According to Nuffield Health’s 2023 Healthier Nation Index, 44 percent of employees said their jobs had negatively impacted their mental health this year.
Unsurprisingly, adverse feelings towards the workplace can ramp up as the festive season becomes a major source of stress and anxiety due to an intense social calendar, end-of-year reviews, and meeting tight deadlines.
I’ll discuss how managers can prevent end-of-year burnout in their teams and encourage employees to protect their physical and mental health.
#1 Get organized, early.
If employees are feeling the weight of burnout due to excessive work demands, it’s time to reassess and reorganize your team’s project priorities.
Consider scheduling one-to-ones or team meetings to review everyone’s current existing workload, to determine which assignments demand immediate attention and which ones can be postponed for a more suitable time.
Additionally, when facing large and intimidating projects, it’s often helpful to spend more time together, working out how to break them down into smaller, more manageable chunks.
If an employee’s schedule is overwhelmingly full, managers should support in finding solutions. This could include, for example, helping them to embrace the power of delegation. Whether employees outsource tasks to colleagues or externally, let them know seeking assistance does not mean they are failing or that they will be looked upon negatively.
This is more helpful than risking missed deadlines or an individual becoming so overwhelmed that their productivity suffers.
#2 Set boundaries.
No doubt, there’ll be circumstances when you or team members have reached out to colleagues for additional support, and some of them have come back with ‘no,’ unable to help at that time.
In the same vein, managers must be comfortable doing the same, even though many of us lean towards “people pleaser” behavior. This means it’s tempting to start saying ‘yes’ to additional work if you’ve managed to free your schedule slightly.
Remind yourself that it is fine to say no to taking on extra responsibilities, try to set firm boundaries with yourself and your team, and let them know it’s OK to follow suit.
Don’t just set boundaries for during office hours, either. It’s essential to do this after hours or if working remotely too. One example could be agreeing with everyone that none of you will check work emails in the evenings between certain hours so you can focus on spending time with loved ones and winding down after a busy working day.
Other examples could be urging teams to take their full lunch periods, setting aside regular breaks, and leaving on time at the end of the day. Managers who lead by example make it easier for others to embrace their own wellbeing, too.
#3 Encourage self-care.
Lack of self-care is one of the most significant contributors to end-of-year burnout. In fact, according to our 2023 Healthier Nation Index, only 15 percent of us take time to focus on self-care, when trying to support our mental health.
Workplaces need to communicate ways for employees to prioritize self-care during the working day and when at home, and help build supportive environments that facilitate healthy behaviors.
From inviting experts to help teams learn about the different self-care practices to researching new ideas that could potentially benefit the whole company, building awareness and positive behavior change is key to creating a workforce that makes self-care a focus.
Small changes like five minutes of meditation or deep breathing exercises can be hugely impactful, helping employees maintain a state of calm, even during the busiest working periods. Psychological research has shown that moving and changing your environment and the stimuli around you improves problem-solving skills and mental focus.
Encourage employees to go for a walk when they can and use their garden if they are working remotely. Ideally, actively build these activities into diaries or working practices. More physical activity will release anxiety-reducing endorphins, which help improve mood and reduce stress.
#4 Notice signs of chronic stress.
I’m often asked, ‘How do we know when someone has reached ‘chronic’ stress levels?’
The answer is if you notice stress affecting an employee’s ability to live an everyday life and perform their daily work routine.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, signs of chronic stress include indecisiveness, mood swings, procrastination, an increase in errors, and even increased absenteeism.
According to a report, long-term stress weakens the responses of the immune system, because stress decreases lymphocytes, the white blood cells that help fight off infection. This means highly stressed individuals are potentially more at risk of colds and sickness than those experiencing minimal or average stress.
You might notice those suffering from chronic stress are working more or regularly staying late to complete tasks. Ironically, people often do this because they believe it helps them avoid these feelings.
This can also lead to leavism – employees using leave days to catch up with work. This is an ineffective coping mechanism. We end up ignoring our relationships, eliminating our social lives, eating, and sleeping poorly.
#5 Make the most of workplace support.
One of the longer-term side effects of staying in a heightened state of stress for too long, is that it can impact our physical and mental wellbeing. This can lead to mental health concerns like anxiety and depression. That’s why it’s so important to let employees know their mental health should always be a priority.
If you think an individual’s mental health is seriously affected by the stresses that come at the end of the year, you should signpost them to your work’s wellbeing offerings.
Many businesses provide support for stress and personal problems through workplace mental health support like cognitive behavioral therapy CBT, or employee assistance programs (EAPs).
These offer direct, confidential contact with experts who can support individuals with emotional distress, from family issues, work-related problems, addiction, and mental ill-health.
#6 And finally, kindness is key…
Practicing kindness to others and yourself is crucial, especially at this time of year.
Mounting personal and professional pressures in December can cause everyone to hold themselves to an impossible standard and set an insurmountable to-do list.
Remember that no matter what level we have reached at an organization, everyone can only do their best to get everything done without compromising their emotional wellbeing.
