Guest Blog by CEO and wellbeing expert, David Price
It’s that time of year when everyone is starting to make their New Year’s resolutions. Most of the time these resolutions tend to focus on improved health and wellbeing. Promoting good health and wellness should also be an employer’s goal for 2019 so with this in mind, here is a summary of the five best workplace wellbeing initiatives and trends that businesses should look out for in 2019.
1. Four day weeks offer employees full recharge
For many of us, we work nine to five, five days a week, however, could this be about to change? The conversation around shifting the working week to a four day week is expanding and the benefits, allowing employees the time to fully relax and recharge, is seen as a positive way to tackle the reduction of productivity and presenteeism. The argument by TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady is that technology has allowed people to work away from their desks and have a better work/life balance. So if businesses are wanting to try and improve their productivity and staff retention, introducing a four day week may be the answer.
2. Standing desks raise productivity
The Huffington Post has previously reported that office workers can expect to spend the equivalent of five years sat at their desk without getting up. This lengthy level of sedentary behaviour can have serious downsides to an employee’s health and has been associated with various physical and mental conditions including obesity and depression. To counteract this, standing desks can be effective in reducing the amount of time that staff sat down. A study by Leicester and Loughborough University found that staff said they were less tired and more engaged in work, whilst using standing desks. Even if a workplace can only offer a regular sit-down desk, chances are employees may have electronic devices such as a laptop or a tablet that can be used to migrate to a different working area.
3. Mental health days become the norm
The idea of a mental health day, in which an employee takes a day off from work for reasons other than physical illness, is relatively new and they are predominantly caused by the need to take time off due to issues associated with a mental illness. Figures from the Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey show, in 2016, there was a total of 137 million sick days taken by people in the UK. Of the 137 million, 15.8 million days were stated for mental health problems, which can include anxiety, depression or reactions to stress, for example. However, due to the stigma that still surrounds mental health, some employees may lie and say their absence is down to a physical illness rather than mental illness when notifying the employer of their absence. Businesses should ensure employees feel comfortable discussing mental health and whether they need time to focus on their mental health.
To support employees, employers should consider getting an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). EAPs are a confidential outlet that can help employees with their mental health problems by combining in-person, online and over-the-phone support services like counselling and health advice.
4. Emails to be banned out of the office
In a study of 2,000 workers by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), two-fifths of workers said they checked their emails outside of working hours, at least five times a day. Unsurprisingly, working long hours has been linked with depression, anxiety and other health issues due to emotional exhaustion. Work burnout, caused by stress levels that affect an employee’s job performance, is something that more and more people are suffering from. Being constantly connected to smartphones, laptops, and tablets after work can now also leave people susceptible to digital burnout. Earlier in the year, supermarket Lidl announced their HQ staff would not be able to send emails between 6 pm and 7 am in an attempt to reduce the stress of their staff after employees said they felt a responsibility to contactable around the clock.
5. Wearable tech enhancing mental health understanding
Over the past couple of years, the wearable tech industry has grown from strength to strength and has provided people across the globe with insight into how to live healthier and more active lives. However, we are now seeing an emergence of wearable tech products that will offer users insights into their mental health. For example one Toronto based company, Awake Labs, have designed a wrist band for autistic patients who also suffer from anxiety. By tracking the user’s heart rate, sweat levels and body temperature, it alerts users to levels of anxiety that are heightened compared to natural levels. Employers will be able to identify signs of stress and anxiety in their business and help reduce the issues that employees are facing.