Wednesday May 30, 2012
By Sam Gardner - Account Manager
I recently read a survey from the Health and Safety Executive, which stated that there were around 18,000 work-related stress claims in the banking and finance sector in 2010 / 2011. Whilst it would be fair to say that this particular sector is renowned for its fast paced, non-stop and, perhaps, ruthless nature, it’s also worth considering that the majority of individuals working in banking and finance are located within the City of London. Could it be that this too has an effect on the levels of stress one endures?
Many of those who work in London would hold the opinion that it’s ‘the greatest city in the world’ and where better to be in this year of the Diamond Jubilee and London 2012. However, those who choose to live and work in London must also accept that it is a busy and occasionally challenging place – in particular for new arrivals to the City. Unless able to work outside of peak commuting hours, Londoners are frequently faced with the prospect of sardine-like conditions on the underground, compounded by the PA announcing ‘There are currently delays…’. I have to admit though, the tube is a marvellous beast; after all it was opened in 1863 and I doubt the engineers ever envisaged it carrying over a billion people per year!
It’s not just London workers however who face stressful challenges. Across the UK, the recession, the costs of living and the need for ‘better, faster, cheaper’ impacts employee stress levels and unless they know how to cope, can affect their wellbeing; altering how they act and feel at work. This means that key criteria for a successful bottom-line such as motivation, happiness levels, employee engagement and, of course, productivity, could take a nose dive.
So what can be done to help? Oliver Gray, founder of health and wellbeing organisation, energiseYou, recently stated: ‘Organisations that are taking a proactive approach and making employee wellbeing part of their culture…are reaping the benefits’ (Time for employers to get proactive on workplace wellbeing, HR Magazine, May 2012). So step one is to ensure that as an organisation you create a culture of wellbeing. Taking some of the little things we do here at learnpurple, such as encouraging people to take some form of exercise, providing a free supply of fresh fruit and water and offering monthly in-chair massages, can all have a huge impact on wellbeing; whilst helping establish the organisation as a great place to work.
And because it’s such a vital component of working life, we dedicated a chapter to the subject in Purple your People. Here, author Jane Sunley makes it clear that being healthy and happy at work is not a fuzzy notion, using the formula health = productive = profitable to demonstrate why. The book also provides a list of ways a wellbeing culture can be created; some of my favourites include:
- Provide a pleasant working environment
This doesn’t simply mean a nicely decorated, modern office; this includes ensuring the location is safe, employees have the equipment they need to do the job and that workplace assessments have been conducted. If an employee does not feel safe walking to / from, or entering your workplace, then this will become a daily stress. And make sure things like PCs, chairs and leg-room are all checked on a regular basis; resolving issues promptly to ensure working is a pleasant experience.
- Positive thinking
Whilst employees can’t choose the events that happen, they can always choose their reaction. This is something that feeds into emotional intelligence and should be expected as part and parcel of an employee’s behaviour. It’s also important they know where to go for support and advice; that asking for help and guidance is not a weakness and is good for the business.
- Make sure people take proper breaks and holiday
It’s vital that people take time to recharge and rejuvenate – so ensure people take their full quota of holiday. Also, taking a suitable lunch break and a couple of shorter breaks away from their normal working area means that energy levels are maintained.
- Help people control their workload
Being able to prioritise and manage time and their workload is a great skill to have – after all these are two of the key contributors to work-related stress. Providing people with the opportunity to improve this skill goes a long way to helping create a wellbeing culture and a more productive workforce. Learning to say ‘no’ gracefully is also an important factor here.
Creating a culture of wellbeing is a win/win situation. The workforce feel their health and wellbeing needs are being met, that they’re valued and appreciated; whereas the organisation benefits from having a healthier, energised and highly performing team which leads to reduced absenteeism, labour turnover and a significant increase in productivity.
Do you feel your organisation have a good wellbeing culture? What do you do acknowledge the health and wellbeing needs of your employees?