By treating ourselves and others with kindness and understanding, we not only reduce the risk of burnout but also enhance our ability to be present, enjoy festive moments, and engage more meaningfully with our work and personal lives, all year round.
By Gosia Bowling, Mental Health National Lead at Nuffield Health.
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According to Nuffield Health’s 2023 Healthier Nation Index, 44 percent of employees said their jobs had negatively impacted their mental health this year.
According to our 2023 Healthier Nation Index, 44 percent of us said our jobs had negatively impacted our mental health at some point this year.
Employers have a responsibility to help individuals manage both their physical and mental wellbeing. But it’s clear businesses still need to work harder to provide targeted support to their employees.
But the good news is that changes in the corporate world are trying to make this possible. Previous Nuffield Health research showed that 2 in 3 businesses offer physical and mental wellbeing to their workplaces.
With this in mind, I suggest six workplace wellbeing trends we can expect to see grow in prominence in 2024.
#1 Workplace ergonomics
Our 2023 Healthier Nation Index showed that 36 percent have taken time off work due to musculoskeletal issues, which shows there’s a significant need for physical wellbeing support in the workplace.
As we move into a more permanent hybrid work set-up in 2024, we’ll see the development of specialist programs and more technological innovations as potential solutions to improve workplace efficiency and prevent MSDs.
For example, wearable technologies like exoskeletons are revolutionary mechanical frames that a worker can wear to support and protect the body from the strain of arduous work. Research shows they can offload up to 40 percent of a load, and reduce the labor required by muscles.
Virtual reality is also on the rise, as it can assist in employee training by simulating work environments and helping employees identify workplace hazards.
Away from tech and innovations, it’s vital for employees and employers to note their legal requirements to provide a provision at work and at home including desk and DSE assessments.
#2 Shifting organizational values.
Research shows the hybrid work model has been forecasted to rise to 81 percent adoption, with Gen Z amongst its most enthusiastic supporters.
In the past, we may have seen resistance to such demands from businesses, but now, more than ever, employers are working on ways to stay open to employee suggestions and adapt work models accordingly.
We’ll see more of this in 2024, which highlights that workplaces are beginning to understand the importance of ensuring workers are satisfied across the board rather than just adequately remunerated.
Companies will continue to focus on how to improve work/life balance, wellness, intellectual challenge, and personal growth and development.
#3 Non-negotiable self-care
According to our research, only 15 percent of us take more time to focus on self-care, when trying to support our mental health. Self-care time has traditionally been reserved for outside work hours, like a morning walk or a hot bath at night.
However, work is invariably intertwined with our life routines, and it’s becoming clear to businesses that weaving moments of self-care throughout the day will be more beneficial to employees than grinding through a hard day and leaving their “me” time for later.
In 2024, we’ll see more businesses encouraging their employees to educate themselves on their self-care needs. More will provide employees with helpful tools or sessions that encourage them to slow down and breathe.
Whether it’s introducing company mindfulness sessions, inviting in experts to teach individuals about different self-care practices or researching new ideas that could potentially benefit the whole team, building awareness will be key to many businesses next year.
#4. Inclusive wellness initiatives
Workplace wellness is for everyone, and in 2024, diversity and inclusion efforts will continue to extend to wellness programs.
Many businesses are starting to rethink their benefits offerings to promote fairness, equal opportunity and prevent burnout. For example, is offering a subsidized gym membership a benefit if employees are not located near a gym or able to afford the reduced membership?
To address such disparities, gathering feedback from employees is essential. Understanding their unique needs and challenges allows tailoring benefits to address immediate concerns.
In 2024, there’ll be a heightened focus on ensuring that every employee, regardless of background or abilities, has access to the support and resources they need to thrive.
#5 Reducing financial stress.
Our 2023 Healthier Nation Index revealed 59 percent of individuals believed the cost of living or a change in personal finances had negatively impacted their mental health over the past year.
Financial worries can significantly impact mental health, and without effective support, mental health conditions can affect a person’s confidence and identity at work.
More businesses will adapt their wellness offerings to enable employees to cut costs where they can. For example, offering flexible work options, like remote work, flexible hours, or compressed workweeks, can help employees better manage their schedules and save on commuting costs.
There’ll also be a greater focus on offering childcare benefits or access to discounted childcare services, which will also support employees in managing the high costs associated with childcare.
#6 NOT sleeping on the job.
Our Healthier Nation Index highlighted that poor sleep is still a huge issue across the nation. On average, Brits are only getting 5.91 hours of sleep a night, this is down from 6.11 in 2022 and 6.19 in 2021.
There still exists a vital need for employers to be more attuned to the sleep needs of their staff and the potential role it has in improving employees’ physical and emotional wellbeing if businesses prioritize its importance.
In 2024, more companies will collaboratively engage with their healthcare partners to bolster sleep education and the relevant employee benefits needed to support those struggling.
We believe more businesses will provide wellbeing support through external services like cognitive behavioral therapy, an effective therapeutic therapy for insomnia. CBT-I considers how your thoughts and beliefs about sleep may influence your sleep behaviors, examines behaviors and habits around sleep, and introduces techniques like relaxation and sleep restriction.
