Workplace health is a growing global concern, as the pace of change, constant connectivity and increasing workloads put employee health under strain as individuals try to keep up.
A poll in 2016 by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that the experience of burnout was one of the most significant reasons that individuals left their current position, often seeking employers who offered opportunities for a balance between work and personal life.
The feeling of constantly being ‘on’ at both work and home is quickly becoming a concerning reality for most employees. Its effects are being felt throughout society as individuals look for ways to help manage the constancy of expectation and priorities at work and at home.
With working environments varying greatly, organisations are being expected to consider the personal situations and needs of their staff alongside the needs of the business, and make adjustments to hours, workloads and positions to cater for them. Monash University won the 2016 Global Healthy Workplace Award in recognition of its ‘Wellbeing at Monash’ program, developed to support staff in adopting healthy lifestyle practices. Monash takes a holistic approach to health by providing programs on mindfulness and stress, quit-smoking support, and physical-activity classes.
There’s no doubt that promoting healthy work practices benefits both the organisation and the individual. Encouraging employees to switch off from work benefits the organisation through reduction in absenteeism, lower injury-related insurance claims, and less internal workplace conflict due to happier employees. For the individual, adopting switch-off behaviours results in higher motivation for work, an improved sense of wellbeing and a sharper focus, which improves productivity. The solutions are simple, but the pay-offs significant: healthy employees are estimated to be three times more productive than their less healthy co-workers, and are eight times more likely to be engaged when wellness is promoted as a priority in the workplace.
With constant connectivity, work-life integration tends to blur the lines of accountability. Who is responsible for an individual’s health and wellbeing, the employee or the employer? Is the employer obligated to ensure staff are physically and mentally in shape? Or is it primarily the employee’s personal responsibility to ensure they are fit to do the work? What employees do outside work hours affects productivity at work. Equally, workload and workplace conditions affect how an individual is able to engage in activities outside work. Workplace health, wellbeing and fatigue-management policies are usually adopted by larger companies with the resources to allocate to such programs. However, it is important for all organisations, no matter what their size, to prioritise healthy practices in the workplace — even the soloists.
The responsibility to ‘leave work behind’ lies with the individual to create positive health habits and work boundaries that allow them to switch off. Equally, it is the organisation’s responsibility to ensure the workplace facilitates positive work practices and optimal health for their employees.
Encouraging the adoption of positive health behaviours in the workplace benefits everyone. Learning how to flick the switch between work and home will create a more productive, satisfied and healthy workforce, with the stamina to take us into the future.