- Jo Faragher
A survey released this week by benefits company MetLife Employee Benefits has shown that more than one in four employees have put on weight in the past year thanks to stress, while 23% use alcohol to help them cope.
With employers expecting more from staff as resources are squeezed, it’s hard to find time to let go of that stress through exercise (although almost a quarter are, according to the survey) or to find time in the day to step away. Many workers are juggling family stresses (whether children or older relatives) with a job, and are expected to be ‘on-call’ over email until they switch off their phones, so it feels as though every moment is accounted for.
The report advocates employers look at resilience training as a means of supporting workers to deal with the many plates they are spinning, but is this not treating the symptom rather than the cause? Rather than preparing staff to cope with being overloaded with work or helping them to deal with struggling to fit everything in, could employers not look more holistically at how work is carried out?
Too many organisations focus on physical expectations such as how long someone spends at their desk, or whether they’re completing a certain number of calls or prospects. If their results are good, and meet or exceed expectations, should it matter if this output is achieved in a different way to other employees on the same team? Simply having more autonomy over when and where work is done can have a hugely positive impact on employee mental health.
Employers can also nudge their staff in the right direction when it comes to making choices. Savvy companies don’t just have wellbeing policies, they make it easy for employees to make healthy choices, whether that’s offering concentration enhancing food in the canteen or hosting yoga or meditation classes at lunchtime.
After all, creating a workplace culture where it’s more acceptable to do the downward dog than to down a pint goes a long way to stopping the self-medication epidemic MetLife describes – and employees tend to be happier and more productive as a result.