By Marc Holl, Head of Primary Care at Nuffield Health.
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Compassion is a vital emotion in a professional setting, helping to build and strengthen team relationships and business collaboration worldwide. However, the physical and emotional strain of consistently supporting colleagues can be taxing, especially amidst the various challenges facing the UK economy.
In this article, I’ll explore the repercussions of compassion fatigue in the workplace and offer insights into how businesses can provide the necessary support to help their employees avoid growing feelings of fatigue and helplessness.
What is compassion fatigue?
The term “compassion fatigue” was first introduced in 1992, in the realm of medical professionals. It described the adverse health effects and deteriorating patient outcomes resulting from healthcare workers’ excessive exposure to trauma.
However, its scope has broadened to include individuals in various challenging roles beyond the medical field.
Compassion fatigue can affect anyone whose job-related stressors and triggers permeate their daily thoughts, mood, and overall well-being. Some individuals describe the feeling of becoming so saturated with distressing scenes that a psychic numbing can occur.
Several additional factors contribute to compassion fatigue, including the ongoing strain of the cost-of-living crisis, the uncertainty stemming from global conflicts, and the constant presence of social media in our lives.
How does it physically and emotionally affect individuals?
Compassion fatigue can have both a physical and emotional impact on individuals. Firstly, acts of caring and feeling decrease, and these are substituted by an outward detachedness. Individuals become more task, and less emotion, focused, and may start to isolate themselves, engaging less with their colleagues and teams.
In the short term, compassion fatigue can manifest as various physical health issues, including headaches, migraines, as well as gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Over the long term, it heightens the risk of developing cardiovascular problems, obesity, and diabetes.
Mood swings, ranging from moderate to severe, become commonplace, disrupting an individual’s ability to think clearly, regulate emotions, and sustain a sense of hope. All these factors combined can contribute to the emergence of stress-related mental health concerns, like anxiety or depression.
How does it impact workplaces?
In the absence of supportive measures from leadership, the repercussions of compassion fatigue in workplaces could be significant. Firstly, many experiencing the condition struggle with unmanageable negative emotions, like anger, irritability, and reduced tolerance.
These often lead to interpersonal challenges, making it difficult for employees to maintain positive relationships with their colleagues and fostering a sense of disconnection from their workplaces. Cognitive functions like clear thinking, sound judgment, and effective decision-making may be compromised, affecting the ability to focus on tasks.
Work behaviors and routines may become increasingly erratic. Some employees may exhibit increased absenteeism, take more sick days, or spend less time in the office. In contrast, others might invest extra hours working to catch up, or they may carry work home as they struggle to concentrate and find themselves less productive during regular office hours.
Supporting employees in times of need
A crucial step in addressing compassion fatigue is to implement training programs that acknowledge and address the emotional toll of work roles. Consider inviting mental health experts to run in-house employee seminars, which delve into topics like stress responses, emotional resilience, and self-compassion.
This approach not only welcomes discussions about emotional well-being but also makes them an expected part of the workplace culture.
Leaders should also scrutinize and eliminate behaviors that may exacerbate anxiety or stress among employees. For instance, if bosses are responding to emails at 10:00 p.m., an unwritten expectation may emerge that others should follow suit.
Encouraging leaders to remove work emails from their phones and endorsing similar practices within their teams can help establish consistent, much-needed cutoff times for work-related activities.
Highlight the value of breaks during the workday, emphasizing the importance of self-care activities like taking a refreshing outdoor walk and enjoying a proper lunch break instead of hastily eating at your desk.
These seemingly minor adjustments encourage employees to recharge, prioritize self-care, and shift their focus away from factors that contribute to negative behaviors.
Research indicates that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is highly effective in treating compassion fatigue, as chronic exposure to suffering can influence negative thought patterns.
Employers may want to consider incorporating emotional well-being support, like CBT, into their employee benefits packages to assist those already grappling with emotional wellbeing challenges.
CBT therapists can also help employees recognize lapses in self-care and boundary setting, enabling them to understand and respond to their symptoms or experiences differently over time. This can significantly enhance their overall well-being and quality of life.
The good news is that there are practical measures you can employ to tackle compassion fatigue, both for yourself and your team, to rekindle emotional well-being within the realm of work.
For many, compassion fatigue is a transitory phase, a clear sign that your body and mind are desperate for a recharge and a healthier work-life balance.
When businesses heed these signals and respond accordingly, they can help employees rebuild enthusiasm for their work and in turn, most importantly, their capacity to reconnect with others.
By Marc Holl, Head of Primary Care, Nuffield Health
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The surge in the cost of living is deeply impacting both workers and businesses, as the escalating prices of vital commodities and services add to financial strain and psychological stress.
A substantial 47 percent of UK employees revealed they have minimal to zero savings remaining by the close of each month. Furthermore, an additional 15 percent indicated their households encountered difficulties covering monthly expenses.
