An Introduction to Employee Wellness

By Olly Thomas

Wellness in the Workplace: Past, Present and Future

Employee wellness in the workplace has traditionally been pushed to the background in favour of efficiency and productivity. Starting from the industrial revolution as we moved from the fields to the factories workers have been treated more like machine than human with little thought to their mental and physical health. However, during this time there was an emphasis on physical labour which contributed in part to a more balanced, active lifestyle. It was here that the 9-to-5 was born along with so many of the other practices we now take for granted.

As we shifted to a white-collar culture and office environments became the norm our focused moved to the ‘knowledge worker’. However, the same mental models of efficiency, productivity and the ‘9 to 5’ workday stuck. We came to believe everyone worked best in the same environment, at the same time and with the same intrinsic motivations. This clash of ideologies has slowly been eroding our wellness in our day-to-day office-bound lives. As a result this has produced some startling statistics for workplace happiness and engagement.

Over the last decade there has been a quiet revolution of the ‘knowledge worker’ moving toward a flexible, autonomous and balanced work-life that has been enabled by the advance of technology. Remote work has been upending what it means to be a productive, happy and healthy worker. Employees are now being given the freedom to live and work on their terms and companies across the globe are starting to see the differences this can make on wellbeing, diversity and productivity. Priorities are starting to shift and we are now facing a turning point in our approach to the workplace but it’s not without it’s problems to overcome. As we will see, remote work is both the curse and the cure for our workplace wellbeing.

 

The Problems and Solutions to Employee Wellness in the Modern Workplace.

While the freedom and flexibility of a remote-first employer is fantastic on many levels it presents as many problems as it does possibilities. Daily habits both positive and negative are quick to take hold and so setting yourself up for success is key, both in terms of productivity and wellness.

While remote work has many benefits, stress and anxiety are still common. Many of the same issues still persist with deadlines looming, office politics and life events creeping into our work lives. Stress and anxiety take time to curb but luckily remote work allows for the flexibility and time to do just this. By bringing mindfulness into an organisation’s priorities it gives people the space to focus on their mental wellbeing. Being able to bring their best selves to work can have dramatic effects for team happiness, morale and productivity.****Simple daily habits of meditation and mindfulness techniquescan have a big impact with a small amount of time commitment.

Remote work has given the knowledge worker huge amounts of flexibility as to how and when they do their work, but it’s becoming apparent overworking and burnout is a very real issue for many. There are no social cues to take a break or when to go home at the end of the day. Many workers feel they are unable to unplug due to our ‘always on’ technology becoming a huge part of our lives. With the introduction of real time messaging it has given us the ability to seamlessly communicate remotely, however distractions have become rife and an ‘instant and hectic’ culture is prolific. Setting aside quality time to focus on deep work by creating a solid productive routine of ‘flow states’ punctuated by well timed breaks and social check-ins can boost productivity, avoid burnout and boost job satisfaction.

Another issue plaguing the office is that a sedate, sitting-all-day work life is having big effects on our short and long term health.Being able to integrate healthy practices into your day-to-day routines can have big health benefits that can last a lifetime. Healthy habits can take many forms such as stretching when taking a break, going for a mid-morning walk or hitting the gym at lunchtime. Remote work is the curse and the cure. Setting aside quality time for physical health will have benefits across the board.

Lastly a large contributor to wellbeing, social interaction. Working from home means being alone for long periods of time. While it means you can have long stretches of focused and deep work, having casual workplace watercooler moments are nonexistent. Forming firm bonds between colleges can be tricky as a remote team if unchecked and unprompted. Luckily a remote-first company can take decisive steps in creating a culture that encourages social interaction, making time for relationships to form and bonds to be made. Other pro-active steps can be made to combat isolation, none more evident than the rise in popularity of co-working spaces and getting into the community by frequenting a laptop friendly coffee shop.

 

Employee Wellness Conclusions

As we are shifting toward a distributed, working from home culture its becoming imperative that we need to look after our mental and physical health. It’s easy to forget to keep wellness in mind when working alone at home. There’s no one there to remind you to take a break, get up and stretch or head home at the end of the day. We want to help you build mindfulness and wellness into your business.

In the coming series we’ll be deep diving into the problems and solutions in the core areas effecting wellness in the workplace. We’ll be looking at mental health and how to tackle anxiety, stress, and how to bring mindfulness in to your organisation. Physical health, understanding the issues with a sedentary lifestyle and the little habits you can do to set yourself up for a healthy day. Looking at the problems effecting focus and productivity in modern workflows, along with how to reduce overworking and burnout. And lastly social health, with a look into how your workplace culture can create happy and successful teams.

We hope to provide practical guides that you can put into action today. Building small micro-habits into your workday can have huge effects and done together as a company can be transformative for your business, culturally as well your bottom line.

 

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