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A healthy worker is a more productive worker. It seems like an obvious statement to make, but in today’s working world, many workers feel that they have keep pushing and pushing to get results – even at the expense of their health and wellbeing. Workplaces need to be more supportive of their staff to make sure that they feel they are able to take time to get healthy if they are unwell, or to express their concerns if they are overburdened with stress.
The result will be happier people who are able to do better work… which means a better bottom line for companies too! So even if an organisation is more concerned about profits than people, treating their workers well will ultimately be the economically responsible thing to do.
If you want to get ahead at work, keeping yourself healthy is an important part of ensuring you can be productive and do the best job possible. Here are some ways to take care of yourself, and the reasons why they are important.
A lot of the research about business wellness programmes comes from the USA, where the perspective is a little bit different due to different healthcare systems. But the numbers still tell a story we can understand. A study from the University of Louisville in Kentucky found that each dollar that a company invested in a wellness programme generated $7 in saved healthcare costs. While businesses here do not have such a burden of health insurance costs as businesses in the USA do, it still shows that wellness programmes mean healthier staff. And healthier staff mean improved productivity and less likelihood that staff will have to call in sick and miss work.
So make the most of any programmes available to you at your workplace – whether it’s private health insurance, weekly yoga classes, ergonomic assessments or EAP (employee assistance programme) counselling. If you work for a smaller workplace where there aren’t built in benefits, perhaps you could suggest starting something like yoga classes. Even if staff pay for classes themselves, if the teacher comes to the office, people will feel enabled to step away from their desk and take the time to breath, relax and exercise.
Be sure to make the most of other once-off offerings from your workplace. Many businesses and virtually all public service roles will offer free flu vaccinations each winter. It’s better to have a slightly sore arm for one afternoon than risk coming down with whatever flu is going around each winter – and herd immunity is an important part of protecting people who can’t get vaccinated for whatever reason, so if you’re able to, be responsible and protect yourself and others!
Wellness with workmates beyond the office
Some organisations will have social sports teams, which can be a great way to socialise and work on your fitness all at the same time – both of which are things that will have a positive impact on your mental and physical wellbeing. By doing sports activities with workmates, you all can enjoy those same benefits – as well as having fun at the same time!
Depending on the time of the year, there will be different options available. Generally, there will be more going on in the summer, especially as people wind down the year towards the ‘silly’ season. Touch rugby leagues are especially common in summer, with indoor cricket and indoor netball competitions offering something you can do year round.
If you like the idea of participating but you haven’t played a particular sport before, don’t worry! Everyone has to learn some time, and the whole idea of these teams is that they are social and not too competitive. In some industries, there may even be an industry-paced league – for example, there’s a social soccer league in Auckland between different civil engineering companies. So it’s not only a chance to get to know your colleagues, but you can meet other people in your industry and make useful networking connections in a relaxed environment.
Acknowledging your limits
We have all had times where we feel sick, but feel as though we can probably push through and go to work. It’s just a cold. I feel better than I did yesterday. I can’t afford to miss a day, I’m so busy. You are never so busy that you can’t take a day off work if you’re really unwell – and if you are, there’s a problem with the company you work at.
If you’re unwell, you should stay home. If you have a cold or the flu or another contagious illness, you risk infecting those around you, and making more people sick. In a large enough work place, it might work its way around everyone and then come back to you again! Remember if you are on the mend and back at work but still sneezing, you should use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose, and immediately throw the tissue away. If you don’t have a tissue with you, sneeze into your upper arm or elbow, not your hands – that way, you won’t be touching door handles and keyboards with germy hands.
For times when you are sick but it’s not contagious, you need to think about yourself. Perhaps you have food poisoning – or maybe you have a chronic health condition and you’re having a difficult day. Taking time to rest will be more helpful than struggling through one day and then the next. Instead of having three days where you aren’t up to your usual ability, one day off for rest and recovery means you can be back at your usual power for the next two days, making it a sensible decision in the long run when it comes to ensuring better productivity.
Habits to make and habits to break
It’s 2018, so this isn’t news – but smoking is bad for you, and you should try to give it up. It can be hard if you are already an addicted smoker, but one element that people don’t always think about when they are trying to quit is that it’s a social activity, and you may have a habit of chatting to fellow smokers when you step out of the office.
But the health issues aren’t worth that little moment of socialising. Instead of making your moment of ‘fresh’ air and colleague chats your smoke break, why not organise a little walking group at lunchtimes or morning tea times? You can have a conversation, get to know the area around your office better, and actually get some real fresh air, rather than breathing toxic fumes while standing out in the cold. Being committed to going for a walk is definitely a habit worth making, while you’re working on breaking that other habit.
It’ll also make you more popular with your colleagues – nobody likes having to smell tobacco smoke on someone’s jacket!
Food and meal planning
Your office may provide fresh fruit for you to enjoy, which is a good start to making sure you get something healthy each day. But it’s not enough to rely on eating an apple for morning tea. Planning your meals in advance and packing your lunch is an easy way to have a nutritious meal in the middle of the day. When we work in cities with hundreds of different options for lunch, it’s all too easy to be tempted by something quick and easy – and very unhealthy.
But if you pack yourself a salad with plenty of protein to fill you up, you’ll feel a lot more productive throughout the afternoon than you would if you bought a meat pie from the dairy or a hamburger from the local fast food joint.
Eat My Lunch is an option if you’re often in a rush, or if you’d just like to not worry about preparing food one or two days a week. This scheme is a social enterprise designed to provide workers with delicious, nutritious lunches while also providing lunches to Kiwi young people who would otherwise go without a midday meal. It’s a subscription model, so you can sign up for a specific day or days each week.
There’s something different each time – one day you might have a hearty roast beef and salad roll, a mini bran muffin, a mandarin and some rice crackers with hummus. The next week it might be a container of orzo pasta packed with vegetables, a ginger biscuit, an apple and some nuts. There’s always a few different components to keep things interesting, and it’s always tasty!
For each lunch that a subscriber purchases, Eat My Lunch gives a lunch to an underprivileged student. The system is currently available in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington. Keep an eye out at the reception desk at your office around the late morning to see if anyone in the office is already part of the programme – you can make some quick friends if you organise to be part of the same delivery!