Numerous employers are taking proactive measures to assist employees amidst escalating costs. After a demanding two years contending with the Covid-19 pandemic, a silver lining emerged: an enhanced emphasis on employee benefits and their significance to the workforce during that difficult period.
With the cost-of-living crisis causing further issues for employees, there has never been a better time for companies to recommunicate their benefits offerings to assist staff through another increasingly uncertain and stressful time.
However, according to research, today’s benefits appeal mostly to the highly paid, but further research shows there is a strong business case to provide employee benefits that demonstrate diversity and inclusion.
I address some of the assumptions workplaces might make about employee wellbeing, why they are problematic, and how to provide support during the cost-of-living crisis.
Why does the cost-of-living crisis impact the workplace?
Nuffield Health’s 2023 Healthier Nation Index revealed 59 percent of individuals believed the cost of living or a change in personal finances had negatively impacted their mental health over the past year.
Mental health can be significantly impacted by financial worries, and without effective support, mental health conditions can affect a person’s confidence and identity at work. The ability to concentrate and work productively can decline, and businesses may report an increase in absenteeism and presenteeism among those struggling.
Another issue employers might face is staff taking up second jobs to meet their increased outgoings. Research shows 5.2 million workers have taken on an additional position to help pay for the increased cost of living, and another 10 million plan to, in response to rising costs.
Employees working all hours to try and meet basic needs could easily result in fatigue and burnout. And as we all know, tired, anxious, and exhausted employees do not equate to healthy, productive teams.
Workplace burnout may impair short-term memory, attention, and other cognitive processes essential for daily work activities, making employees significantly less productive. Burnt-out employees are also 63 percent more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job.
Keen for self-care
More businesses are encouraging employees to prioritise self-care during these challenging times. While well-intentioned, financial instability is making it difficult for employees to afford basic necessities, let alone invest in self-care activities or wellness-related expenses.
Those working irregular or unpredictable schedules, find it near impossible to plan and commit to self-care activities. The reality for many, especially those in lower-paid or high pressure roles, is that they can’t simply take breaks, when they feel like it or need it from stressful jobs.
Those in marginalised groups face much more than just work stress too. Compared to other economic classes, they are more likely to face exposure to crime, drug-saturated neighbourhoods, and overcrowded residences.
Lower-income employees may not have access to the same resources that higher-income employees do, like fitness facilities, healthy food options, and mental health services.
Nutrient-dense foods are also now too expensive for many households to afford. A recent study estimated that lower-income families would need to dedicate a whopping 43-70 percent of their food budget to fruits and vegetables to meet dietary guidelines.
Where do we go from here?
It’s clear the ongoing stress associated with living with less than one needs can create constant wear and tear on the body. This, in turn, disrupts and harms the body’s physiological stress response mechanism while also diminishing cognitive and psychological responses essential for confronting challenges and daily stressors.
Many businesses pride themselves on offering a suite of perks for employees, which they claim will help those during particularly difficult times, like the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. However, our 2022 data actually suggests that 1 in 3 employees are offered no physical or mental wellbeing services by their employer.
We believe responsible businesses should offer these services to their staff. Those who don’t already should invest in the health of their employees by speaking to expert health third-party providers who can guide them on the best offerings to introduce.
For the two-thirds of businesses that do offer employee benefits, it’s worth noting some of these might not be accessible or suitable to all employees. For example, is offering a subsidised gym membership a benefit if employees are not located near a gym or are able to afford the reduced membership?
Managers need to fundamentally rethink their benefits offerings to promote fairness and equal opportunity and prevent burnout. When deciding which to offer – specifically during a cost-of-living crisis- it’s essential to gather feedback from employees to understand their unique needs and challenges. Tailoring benefits to address their immediate concerns can have a significant positive impact on their well-being and loyalty to an organisation.
Providing employees with fair and competitive wages is one of the most direct ways to address financial challenges related to the cost of living. A living wage can help employees cover their basic needs without having to struggle as much financially.
Investing in employees’ professional development through tuition reimbursement or training opportunities can help them start to build the skills needed for potential higher-paying roles, which they may be able to apply for more quickly in the future.
Making sure you provide access to relevant benefits is also key. For example, offering flexible work options, like remote work, flexible hours, or compressed workweeks, can help employees better manage their schedules and save on commuting costs.
However, if employees’ roles do require them to be physically in the workplace, perhaps your business might consider providing transportation benefits instead, like subsidised public transportation passes, which can help alleviate commuting costs. Offering childcare benefits or access to discounted childcare services can also help employees manage the high costs associated with childcare during a cost-of-living crisis.
Where signs of burnout, financial stress, or anxiety are recognised, employers should signpost employees towards the emotional wellbeing support available to them. This may include Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) or cognitive behavioural therapy sessions (CBT), which give individuals direct access to a specialist who can help them explore and understand the factors which are impacting their health and wellbeing.
Communicate helpful resources like where to apply for monetary support, how to access debt management helplines or find financial literacy programmes. Regardless of whether this support comes from an external resource or from your own company’s offerings, this advice can empower employees to make informed decisions about budgeting, saving, and managing their finances.
