How to manage your health in the current work environment

Two in five workers are experiencing frequent stress according to new research by laya healthcare. SINEAD PROOS, Head of Health and Wellbeing at laya healthcare, outlines eight tips on managing your physical and mental wellbeing when working from home
How to manage your health in the current work environment

Working out online is an option, given gyms are still closed.

IRISH people working from home have put in 300 million overtime hours since the start of the pandemic, according to our new research in January 2021, Resilience Rising: Shaping the Future of Work and Wellbeing.

This is the second barometer issued by laya healthcare during Covid-19, and we’re concerned about workforce burnout as the findings show 65% of those working from home feel pressure to stay connected after normal hours, with an average of 22 hours put in of overtime per month by employees over the last year.

Here is my advice on managing your health — both mentally and physically — in the current work environment.

1. TALK ABOUT IT

Talking about areas of your work and life that you are finding difficult to get to grips with isn’t a sign of weakness — it is part of taking charge of your wellbeing and staying healthy.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, and you feel it is negatively impacting on your work life integration, speak to someone that you feel comfortable sharing this with and who is also trained to really help.

Your line manager or HR manager are a good first step. Employers want a healthy workforce, so the majority are thinking radically about how they support those who work for them. Many workplaces offer confidential access to Employee Assistance Programmes. At laya healthcare, we’ve seen a significant increase in employees reaching out to our 24/7 Mental Wellbeing Support Programme in the past year – it’s encouraging to see people ask for help.

2. TAKE LEAVE

Across the board, the second wave of our research found that employees are finding things tougher than they were six months ago. The overall trend is a strong call to employers to take action to boost employee health and wellbeing now, before the situation deteriorates further.

For example, 66% of employees have not taken any sick leave since the start of the pandemic. 

The reasons for this are multifaceted, but overall there are some important principles to keep in mind. If you are sick and working from home, make sure you report your sick leave and take the time to get back on your feet.

You need to do this to be more productive, energised and effective.

3. TIME MANAGEMENT

We are seeing worrying signs of deteriorating morale among employees, due in part to having to be ‘always-on’. 96% of employers told us they are in favour of the right to disconnect, but only 57% of employees say they feel under pressure to work and stay connected outside their usual work hours.

Time management can assist here. 

When you think of a 24 hour day, break it down into three eight- hour sections — work, pleasure and sleep. 

Track this over a week and see what areas are infringing on others. Simple steps can help to rectify this imbalance — plan ahead; focus on one task at a time; and look to truly switch off at the end of the day.

Sinead Proos, Head of Wellness at Laya Healthcare Picture Darragh Kane
Sinead Proos, Head of Wellness at Laya Healthcare Picture Darragh Kane

4. TRY SOME DIGITAL WELLBEING

Technology should help not hinder — it can play an incredibly important role mentally and physically in people’s lives. It is just finding that right balance. We run free online Wellbeing Live classes at layahealthcare.ie/wellbeinglive — open to everyone — that include Pilates, Yoga, HIIT and other types of fitness and exercise.

We also have monthly keynote Health and Wellbeing Experts such as Karl Henry, Anna Geary and Dr David Coleman speaking on varied topics including parenting, motivation, nutrition and how to manage your overall health.

5. ASK ABOUT FLEXIBLE HOURS

Our research found that employers saw childcare as the biggest challenge for staff working from home (cited by 68%). The last few weeks have been particularly stressful for parents of school-going children, balancing work and parental roles. Employers must remember that those with pre-school and primary-age children will continue to need additional support so it is worth workers enquiring about what supports are available and flexible work hours.

6. MAKE DIGITAL WORK FOR YOU

Both employers and employees report that those working from home are more productive than they were in the workplace, but it’s coming at a price.

There has been a marked increase in those who say working from home is less fun than the workplace. 

Reaching out to a colleague for a quick chat on a video call can help with this. 

However, don’t let digital meetings overburden your day.

7. MAKE A PLAN

Take a step back now, a year into this pandemic, and look at your health objectively. Most people working from home told us they are exercising less and have gained weight, with a concerning 26% struggling more with substance abuse due to Covid-19.

Ask yourself, what commitments can I make to improve my mental and physical health? Take control, address any failings, and put your best foot forward.

8. TAKE A BREAK FROM SOCIAL MEDIA

In these times of social distancing, social media has been an invaluable tool in making us feel connected.

However, it can often drum up feelings of stress and anxiety. 

Manage your engagement — most phones have tools that allow you to limit usage. The key is to stay informed while also setting boundaries.

Research from the Resilience Rising: Shaping the Future of Work and Wellbeing report can be found at layahealthcare.ie/bravenewera/resilience, along with a panel discussion on the findings with Sinéad Proos and other experts — Clinical Psychologist Dr Sarah O’Neill; Occupational Health Specialist and Chief Medical Officer of Cognate Health, Professor John Gallagher; Director of Human Resources at Eir, Therese Gavin; Founder of Unplug, Chris Flack; and Vice President of Global Operations for EMEA at Paypal, Annette Hickey.

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