Employee wellbeing should be the backbone of every business that’s looking to thrive. Unfortunately, recent research has found that workplace stress levels have increased 67% since 2009/2010. What’s more, 51% of self-reported work-related illnesses can be classified as stress, depression or anxiety.
As offices start to open again, and employees face another upheaval in their work patterns, employers must take the wellbeing of their employees seriously. Below are further findings about workplace illness and injuries, as well as advice on helping employees’ mental and physical health.
The most commonly reported illness at work is stress
In order to properly support our workers, it’s important to reduce the mental and physical toll their work might be having on them.
When asked to describe illnesses caused or made worse by work, 51% of workers described stress, depression or anxiety. The second-most-common illness was musculoskeletal disorders affecting the muscles, nerves, joints, cartilage and the like (reported by 30% of workers), while the third was other illnesses affecting the lower limbs (10%). Stress was reported to be caused by things like job demands, lack of control over the role and lack of support at work.
For musculoskeletal disorders, manual handling – lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling – was cited as the main culprit. If your employees’ activities involve a lot of manual handling, ensure you’ve done a full assessment of the way they work and adapt your operations accordingly. This could include making sure they have adequate breaks, and that they have access to ergonomic equipment tailored to their bodies.
How to help employees de-stress and improve mental wellbeing
When it comes to managing stress, fully supporting your workers means identifying where issues lie and taking real steps to solve them. Whether you do so via a company-wide survey or by asking your employees individually, make sure you have the full picture of issues so you can pursue the fixes that will be most effective. Find out what your employees find stressful, how they cope with stress, and the most common stressful situations they encounter.
The following are some general tips provided by specialist lawyers Bolt Burdon Kemp, alongside neurological therapist Dr Elizabeth Nightingale and the London Clinic of Nutrition on keeping your employees mentally and physically happy:
- Encourage listening to music in the office – whether this is through radios and a speaker system for the whole company, or providing headphones or free music subscriptions. Music is the best form of exercise for your brain, providing relaxation and stimulation.
- Practising yoga can calm and centre the nervous system, which relieves feelings of stress. If there’s interest in your workplace, why not offer free yoga classes, either before or after work?
- Eating a Mediterranean diet has proven to provide the nutrition that’s needed for a healthy mind and body. Ensure your employees have plenty of cereal grains, dark chocolate, nuts and fruits in the office for brain-friendly grazing between meals.
- Staying active can boost mental health, improve memory and aid a good night’s sleep. Giving your employees the opportunity to go to the gym during work hours, setting up work sports clubs, providing gym discounts, or encourage walking meetings are all ways you can encourage your workers to be more active.
With the pandemic already taking a toll on the economy, we need to make sure we’re on top of everything that could damage our businesses. A damning finding that summarises the above statistics is that, over the last decade, the number of workdays lost to illness or injury has increased by 22%. This alone shows that the physical and mental wellbeing of our employees is a crucial part of this puzzle – and one that should be prioritised if our businesses are to continue growing.