Additionally, highlighting community resources, government programmes, and nonprofit organisations can help employees find accessible self-care resources if they have limited financial means.
During these challenging times, employees want to know their employer has their best interests at heart. Wellbeing is tied to feeling valued and appreciated, and it’s essential our colleagues are met with understanding and assistance every step of the way.
By Marc Holl, Head of Primary Care, Nuffield Health.
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It is undeniable: stress is widespread across today’s workplaces.
A Mental Health Foundation survey found that 74 percent of adults experiencing chronic stress felt ‘unable to cope’ as a result, impacting their daily lives and careers. And since the pandemic, there has been an explosive 25 percent increase in the incidence of anxiety and depression worldwide.
According to research, in the workplace, this translates to 17 million days of absenteeism, citing that on average, each person needed to take 16.5 days off from work.
However, according to the concept of eustress (“good stress”), there is a positive form of psychological stress, which could help individuals feel more motivated, productive, and happier in the workplace.
Why eustress is best
Negative workplace stress is a costly oversight for businesses, but when moderate levels of stress result in short, productive bursts of energy in your daily life – that is eustress.
Eustress has positive workplace outcomes for those able to identify how it manifests; it lowers procrastination when completing a specific task at work.
Eustress enhances well-being as the person gains career satisfaction through productivity. There is a vital balance at play that makes for a healthy work environment if organizations support and encourage it.
Exploiting the power of eustress in the workplace
As explained, a hallmark of eustress is that it presents in short bursts of productivity. Biologically, our brains have a better-developed response to tasks when we know that we have a break on the horizon.
The best way to harness eustress is to manage the day and its tasks by setting 25-minute timers throughout and rewarding yourself with a short break.
During these breaks, it is recommended to move the body and have a change of scenery. This enables one to move from that eustress psychological state to one with a sense of achievement, allowing them to switch off.
For example, a quick walk around the block and returning to make a cup of tea before beginning work again helps to eliminate stress build-up making it easier to start the next task on our list.
Why chronic stress is bad
Two hormones are in circulation when we are stressed: cortisol and adrenaline.
They host an essential function in the body and trigger us to enter ‘fight or flight’ mode which is intended to be temporary. Long-term exposure to cortisol, in particular, will eventually begin to have negative effects on mental and physical health.
In a workplace context, continual chronic stress will impact one’s ability to work effectively and productively. Oftentimes, colleagues who are experiencing long-term chronic stress will present with the following: brain fog, irritability, oversensitivity, and the inability to concentrate and retain information.
Moreover, physical and mental health-related manifestations are well-recorded. These include high blood pressure, inflammation within the body, and aches and pains like tight chest pains, anxiety, and depression.
Train for triggers
Managers and executives are responsible for identifying these signals among their colleagues and being responsive. Keeping employees educated on the mental health support resources available is critical.
Emotional literacy training is an effective tool to boost employee resilience by ensuring staff have a common language to discuss distress. It can improve managers’ abilities to support their employees, equipping them with knowledge, self-awareness, and empathy, making them better listeners.
Bespoke employee benefits
Responsible employers should offer an array of options tailored to the workforce and based on employee feedback.
Where signs of burnout are recognized, employers should signpost employees towards the emotional wellbeing support available to them. This may include Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) or cognitive behavioral therapy sessions (CBT), which give individuals direct access to a specialist who can help them explore and understand the factors which are impacting their health and wellbeing.
These offerings show conversations about stress and mental health are both welcomed and expected which in turn ensures early intervention and uptake among staff.
By Lisa Gunn, Mental Health Prevention Lead, Nuffield Health.
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This year 35 percent of UK employees said they called in sick due to poor mental health but gave another reason*. While this is a significant percentage, it is lower than the findings from Nuffield Health’s 2022 report, with the percentage previously being 39 percent.
This is especially significant given that Nuffield Health’s 2023, ‘Healthier Nation Index’, also revealed that over 1 in 4 people (29%) now feel comfortable enough to disclose to their employer if they need time off due to poor mental health*. These latest findings suggest a positive shift in how employees are communicating with their workplaces about their emotional wellbeing.
Whilst this still indicates that stigma remains a barrier for people talking about their Mental Health at work, it is a promising sign that people are beginning to speak out when they need more rest, emotional support, and time away from their desks.
These findings are especially pertinent during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which focuses on anxiety. Anxiety is a natural response, particularly in these current times of uncertainty. It’s essential to become aware of when we may need additional support with emotions such as anxiety so that it does not negatively impact our lives.
I offer advice on how employers can play their part in creating a connected and transparent workplace, which prioritizes both physical and mental wellbeing:
1. Notice when anxiety takes over.
In the past year, 48 percent said their work had negatively impacted** their physical/mental health. Hence, it’s imperative companies are equipped to recognize signs of mental distress, like anxiety, in others.
The symptoms of anxiety can be seen in various ways. Physical signs include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, headaches, tiredness, and dizziness. You might notice heightened emotions in the workplace, such as irritability or tearfulness.
