employee Performance

Therefore, whether the workforce within your business is manual, physical or office-based, a lack of sleep can could present itself in different ways, however, it is likely to be more noticeable at work while the brain is under more strain to perform, some key indicators could be:

  • Decreased communication 
  • Performance deterioration
  • Poor concentration
  • Increased caffeine intake
  • Greater risk-taking behaviour
  • Increased number of errors
  • Poor mood and/or appropriate behaviour
  • Poor cognitive assimilation and memory
  • Increased sickness/absences 

Knock-On Effects

The health complications associated with poor sleep health can lead to a significant impact on business performance too. According to RAND Europe, 200,000 working days are lost each year due to sleep-related absences, costing the economy around £40bn each year – equivalent to 1.86% of GDP.

With access to hero’s award-winning wellbeing platform, Navigator, your team will gain access to evidence-based, research-led solutions, including advice from sleep experts and a wealth of resources, to help provide a positive impact on staff. For more information please get in touch with hero.

Wellbeing in the Workplace: How utilising tech can benefit wellbeing ways of working

As we move ever closer to the two-year anniversary of the first UK coronavirus lockdown, the technology around us has found new applications, both at home and in the office, to improve the health and wellbeing of staff across the world. The world of hybrid working, remote meetings, working from home and the “always-on” culture has rapidly evolved and developed with the advancements of new and emerging technology.

Don’t forget the remote! 

With more people than ever working at home, it’s crucial for businesses and employers to ensure there is the technology in place to allow teams to collaborate with employees who are remote and on-site. Recreating the experience of in-person participation for remote employees can significantly reduce the likelihood of loneliness, depression, and anxiety and ensure that remote workers feel valued and included.

Not only that, but the introduction of tools such as Miro (the virtual collaborative whiteboard tool) or Google Workspace can further support remote involvement and engagement with colleagues, providing wellbeing benefits through socialisation, as well as a sense of purpose and direction within their work, keeping staff engaged and morale high.

Managing staff concerns in 2022

With two-thirds of people concerned about returning to the office, a common problem for employers is trying to entice those members of staff back, with health, safety and wellbeing at work remaining high on the agenda.

As employers, it’s imperative to now consider both the physical and psychological needs of staff when returning to work. According to Gensler, the global architecture and design firm, “People need to feel healthy and safe. It’s not enough to have a space that’s built to be safe. We actually need to make the healthiness of our spaces visible.”

But how do we do that? By investing in technologies that keep people safe in the workplace, helping to reduce levels of anxiety and stress within the workforce. Examples to consider can include space management tools to track workplace density and create socially-distanced floor plans, or even introducing touchless technology, such as touchless entry, access control, temperature screenings, to integrate employee wellbeing into the fabric of the shared workspace.

The Future of Wellbeing Tech

It won’t end there. The future of workplace technology knows no bounds. Some expert opinions of the future could see desks and meeting rooms offering real-time feedback on health and wellness if you’ve been working for too long without a break. ​​Smart glass technology could allow staff to tint glass to control glare and optimise daylight, reducing eye strain and headaches. The exposure to more natural light will also decrease drowsiness and boost happiness in the workplace.

Wellbeing of staff is crucial to the recovery of the workplace post-Covid and the expert team at hero can help provide you with tools, support and best practice needed to implement the very best health and wellbeing provision that contributes to improving all four pillars of health – mental, social, financial and physical health. 

With access to hero’s award-winning wellbeing platform, Navigator, your team will gain access to evidence-based,  research-led solutions to not only plan an effective wellbeing strategy, but to execute and implement it efficiently. For more information please get in touch with hero.

The long and short of it: The effects of long Covid in the workplace

If health and safety professionals were in any doubt about it, it’s clear that the long-term effects of COVID-19 will be felt and discussed for many years to come, with many employees still feeling the daily effects, due to what is known as “Long Covid.”

A recent Office of National Statistics study indicates that over one-fifth of those diagnosed with COVID-19 are still suffering the ‘long’ symptoms for the following five weeks, while one-in-ten presented symptoms that lasted for three months or longer.

But what is ‘long COVID?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) identifies Long COVID as lasting for a duration longer than 12 weeks. The Guardian recently estimated that 376,000 people in the UK have been suffering from Long Covid for more than a year, with older patients, women, those with underlying health conditions and those in their 40-50s most likely affected. Symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue, or extreme tiredness
  • Breathlessness and difficulty in breathing
  • Racing pulse
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Prolonged fever
  • Dizziness
  • “Brain fog” – not being able to concentrate or think clearly

Managing employees with Long Covid

While most natural reactions would be to isolate and encourage Long COVID sufferers to work from home, it is not infectious. The reintroduction of these employees to a stable workplace may in fact aid some of the mental issues caused by Long COVID, including depression and loneliness.

In certain circumstances, a healthcare package or offering for staff is key. Private healthcare options can provide employees with access to healthcare, both physically and mentally to help manage their symptoms. Provision will also give staff a higher level of satisfaction, even if only they appreciate the feeling of being able to access help voluntarily.

The camaraderie and support through the initial months of the pandemic was crucial, and employers should continue to foster this spirit adequately in order to support staff and colleagues affected by changes to their working patterns. 

Wellbeing is an important part of the Long COVID journey. It impacts all pillars of health from mental, social, physical and financial. The expert team at hero can help you to create a COVID recovery package that will help and support you and your teams effectively manage this area. For more information please get in touch with hero.