For the last five weeks, I have spent my Wednesday mornings in the centre of Sheffield at the offices of Voluntary Action Sheffield delivering an early bird yoga and mindfulness session organised by VAS for their staff and other organisations in the city. I have also been working with ANSYS on the Sheffield business park to deliver a lunchtime yoga session for their staff.
Today I was fortunate enough to attend a breakfast briefing titled “Strong business case for employee health and wellbeing” organised by Move More Sheffield. In attendance were a number of representatives from Sheffield businesses who, just like VAS and ANSYS, are among of a growing number of organisations who are taking a fresh look at staff wellbeing
Here is why I think workplace wellbeing is so important.
We are approaching the end of an evening yoga session, and I am looking out on the diverse range of people who attend the class; backs on their mats, eyes closed, breathing gently. It is time to bring their attention back to the physical sensations after a period of meditation and relaxation. But as I encourage them to start to bring some movement back into their bodies, it is obvious that for many of the people in the class, their minds and bodies would prefer to stay where they are – calm but focused, relaxed and peaceful, clear in their thinking.
We know that for many people, this is very different to the way they live their lives – especially their work lives. At least one in six workers experiences common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Research shows work is the biggest cause of stress in people's lives. (1)
The Mental Health Foundation has published a report focusing on stress, which was the theme for this year's Mental Health Awareness Week. The report, ‘Stress: are we coping?’ presents data from a survey of over 4,000 adults, and collates information from other organisations' research. (2)
Some of the key points presented in the report are:
• Roughly half a million people in the UK are suffering from work-related stress.
• Common causes of stress in the workplace are a lack of balance between effort and reward and a lack of balance between job demands and control over tasks.
• Stress at work can often lead to depression or anxiety, particularly through issues such as job insecurity, lack of respect or feeling undervalued.
• Last year, every individual affected by work-related stress lost an average of 23.9 working days.
More and more employers are beginning to understand why it is important to promote health and wellbeing for their workforce; and there are sound business reasons too. Some of the benefits include:
• employees who are more motivated and productive;
• reduced absence – healthy, motivated workers are less likely to take sick days;
• reduced staff turnover, recruitment and training costs;
• an enhanced reputation as a positive, caring organisation;
• reduced insurance and compensation costs. (3)
So, I am absolutely delighted to be working with VAS and ANSYS and their staff in Sheffield. We have a great mix of people in the groups; different ages and genders, and a range of abilities. For one hour each week their computers are off and their phones are off, and we share a short time of calm and quiet, where we relax and re-charge. I sincerely hope that other companies join them in investing in the physical and emotional wellbeing of their workforce.