Employees experiencing anxiety may find it hard to maintain a healthy work-life balance. They may cancel annual leave last-minute – claiming they have too much on, to take holiday – work from home late at night or insist on coming into work when unwell.
However, spending too much time at work is counter-productive, as it can result in us overlooking our physical and mental health. According to this year’s findings, 59 percent of Nuffield Health respondents said they were also less productive at work* when their mental health was poor.
Just five minutes of conversation from employers reaching out to employees presenting with signs of anxiety or distress can have a positive impact. This could be as simple as asking, ‘Are you OK?’ or offering more regular meetings to catch up on how they feel about their workloads.
2. Keep talking.
It is encouraging that more employees feel comfortable sharing with their employers when they are having problems with their mental health. However, 18 percent of us will still go to work one or two times a year when our mental health is poor, and 19 percent will go to work more than ten times a year when experiencing poor mental health.
It’s good for managers to try and understand why individuals come to work despite experiencing reduced mental wellbeing. The more we know about the actions of our teams, the more support we can put in place to help them and reduce behaviors like presenteeism.
Aim to spend at least five minutes with employees each week, practicing ‘active listening’ – a skill that requires a genuine understanding and reflection of what’s being said and providing a considered response, especially for those experiencing symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Active listening means listening attentively to what’s being said and showing understanding by paraphrasing and asking open questions to demonstrate your understanding.
Employers may also consider offering Emotional Literacy Training to staff – equipping them with the skills needed to recognize signs of distress in others and themselves and the confidence to approach them. This way, they can nurture a workforce capable of identifying and tackling symptoms of anxiety in both themselves and others.
Our 2023 study revealed 38 percent of people in the last 12 months had dedicated no time to supporting their mental health, which includes everyday self-care, activities like meditation, or speaking to a medical professional.
This Mental Health Awareness Week, Nuffield Health is extending its ‘Find 5’ campaign to encourage individuals to ‘find 5 with 5’ – spending five extra minutes a day focusing on their physical and mental wellbeing for body and mind.
In the same way, employers can play a huge role in creating an environment where employees feel a sense of connection and belonging by promoting campaigns that foster connectivity, team building and reduce stress.
Our study shows individuals are becoming more aware of the benefits of exercise on overall wellbeing, with 27 percent saying that exercise lifts their mood and helps them feel less anxious or depressed.
Encouraging employees to #find5 throughout the working day could also be as simple as promoting regular exercise in morning meetings or creating ideas to be distributed around the office or over email.
In just five minutes, managers can also arrange, or raise awareness of, physical health screenings available in the office to uncover any underlying issues among employees.
4. Be open about formal support.
While meaningful social interaction plays a crucial role in reducing feelings of anxiety, professional support can also be invaluable. This may include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) that offer direct and confidential access to a mental health expert.
Offering these services can help employees to understand and address feelings of anxiety using techniques such as challenging negative thoughts.
It only takes five minutes to signpost employees towards the support on offer, along with guidance and encouragement on how to access the help available. This may be via email to employees, an office huddle, or a virtual ‘wellbeing hub’.
We want mental health transparency to keep increasing beyond the 4 percent we have seen within the past year and openly communicating the options available shows employees that conversations about mental health are both welcomed and expected.
5. Allow individuals to pick what’s best for them.
Finally, it’s important to remember that no single intervention works for everyone. The key to supporting the workforce is flexibility.
Employers should be flexible with letting staff choose five minutes of self-care each day, whether simply stretching at their desk, going for a brisk five-minute walk between meetings, or finding five minutes to do a short, guided meditation or breathing exercises.
Similarly, employers need to be flexible in how their teams choose to communicate with them. Encourage individuals to use a communication style that works best for them – whether it’s an in-person meeting or a phone call – this will make it easier for people to come forward and share their experiences.
More flexibility means workplaces can cater to the individual and allow everyone to thrive and overcome feelings of anxiety.
By Lisa Gunn, Mental Health Prevention Lead, Nuffield Health.
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‘Quiet thriving’ is a concept that emerged after the trend ‘quiet quitting’ became widely discussed at the end of last year. Quiet quitting refers to completing the minimum requirements of one’s job. Individuals put in no additional enthusiasm, effort, time or energy than needed.
In contrast, ‘quiet thriving’ involves the opposite with employees reconsidering their relationship with work, and finding ways to re-engage and find enjoyment again, without overdoing it or burning themselves out.
A poll found that only 9 percent of UK employees currently feel engaged with their work, so if you’re looking to rediscover your love for your job, try making these small changes:
1. Shift your perspective.
A new perspective can renew your passion for your line of work and increase your productivity.
If you approach your role with a negative mindset at the start of each day, you will only be able to see the parts of the job that you dislike and will overlook the positive aspects.
Instead, try to shift your mindset and look for the beneficial parts of your position that you enjoy and give you a sense of purpose. Changing perspectives can create a greater sense of meaning in your everyday work.
