The very reason I became a Pilates Teacher and founded MoveBetter.TV is because I experienced first hand the impact of working in a busy office on both my mental and physical health. Travel, long hours working and with my only escape being high intensity or high impact workouts (or those cheeky after work drinks!) - which as I later learnt, only do more damage than good to your nervous system, your mind and therefore your body.
Fast forward a few years and yes, we are doing way more than when I was working in an office to support our employee's mental wellbeing. Yet, 2020 threw us yet another challenge, and we are now faced with yet another shift to our ways of managing teams and maintaining a happy and healthier work environment for employees in hundreds of different homes across the UK.
Pilates, movement and working on what I could do for my mental health BEFORE burnout made me have to lie horizontal was what changed my perspective on what we really need to be doing to support our own and our team's wellbeing. That is the very nature of what I wanted MoveBetter.TV to help with, because burnout shouldn't be the alarm clock telling us to take some time off or seek support. We need to find ways to manage and recognise it earlier and take action then.
A recent report showed that 40% of people feel their mental health is worse since the pandemic. Even many of us who have never suffered from mental health issues have had times of despair and overwhelm during the past 10 months. Because for many, this is a new sensation and that can be scary to understand if you have never felt it before.
Burnout is generally recognised by the World Health Organisation as a work-related phenomenon but as, for most of us, work (and school) is now in the home many of us are feeling utterly exhausted. Burnout can take many forms and you might recognise it as emotional, mental and physical exhaustion. Burnout is caused by excessive and prolonged stress. With the news full of terrifying news, the unknown of next week not to mention the “future”, home schooling pressures while trying to hold down your job, the feeling like you’re doing nothing well you can’t be blamed for feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, wired, resentful and hopeless. You’re tired and wired. Unable to sleep, unable to switch off. Frustrated and possible feeling very alone.
And this is the reality for many employees, especially those who once worked in engaging office spaces with creative teams and team events. So what do I believe employers can do to support their employees working from home?
Provide Talking Support
I’ve been speaking to many businesses lately and it’s so positive to see that Mental Health First Aiders and counselling lines have been set up by many supportive employers to provide support to those who have reached a crisis point. One of the good things that looks like will live beyond this pandemic is that mental health support is much more readily available for many employees and the stigma attached to these issues seems to be lessening as the pandemic progresses.
Lunch & Learn
The mental health foundation last year found that more than three-quarters of HR managers surveyed (79%) said they believed the widespread implementation of home working encouraged so-called ‘e-presenteeism’ – a culture where workers feel they should be online and available to colleagues as much as possible, even when feeling unwell or having already worked their contracted hours.
This need to feel like we are physically present and “in work” is affecting more and more of us, maybe we have lost our lunchtime gym habit, or dropped the 15 minute of fresh air stroll we would get, or working later because hey, there is no one to go to the pub with after work.
If you used to schedule Lunch & Learn sessions, use this budget to send lunch to your team members for them to enjoy, either in silence and peace or whilst watching an interesting documentary or workshop. It could be on Netflix or a talk from an in-house member or an expert in the wellness industry who can talk about creating more balance while at home.
I’ve been doing this for a number of business lately and the engagement and sharing between team members has been amazing. Businesses need to still create events to connect even when not physically together.
Encourage time off
Sounds really simple I know. We can do so much to encourage staff to take a break, but ultimately it is their mindset that needs to change and we just need to encourage it more. Some of the companies I speak to encourage lunch breaks to be put in the diary and all meetings (even if important) are declined with calls off. Also allowing more flexibility in the working day - we know now employees and companies are capable at running efficiently from home so if someone wants to do a PT sessions at 9 and start at 10, let them. If they want to go do a shop earlier to cook a nice meal, let them. We all need to be more trusting and flexible with diaries.
Update your Perks
With gyms, cafes and pretty much everything closed, can you update, or offer, online perks which will support home working and the need more more wellbeing support than ever before?
Offering online fitness, movement and meditation classes is a great way to encourage staff to take a lunch break and finish on time even if it’s just one day per week. For those who feel they don’t have time, maybe this could be a 10 minute class. Creating a live team class is a great way for your staff to move, stay fit mentally and physically and feel connected to each other. We run several and some people just turn up to connect and have a laugh with their colleagues.
Having a break away from your desk to switch off will not only help prevent the feeling over overwhelm, it will also help create a feeling of more space and more time both which are key to preventing overwhelm.