Workplace Wellness: 3 Neglected Factors

Integrated Approach To Workplace Wellness

In our last post we discussed a number of case studies of successful businesses and their unique strategies to combat the ever changing workplace environment. So to build from the previous article we will now look into 3 key factors that can greatly impact the way employees perform. These factors have not been previously discussed and appear to be neglected by many workplaces.

The Health and Safety Workplace Act (HSWA) has changed the way we view health and safety in the workplace in New Zealand. It is not just about compliance; it’s about getting people home, healthy and safe. With this change in legislation we have seen a surge in the Workplace Wellness programmes, all of which emphasize physical exercise and nutrition, something that we can not criticise. However, there is a problem that is not getting addressed. This issue is how do we get businesses to actively engage in the wellness programme and not passively implement one so that they look good on paper. The proactive businesses will be those that are truly passionate about their employees health and put this as the focus for their wellness program. In doing so they will see great benefits in workplace culture, productivity, performance and financially.

So the next question would be; how do we get businesses to engage with employee health and actively buy into their wellness program. We will discuss 3 factors that are nothing new but are easily neglected as they can be challenging to monitor and make positive change. Regardless, these 3 factors are a vital part of the ‘big-picture’ that need to be addressed, especially if you want to achieve profound positive change in your workplace.

Commuter stress

We all accept commuting is wasted time and is extremely frustrating. There is no surprise that research has shown that it can be harmful to our well being and job satisfaction. A recent study in the UK concluded (26,000 employees in England over a five-year period), an additional 20 minutes of commuting per day has the same negative effect on job satisfaction as receiving a 19% pay cut. In contrast a study done in the  US stated that less commuting time was not a perceived benefit and if given the choice 84% of people would take job 1, with a salary of $67,000 a year and a commuting time of 50 minutes compared to job 2, with a salary of $64,000 and a commuting time of 20 minutes. The researchers noted “Their responses simply reflected an inability to fully appreciate the psychological, emotional, and physical costs of longer travel times.”

It is clear regardless of whether it is perceived or not, the time we spend commuting to work places a significant amount of stress on an individual and this will greatly affect job satisfaction in the long term.

Strategy: Remote working

With this pivotal shift in the way we interact, businesses need to breakout from the old methods and and utilise technology to their advantage and future proof their businesses by growing with the times. With the development of technology we are now a touch of a button away from anyone in the world. In a previous blog post (5 unique Actionable Strategies to Increased ROI) we discussed remote working as one of our top 5 strategies to increasing your return on Investment. This was continued on our post Time for a Change! Rethink the Work Day where we presented a number of case studies that discuss various remote working strategies used by current multi-billion dollar  business. Good examples being Netflix and Virgin who don’t track work hours, instead focus on results. Thus, their employees time in the office is irrelevant and they can take time off when the please, as long as work is still being done.

The majority of business need to re-think their structure, there is no longer a need for big offices that produce excessive unneeded overheads that slow the growth of your business. This is not to say offices are not important, they are! Especially, when it comes to inter-employee collaboration.  We are merely suggesting that you think with the future in mind and put your business in a position where you are mobile and able to pivot and grow at a moments notice.

 

Sleep

Sleep is often the first thing to get sacrificed. Sadly it has become a badge of honour to state you get minimal sleep because you work such long hours. This to me says you are unequipped to effectively delegate, schedule work, work efficiently and productively achieve great focus (aka deep work).

“My business does not have resources, therefore my role is extremely diverse and time consuming”. This is the common response or complaint that we hear. Now I understand and relate to this more than anyone. As a founder of a small business starting from nothing, resources are everything! Time being your most valuable resource! You can’t do any work sleeping therefore makes sense for sleep to get sacrificed right?

No! Sleep is the last thing you should ever sacrifice. Sleep is the most powerful factor underpinning your success and health!! Sleep is where your body recovers and stores memories from the previous day. Skipping this process will just throw you down a vicious cycle.

“I function at a high level with 5 hrs sleep”

Science has proven time and time again for this statement to be untrue! You are in fact performing at a significantly impaired level. Yes, there is variation between individuals but this variations should be between whether you get 7 to 9 h of sleep a night. Anything less has been shown to be significantly impactful to performance and health. In fact, sleeping less than 6 hours a night is known to be one of the best predictors of on the job burnout and increased risk of sickness (cold/flu etc). In America sleep deprivation has been calculated to cost ~63.2 Billion dollars a year in lost productivity, this is ~$2,500 /employee!!

How to facilitate employees sleep  

Naps pods are now being included in many new and leading companies which is amazing. But you don’t have to go that extreme, there are plenty of cheaper and simpler ways that sleep can be addressed. Create a discussion around sleep and highlight the importance of sleep. Where possible analysis, either by questionnaire or even better activity trackers that track sleep quality (Highly recommend for tracking sleep and health: Oura Ring, this is new technology happy to talk you through it if you want to contact us). Put simply the discussion is to create a culture shift, focusing on quality vs quantity of work. Regardless of the hours you work it has been shown humans can only achieve a maximal capacity of 4 hours of quality deep work (we will discuss this further in future post), so make sure that your time counts! Some workplaces that track sleep actually reward employees for getting a good night’s sleep. Aetna, a US-based insurance group, has taken it even further with a sleep scheme to encourage employees to get a minimum of 7 hrs of sleep each night. They have even incentivised it with cash bonuses! Their employees are getting paid to sleep! If an employee sleeps seven or more hours for 20 nights Aetna rewards them with a $25 bonus, this is limited to $300 within a 12-month period. “Being present in the workplace and making better decisions has a lot to do with our business fundamentals,” said Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini. “You can’t be prepared if you’re half-asleep.”

Stress management

This goes without saying and something I have written extensively on already in previous posts. With the rise in technology a hazardous result is the continuous stimulation of our bodies natural stress (sympathetic) response, our “fight or flight” reflect. Therefore, success of any wellness program needs to address education and strategies around down regulation methods that can be implemented to regulate our bodies natural responses. Giving us the ability to detach ourselves from the past and the future and giving us the ability to be truly present and the ability to make a impact by working in the present moment.

“You cannot impact the past nor the future without being truly present”

What are down regulation methods?

Sleep is obviously the most important of all but besides sleep, methods such as; breathing, technology free time periods, floatation pods, mindfulness, meditation and grounding practices. These can all have a significant impact on regulating an individual’s stress response.

All of the above have been directly linked to the ability to greatly increase productivity as they promote the ability be present allowing you to achieve a deeper and more focused state of work.

Strategies will look different for everyone, it is important to find strategies that suit each individual to ensure a significant impact. Out of the practices a quick breathing technique is one of the quickest and easiest ways to induce a parasympathetic response or down regulate your system. As discussed in one of the articles below ‘Just Breath’ a simple method is the 4 : 7 : 8 Breathing Technique is perfect in de stressing you. Inhale for 4sec, Hold for 7sec & exhale for 8sec.

 

Previous posts you may find helpful around downregulation:

https://tayloredhealth.co.nz/the-science-behind-mindfulness/

https://tayloredhealth.co.nz/mindfulness-where-to-start/

https://tayloredhealth.co.nz/mindfulness-living-in-the-present-moment/

https://tayloredhealth.co.nz/stressed-out-what-is-adrenal-fatigue-how-is-it-effecting-you/

https://tayloredhealth.co.nz/just-breathe/