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Workplace wellness: fighting the hidden pandemic

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While the end of the pandemic is in sight, workplace stress is still killing thousands of people each year – what can you do to combat it?

As the world seeks to recover from the pandemic, it’s easy to ignore another even more serious threat to our health: stress. The American Institute of Stress reports that 120,000 people die as a direct result of work-related stress every year.

Stress is a killer, and it’s one which has an almost universal impact. More than 90% of Americans say they feel stressed because of work; fewer than half of employees feel their bosses care about their work life balance.

The drive for wellness

Some companies are slowly, but surely, beginning to catch on. Studies show that employee wellness is beginning to be seen as a strategic priority.

Major firms such as Google have been taking a lead by offering perks, flexible working and offering classes in meditation to help employees manage their own stress levels.

Meditation class

This in turn is driving a surge in demand for companies which can help boost corporate wellness. Remote Team Wellness, for example, uses immersive wellness classes and virtual experiences to promote wellness amongst teams. Wellness corporate solutions offers health fairs and health risk assessments for employees.

The focus on wellness comes out of a growing recognition of the role the world of work plays in manufacturing stress and also the benefits of a happier, healthy workforce. According to an Oxford University study, happy employees are 13% more productive.

Back to work

The picture has been complicated during lockdown. With restrictions coming into force companies have been shifting towards a remote working model. This in itself could prove to be a watershed moment.

Firstly, it has shown companies that working from home is possible. A study from McKinsey predicted that the future of work is likely to be a hybrid with employees increasingly being offered flexible working patterns.

Zoom calls

However, workers have not responded in a uniform way to the new normal. Many have embraced the age of remote working. The ability to commute to work from your bed to desk in your pyjamas is a perk few ever expected to experience.

However, balancing home, work and family in the same environment is creating tensions. Two thirds of workers are exhibiting symptoms of burn out. Part of the problem is that the dividing line between home and work life has been eroded – it’s all too easy to get sucked into working longer hours.

At the same time, the transition back to physical working will be a major adjustment. Returning to work after a period away can be stressful at any time. In the West, we’re about to see millions of people experiencing the same stress and sense of adjustment all at the same time.

Team

For employees, therefore, managing workplace wellness needs to be a top priority. We spend so much of our time chasing around trying to get our daily schedules in place, that we don’t take time out for our own mental wellbeing.

The medical data is clear. This form of neglect is, in the long run, killing us.

Image credits: fauxelsPexels, xalien / Shutterstock, Girts Ragelis / Shutterstock, Fauxels / Pexels

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Eleanor Garth
Deputy Editor Now a science and medicine journalist, Eleanor worked as a consultant for university spin-out companies and provided research support at Imperial College London and various London hospitals in a former life.
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