Kelly Feehan: Employees’ physical health can impact their mental wellbeing

Employee mental health has been a significant focus throughout lockdown but employer responsibility does not stop there. Employers also need to consider the physical health of staff, as for some, the conditions we face when working from home can have a serious impact on our overall wellbeing.

Firstly, working from home means that employees are often working in environments that are less than ideal. Without a dedicated working space, employees will be craning their necks over their laptop, increasing muscle soreness in shoulders and back pain. Consider sharing targeted yoga practices that will benefit these areas; there are so many available on YouTube targeting neck and back pain.

At the same time, employers should try to find ways to make work more mobile. Many people are not moving around as much now that they are working from home but it is important to stay active as staying fit and healthy can reduce the risk of becoming severely ill with Coronavirus. So, rather than running another conference call sat at a desk, why not suggest having walking meetings? Or, now that we can exercise as much as we want, employers could introduce a team goal to raise money for miles run, cycled and walked.

Diet is also a key aspect of our mental and physical wellbeing, and while this may not seem like an area where employers can contribute, there are actually many ways in which they can help. For example, with so many of us having to substitute ingredients when cooking a recipe right now, employers could encourage teams to share their best substituted meals during lockdown and the best fakeaways they have created. This not only shares information and builds confidence in cooking and good diet, but can build a level of competition and build relationships over shared interests within the team.

Another reason why regular exercise and a good diet are so essential is because both of these factors directly impact the quality of sleep; something that employees may be lacking due to stress and anxiety. One of the ways employers can help with this is by encouraging their teams to switch off outside of working hours. While this can sometimes be difficult to manage, there are a number of great resources out there that can help. Apps such as Headspace and Calm are excellent resources to enable individuals to draw a line between work and home, begin to relax and wind down to try and get a better night’s sleep. Both these resources offer some of their assets free of charge and there are a much wider range of free resources online.

The introduction of more meet-ups, coffee chats and cook-alongs is to be encouraged but it is also worth reminding employees that they have the right and opportunity to switch off the tech and get back to their knitting, literally.

Kelly Feehan is services director at charity CABA 

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