As human beings we are hardwired to work hard and give it 100% all of the time, to ensure that we’re being productive and performing well. However, now that we live in a 24-7 society, the demand for our attention is at an all-time high, making it even harder to slow down and create boundaries around when we’re ‘on’ and when we’re unavailable.
As a consequence, stress, anxiety and mental health illnesses are on the rise, often resulting in burnout and employees being forced to take extended sick leave from work. Not only does this impact the individual, but the company as a whole.
Crash and Burn…
With 20% of UK workers feeling stressed more often than not and 46% being close to burnout, that’s a huge chunk of the workforce verging on exhaustion, and being physically and/or mentally drained.
A recent health and wellbeing survey found that employee wellbeing has received less focus than in the past year. There is more ‘presenteeism’, and line managers aren’t promoting the importance of wellbeing as much. This creates a ticking time bomb that can go off at any moment.
It would be prudent, as an employer, to take a holistic approach to wellness at work and determine what you can do to support your personnel, based upon their health risks and needs.
Making time for, and creating opportunities to slow down is vital for the health and wealth of the nation, as 131 million days are lost to illness absences, costing £100 billion annually.
The ‘juggle’ is real…
Your staff are not just employees. They’re busy running their homes, navigating relationships, planning children’s extra curricular lessons and practices, aiming for some form of real life social interaction rather than a FaceTime whilst cooking dinner, all on top of working in your business.
It can feel like an eternal merry-go-round that doesn’t seem to stop, with unwritten rules that mean forever multi tasking, and an endless pile of to-do lists. Sound familiar? This can be what employees navigate on a daily basis.
By taking a more balanced approach to productivity in the workplace, it not only creates a better working environment, but it ensures that your employees feel engaged, supported and part of the wider mission. This benefits the employee by making them feel valued, it promotes motivation and efficiency in the job role, and therefore is an asset to the business as a whole.
What a feeling…
Being calm and mellow isn’t possible if you are in a constant state of alertness, being triggered and feeling on edge. It feels like running a race where you’re lagging behind before you’ve even started.
Being in a constant state of alertness and feeling on edge means relaxation and slowing down isn’t possible. The nervous system needs to feel safe to return from ‘survival mode’ into a state of equilibrium, to turn on the relaxation response. It cannot do this whilst operating at 100 miles an hour, doing all of the things and feeling under pressure to perform.
You may notice that your employees don’t function well and their performance at work is well under par. A constant state of busyness and chronic stress will do that.
Rush-aholics may get there more quickly, but is the quality of work there?
So what’s going on? Maybe the member of staff needs a bit of support with a project, maybe life is just getting them down. By putting measures in place to assess employee wellbeing, workplace morale and productivity, you can use this as an opportunity to identify any ‘red flags’. This helps to create a healthy work culture where your employees and your organisation can thrive.
As an employer how can you help?
Creating a space in the workplace that actively promotes setting aside time to slow down will simultaneously enhance your employees wellness, and subsequently, their performance at work. Something as simple as advocating employees take time away from their desk to reorient the body helps to destress and reset the nervous system.
Key areas such as health and safety, employee growth and recognition, along with making wellbeing a part of the normal way of doing things and supporting your employees with wellness at work options, will greatly benefit staff and their development, along with productivity in the workplace and reduced staff turnover. This all positively impacts employee wellness, productivity and the bottom line and profitability of the business.
When it comes to wellness at work, it’s not just a one-off solution, a SaaS package or lip service that is needed, it’s a cultural shift that will make the difference.
Supporting the individual
The slow down approach isn’t a one size fits all solution, so having options available and support in place is a great start to help maximise the wellbeing of employees, inside and outside of the workplace.
It is always worth asking the workforce ‘what is the one thing that you could do today that would help you relax?’, this will provide you with the details of what they need.
This could be something as simple as closing their eyes for five minutes without being interrupted. This could be sitting alone and reading a book at lunch. This could be taking a lunchtime walk in nature to decompress. This could be listening to a meditation or going to an in-person class. Whatever slowing down looks like for the individual, they just have to start by choosing one thing.
Oftentimes when your staff are really busy, they may need to be prompted to create space to slow down and pause. This is often ideal at the start or the end of the day, and actually blocking it out in the diary so that it is booked in really helps with actually completing it. Scheduling this time regularly and not simply a one off is the clincher.
From working with clients and business owners, here are some great ideas that you can implement, to help everyone slow down (even you!)
Ideas to help slow down:
1. Providing a quiet space in the workplace.
2. Setting up a lunchtime/ after work relaxation/Pilates/Yoga/dance class.
3. Organising a lunchtime walk in the park- promoting ‘green’ therapy.
4. Encouraging screen breaks and leaving the desk or the office at lunch.
5. Supporting ‘The Pause”- it’s a pattern interruption to the usual rush, to stop and take a few moments to reset.
6. Offering healthy options in the canteen/ vending machines, that nourish the body and mind with quality foods and water.
7. Encouraging breathing techniques such as nasal breathing to support calm.
8. Inviting external experts to provide workshops, talks, or additional support.
9. Promoting wellness as a lifestyle and not a one-off event.
This is not an all encompassing list, but start small and if it works, then repeat it.
How does slowing down help take your business forward?
It creates a positive shift in mental and physical wellness. By purposefully factoring in activity that enables your staff to relax, it means that their energy can be recharged and they’ll feel ready to utilise this in their business life.
Slowing down in the short term promotes increased productivity, a positive mindset, sustainability and profitability in the longer term.
If nothing changes, then nothing changes, so it is about recognising the need to make changes. Start by implementing something simple and is easily repeatable, then expand on this over time, once it’s become a habit.
What one thing can you implement today that will support your staff in slowing down and relaxing?
Tracy Richardson is a Therapist, Wellness Consultant and Educator at Serendipity Wellness®. Where she helps entrepreneurs and businesses to support physical, mental and spiritual wellness, with actionable solutions that simultaneously enhance health, performance & business life. “Wellness makes you a Well-being’.