For example, ‘mopping hospital floors’ could be ‘speeding up a patient’s healing journey’, connecting work to a much wider purpose and bringing greater job satisfaction.
2. Take action.
If there are responsibilities in your job that you enjoy more than others, have a discussion with your manager to see if there are ways to expand on them and discuss how to cope with the tasks you dislike.
This process is often referred to as job crafting, which is the process of an employee shaping their role to be more appealing, often with the help of a manager.
Not only can this improve your attitude toward your work, but it can also lead to further opportunities to complete tasks that you enjoy and allow your manager to better understand your strengths.
3. Set boundaries.
While being busy at work is often praised and encouraged, it can lead to employees working outside of work hours or through lunch breaks.
This will lead to burnout and build resentment towards your job. However, this can be avoided by setting clear boundaries at work to create better work-life balance.
A work time-frame agreed upon by both employee and employer is essential for job satisfaction and overall happiness.
Set clear start and finish times to stick to during the working day, whether you work standard or flexible hours, and be disciplined about not checking emails or messages outside of work hours.
This will also give you more time to enjoy other aspects of your life outside of work. In a recent survey on stress and wellbeing, 4 in 5 participants found spending time on a hobby highly effective in managing stress. Further research suggests people with some hobbies are less likely to suffer from low mood, and depression.
This is especially needed for those who feel overwhelmed by their work and ever-growing to-do lists, to recharge their batteries by doing an activity that sparks joy.
4. Build workplace relationships.
Positive relationships with your colleagues are hugely important for emotional well-being, as they can create a more relaxed and sociable environment to work in.
Co-worker interaction can help to relieve boredom from day-to-day tasks, and employees who work with friends are seven times more likely to be engaged with their job.
Interaction with colleagues during breaks and workplace socials can help to cultivate these relationships.
5. Take small breaks.
Using your lunch break and taking micro-breaks can help to improve your emotional and physical wellbeing at work.
A study found that micro-breaks are hugely important for reducing stress and increasing task performance. Additionally, another study revealed that employees who use their full lunch break to relax are more productive and creative.
Regular breaks can also have a positive physical impact, as taking small breaks while working on tasks on electronic devices can reduce eye strain, back ache and headaches.
By Gosia Bowling, National Lead for Emotional Wellbeing at Nuffield Health
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Nuffield Health’s 2022 Healthier Nation Index study revealed one in three adults claims their mental health has got worse in the last year. The same statistic is also true of physical health, with a third of UK adults reporting a decline over the last 12 months.
Employers have a responsibility to help individuals manage their wellbeing. However, it’s clear targeted support isn’t commonly available to modern workers increasingly adopting flexible working approaches.
With this in mind, Nuffield Health suggests six workplace wellbeing trends we can expect to see as employers look to create relevant and effective wellbeing offerings…
The recent rise in remote working has delivered many benefits for employees, including a greater work-life balance and a reduction in stressful commutes.
But it isn’t without its challenges – namely overworking and the physical impact of unergonomic home offices – with 72,000 individuals recently reporting a musculoskeletal (MSK) disorder directly caused or exacerbated by the pandemic.
Despite employers’ responsibilities to provide comfortable home working set-ups, many aren’t meeting their obligations. However, they are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.
While financial support should continue to be made available to employees for furniture and equipment – and employers should signpost to how to access these funds – we are now entering the age of the corporate physiotherapist.
Businesses can invite musculoskeletal health experts to review the current office environment as well as offer general advice on posture, exercise, and nutrition to avoid injury at home.
Employers may also choose to contribute financial support for private sessions, too, to avoid the greater financial burden of the £3.5 billion paid by employers each year to deal with workplace injuries. Plus, research suggests businesses can achieve an ROI of nearly £100 per £1 spent on physiotherapy for musculoskeletal health.
The new work-life balance
Our idea of ‘work-life balance’ traditionally involves unwinding from work stress at home after leaving the office. But what happens when home life itself becomes increasingly stressful?
Research suggests the current cost of living crisis has been linked to a direct increase in stress. And with financial stresses showing no signs of letting up, employers have a responsibility to help individuals avoid burnout.
This may include inviting a financial specialist to host a webinar for all employees on managing money, as well as offering relevant workplace benefits – such as grocery vouchers – that directly address some key drivers of financial anxiety.
Despite efforts to challenge the stigma around ill health, Nuffield Health research suggests a third of employees still wouldn’t feel comfortable disclosing a mental or physical health issue to their employer.
So, businesses have a responsibility to offer tailored support to those who may feel uncomfortable asking for it.
This may include making remote support offerings and self-help platforms available to those who would prefer to work through advice and specialist help at their own pace, away from the office.
For example, telephone CBT services and online self-help management programs – such as the Silvercloud platform – allow employees to access remote support and guidance on understanding symptoms of distress and learning relevant coping mechanisms.
A focus on prevention
There is no one-size-fits-all intervention for the unique physical and mental challenges facing employees. However, businesses can embrace technology to access instead of data-led, personalized interventions that make a difference for the individual.
