In an ideal world, wellbeing at work would start with the employer. Why should employers care about wellbeing? Well, research tells us that employee wellbeing is directly linked to employee performance.
Global employee productivity and engagement is currently at an all-time low, with only 15% of employees actively engaged in their work and enthusiastic about their workplaces.
Perhaps more worryingly, 18% are actively disengaged, and their unhappiness and resentment may lead them to undermine the progress made by their more engaged co-workers.
Improving wellbeing at work doesn’t have to be a complex undertaking and there are some simple changes that organisations can make. The first step is to understand that a company’s main asset is their people. Once you accept that, the extensive benefits of promoting wellbeing at work become clear. This article by Gallup, perfectly summarises the positive impact engaged employees can have on your brand identity and performance.
Despite the evidence, many companies are yet to fully embrace a holistic approach to supporting their employees physical and mental wellbeing. So, for the moment, you may have to do it for yourself.
Here are 5 pro-active tips that will hugely improve your workplace happiness and wellbeing:
1. No Posturing
One of the many challenges facing employees this year, has been the physical tolls of working from home. Not many people are fortunate enough to have a home office, which has led to people hunched over laptops at the kitchen table, the coffee table, or in the worst-case scenario, their beds!
One of the first things you can do to improve your wellbeing at work is to improve your posture. Try to sit in a proper office chair or invest in back support to adapt a normal dining chair. Sitting up straight can actually reduce tiredness and feelings of depression, so it is well worth the effort. This article by Posture People has some great tips to help you set up a more ergonomic home work station or HSS has some brilliant ideas to support your posture if you don’t have a desk.
If you’re at work, make sure your workspace is correctly set up to minimise physical difficulties. The NHS has some good tips and you can always speak to your HR team and enquire about occupational health support if you are experiencing physical pain.
2. Go Green!
Eco-psychology research shows that spending time in nature can have a positive impact on our physical health and psychological wellbeing. So why not bring the outside inside?
Having live plants in your workspace can reduce stress and anxiety, improve air quality, inspire creativity and boost productivity. The Green Building Council of Australia even reported that having live plants can reduce sick-leave absences by up to 60%.
Indoor plants also release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) during the day. High levels of CO2 can cause headaches, drowsiness, fatigue and concentration difficulties. As if that’s not enough, Bamboo Palms, Peace Lily, and Spider Plants are some of the most effective at filtering toxic compounds from the air, so why not create a jungle in your office?
3. Don’t Be Sucked in by the Mood Hoover
Building social relationships with your colleagues is an essential part of any effective workplace and something those of us who work alone often say they miss. But not when it comes to...The Mood Hoover!
The Mood Hoover is someone whose permanent state of pessimism or negativity can suck the mood out of the most positive situation. It’s the person you work with who's constantly moaning, complaining or blaming people. Most workplaces have one and if you don’t know who it is, then maybe it’s you! Only kidding.
This person can actually be highly damaging to a team as they have the tendency to pull others down into their doom and gloom. This can lead to low morale, a toxic blame culture, a lack of cooperation, poor performance and mistrust. Mood Hoover's also lead to low productivity as they often take up valuable time trying to get other people to help them solve their problems.
Contrary to what you are probably expecting, I’m not going to say, ‘Avoid the Mood Hoover!’ because that would be cruel, and there may be personal reasons for their total disregard for optimism.
What I am going to suggest, is that you make every effort to be their opposite. A Mood Radiator if you like (I did consider ‘mood blower’, but..well...it just didn’t sound right…). Emotions are contagious, so you have the power to promote a happier environment by projecting a positive, can-do attitude.
This will require you to harden yourself to their pessimism. Counteract their negativity by either changing the subject, responding positively or ignoring the comment. You might also try to gently challenge their behaviour (in private) to understand what it is they really need; they may not even be aware of what they're doing.
Whatever you do, resist their siren’s lure of complaining about people or situations at work. Office gossip helps no one. You're better than that!
4. Move it!
One of the easiest things we all do at work is forget to move. We sit down at our desks at 8am and sometimes don’t move until 12pm. If you're anything like me, then sometimes that is even 2pm!
The trouble with not moving, is that blood starts to pool in your legs, which can have serious health consequences. We all know that we need to be aware of getting DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) on long flights, but do you really know why?
See the thing about DVT’s and flights, is that it isn’t actually the flight that’s the problem. It’s being inactive for a long period of time.
With 1 in 1000 people being diagnosed with DVT every year in the UK, it's something we need to be aware of. So, how many of us remember this risk when we sit inactive at our desks for hours every day?
Now, I promise I’m not trying to scare you. It’s just that it’s fairly easy to reduce the risk with a little bit of effort. So, get up and move around at least every 1-2 hours; do heel, toe or foot circling exercises under your desk between these times; try to avoid sitting with your foot tucked under you (I have just had to untuck my foot again! I swear it has a mind of its own); drink lots of water and go for a short walk after work. See the NHS DVT page for more information.
5. Switch Off
This is something that has become harder to achieve in our digitally super-connected world. You say you’ve finished work for the day, but have you truly finished? Or do you still check your emails in the evening?
Maybe you get your laptop out, because you know, it’s just there, and you do a little bit more to try and get ahead of yourself. Then you click on your schedule to see what tomorrow will bring and realise you’ve got so many things in your calendar that you are going to have to stay up all night inventing time travel just to attend them all!
Sound familiar? Sticking to your core work hours is something that challenges even the most disciplined person, but being able to genuinely switch off after work can make a real difference to your wellbeing.
To stop yourself from thinking about work when you are trying to relax, try spending the last 20 minutes of your workday preparing for the next day. This might involve making a list of key tasks, writing some important notes or just dumping all your thoughts onto a page.
During that time, don’t check any emails and only respond to urgent calls or messages. Once you've finished, think about using your ‘out of office’ or ‘do not disturb’ settings on your phone.
Contrary to what you might think, creating a firm boundary between your work and home life can improve happiness, productivity, and engagement at both work and home, so it's well worth the effort.
If you lead a company, think about how your managers and team leaders promote and model this. You could even include a line in your email signature that states that you value this work ethic. Here is the line I use, ‘Keystone Coaching Ltd respects the work life balance of its employees and partners. If this email has been sent outside of normal working hours, there is no expectation for you to provide an immediate response.’
I hope you found these tips useful in improving your wellbeing at both your work office and home office. Sign up to get future articles straight to your inbox. Coming up next month will be this one's partner article, 'How To Create A Positive Organisation!'