Digital platforms featuring AI technology can analyze behavioral data provided by the workforce to predict future challenges, allowing businesses to action interventions before symptoms become unmanageable.
For example, Nuffield Health’s PATH tool gathers data from both a comprehensive physical health exam, alongside behavioral data from questionnaires to understand employees’ unique risk factors and suggests relevant interventions.
Employers able to take a proactive approach to employee health not only nurture a healthy and engaged workforce but avoid the impact of presenteeism, which can cost businesses up to £4,000 per employee per year in lost productivity.
Recent workplace trends, including ‘the great resignation’ and ‘quiet quitting’ suggest power is shifting away from the employer, with employees no longer willing to go above and beyond for their employers.
So, businesses – especially those guilty of encouraging unhealthy workplace cultures in which employees are expected to be ‘always on’ – must rethink their relationships with employees to retain their brightest talent.
Managers have a responsibility to lead by example when it comes to widescale cultural change. This means clearly outlining employee expectations, like working hours and contactable obligations, as well as being seen to leave the office on time each day.
Similarly, employers should welcome and seek regular feedback to understand better the challenges facing staff and how the business can tailor its support. This can be done through regular one-to-ones with individuals as well as anonymous feedback surveys for those who may not feel comfortable communicating in person.
A shift towards flexible and remote working has somewhat blurred the lines between work and home life, with mixed results. Some of the negative consequences include employees working longer hours to compensate for not commuting, while others have enjoyed the benefits of spending more time at home with family.
These lifestyle changes must now be a key consideration for businesses. As employees continue to mold their work lives around personal habits – often familial responsibilities such as childcare – these challenges must be reflected in the support offered by businesses.
The workplace must remain flexible in terms of shift patterns and remote opportunities to meet the needs of those with busy family lives. However, we will also start to see businesses extending benefits to the family, for example, private healthcare and medical benefits for partners and children and familial mental health support.
This may include parental mental health advice hubs or CBT platforms that provide advice and resources for parents on managing children’s emotional wellbeing.
By Marc Holl, Head of Primary Care at Nuffield Health.
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New research shows many managers still have issues trusting employees who work remotely, with this disconnect being coined as ‘productivity paranoia’. It’s the concept that even if employees are working effectively, managers won’t believe it if they are out of sight.
This is worrying because trust is one of the most important components of every work environment. Without it, staff may feel uncomfortable communicating their thoughts and ideas and struggle to support each other.
Negative work environments can exacerbate behaviors like overworking and presenteeism and it’s well-reported these, in turn, can lead to heightened stress states, which impact physical and mental well-being.
Embrace change and eliminate ‘micro-management’
For productivity paranoia to end, managers need to recognize their experiences as leaders, are not the same as their teams. Employees want their managers to be empathetic, and supportive and show an interest in their work, without feeling like they are trying to interfere.
While checking in with staff was common at the start of the lockdown, it seems to have become less of a business priority, with managers feeling depleted and emotionally drained from it. However, check-ins are vital in a remote working world, especially because many employees view their managers as the most important link they have with their company.
There is a difference between checking in and micromanaging though. Good managers are enablers, not enforcers. Regular meetings shouldn’t focus solely on results or exhaustive checklists. This is what undermines trust and makes employees feel patronized and disempowered.
Discussing goals, praising accomplishments, and analyzing any gaps in work schedules are more effective measurements. Open conversations about these will ensure teams feel supported but also accountable for their work.
Enhance communications and outline expectations
Effective remote work requires a suite of communication and collaboration tools to empower hybrid teams too. Selecting the right tools that work for everyone is essential to enable effective communication between colleagues and teams.
Finally, business leaders looking to support their team in a remote or hybrid working world must understand the stresses posed and help to alleviate them.
For example, if employees feel they are not trusted, remote working can lead to issues like ‘working from home guilt’, when employees increase their working hours to compensate for the benefit of home working.
It is important for businesses to outline remote working expectations clearly to ease these worries. Let individuals know they aren’t expected to work longer hours just because they’re not commuting.
Support emotional well-being
According to Nuffield Health research, 1 in 3 said their mental well-being got worse over the past 12 months. Even more concerningly, two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) said they would not feel comfortable raising a mental or emotional well-being issue with their employer, which shows there is still a significant stigma attached to poor mental health.
The key to raising awareness about mental health in the workplace is creating a culture in which these conversations are welcomed and expected. Employers should signpost individuals towards the emotional well-being support available to them.
This may include Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) or cognitive behavior therapy sessions, which give individuals direct access to a specialist who can help them understand and break unhelpful thinking patterns and behaviours and enhance their ability to cope in new and uncertain situations.
Digital or virtual therapy solutions can be effective too. Remember, for many people, the notion of sharing a vulnerability or admitting a problem, is a barrier in itself. However, some research suggests counseling conducted online is as effective as face-to-face sessions. During 2020 Nuffield Health therapists delivered 3.7 million minutes of therapy remotely with outcomes comparative to therapy delivered face to face.
By Marc Holl, Head of Primary Care, Nuffield Health.
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