10 mental fitness tips

Everything you think, learn, see and do shapes your brain and changes your life. Here are 10 ideas that require nothing more than your commitment and will have a positive impact on your mental outlook:

 

  1. Meditate – start with two minutes and build to an extra minute each day.

  2. Spend five minutes in nature (or just in your backyard for some fresh air).

  3. Express gratitude to someone.

  4. Unleash your creativity – dance, draw, paint, write, create.

  5. Have a complaint-free day.

  6. Do something for someone else without expectation of recognition or reward.

  7. For every negative thing you think, say, or do, counter it with at least three positives.

  8. De-clutter your home or work environment.

  9. Connect with an old friend.

  10. Watch a documentary that opens your mind to something new.

What will you try first?

Why mental health risks have escalated due to COVID-19

Mental Illness and the pre COVID-19 situation

  • 45% of the total Australian population will experience diagnosed anxiety or depression during their lifetime.

  • 20% of the population will have diagnosed depression or anxiety each year.

  • 54% of those diagnosed do not seek treatment.

The post COVID-19 situation

  • Psychology and psychiatric authorities estimate that every individual is now ‘carrying’ a 10-15% overlay to normal levels of anxiety as a result of COVID-19.

  • Results of a recent study to investigate the immediate psychological outcomes among the Chinese population have revealed the following: of 1210 respondents from 194 cities in China, 53.8% of respondents rated the psychological impact of the (COVID-19) outbreak as moderate or severe; 16.5% reported moderate to severe depressive symptoms; 28.8% reported moderate to severe anxiety symptoms; and 8.1% reported moderate to severe stress levels.

  • In March, Lifeline reported a 25% increase in the number of calls received.

The importance of looking after the health of your employees is elevated further right now due to the lack of visibility of employee wellbeing due to work from home arrangements. Your employees are disconnected from the frequent, face to face experience they would have with their peers if they were in an office environment, thus reducing the opportunities available to observe and notice their physical and mental wellbeing.

Research informs us of the following expected (alarming) outcomes of loneliness & isolation due to COVID-19:

 

  • Loneliness increases the risk of depression by 15.2%. It is linked to poor health behaviours, poor sleep (leading to daytime dysfunction – low energy, fatigue) and poorer immune function (leading to greater risk of COVID-19 infection, cold or flu).

  • Isolated employees are less productive, make poorer decisions and are less committed to their employers. Specifically, 40% of lonely workers feel less productive, 38% make mistakes and 36% report getting sick more often.

  • Increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety, and substance use. This creates a need for impacted individuals to take time off work or miss work due to illness or stress. It is also linked with risky drinking behaviours, which has an obvious flow on effect to work performance and productivity.

  • There is an increased production of cortisol, the stress hormone, which leads to impaired cognitive performance, lower capacity to think strategically, creatively and with “solution focused” thinking. This is problematic for productivity and business outcomes.

  • Loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, making it more dangerous than obesity – a widely recognised public health issue.

  • Greater social connection is associated with 50% lower odds of early death. It also boosts your mental health. From psychological theories to recent research, there is significant evidence that social support and feeling connected can help people maintain a healthy body mass index, control blood sugars, improve cancer survival, decrease cardiovascular mortality, decrease depressive symptoms, mitigate posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, and improve overall mental health.

  • Workers who feel disconnected and lonely are less engaged and productive compared to those who are not feeling as lonely. Research clearly states that loneliness is linked to lowered productivity, physical and emotional stress, withdrawal from colleagues and work commitments and lower performance – both individually and as a team. Promoting social connection and a sense of belonging promotes engagement of workers, and an increased focus and desire to do well.

  • The risk of premature death associated with isolation is similar to the risk of premature death associated with obesity.

 

Much like obesity, there is plenty we can do to mitigate and prevent these risks. The workplace, regardless of where it may be (ie. Working from home or not), provides an effective platform for this. Contact us today to discuss the many options available for your workforce.

Sources:

Health by Design + Healthfully collaboration – An opportunity for employers

Health by Design has recently forged a relationship with Healthfully, a well-credentialled technology company. They have created excellent risk management software, as well as an app that provides strong value to both employees and employers, as returning to the workplace starts to take place and COVID-19 exposure within the work environment remains a risk.

 

The easy-to-use app provides valuable processes and data to better ensure business continuity, minimise shutdowns and provide employees with greater certainty and comfort regarding their personal health amid the current COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Key features and health services within the app, to maximise employee safety and care, include:

 
  • Employee daily self-screening and attestation

  • Alerts and notifications for employer, employees and providers

  • Telehealth physician visits and lab orders

  • Testing and lab results

  • Secure messaging

  • Bluetooth-enabled contact tracing and proximity reporting (STRICTLY during set work hours ONLY)

  • Exposure management and compliance reporting

  • Isolation & quarantine support communities

  • Employee education

  • Works on any platform: Web, iOS, Android

How does it work?

First, through a HIPAA compliant mobile app, employees learn about the importance of self-monitoring and safe behaviours. They answer a few quick questions daily to attest that they are not exhibiting symptoms and/or have not been exposed to someone with COVID-19. If the survey algorithm determines that an employee needs a COVID-19 test, a provider will first conduct an online visit. If the provider confirms that a test is necessary, the employee will be tested same day at a convenient location. Employees who test positive receive information about self-isolation, have access to online care and check-ins, as well as virtual support groups, all within the safe and secure platform application. Employers will be notified of the positive test and receive a contact tracing report. The employer dashboard also tracks their team members’ compliance with self-monitoring, status alerts and return to work notices of staff who are in the 14- day self-isolation period.

Key employer benefits

  • Provides a one-stop, comprehensive program to address COVID-19 health and safety when employees are returning back-to-work

  • Affordable & easy-to-deploy

  • Boost employee and consumer confidence

  • Help maintain a safe environment that fosters business continuity and productivity

Contact us to find out more about how we can help you ensure a safe, healthy, smooth transition back-to-work for your employees. If it’s been business-as-usual, let’s discuss how we can ensure risk minimisation and prevent unnecessary down-time before it’s too late.

Elevated mental health risks due to COVID-19

Mental illness was a recognised risk before the COVID-19 outbreak and this has now escalated due to the impact of isolation, economic strain and increasing uncertainty in many areas of life.

 

There has never been a more important time to protect the health of your employees.

To limit the impact of mental illness on employees, a “prevention” based approach is enormously preferable to reactive interventions. The importance of this is elevated when there is less visibility of employee wellbeing due to work from home (WFH) arrangements. Employees are disconnected from the more frequent, face to face experiences they would have with their peers and managers if they were working in an office environment thus reducing the opportunity to observe the physical and mental wellbeing of employees.

 

To do so, it’s imperative to understand your employee base:

Let’s look specifically at group B: 30%. It is estimated that 30% of your workforce will be feeling vulnerable right now. We know that mental health was a big risk for all organisations before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Now, due to factors such as forced isolation and lack of social connection opportunities, economic uncertainty/financial pressures, family harmony/dispute risks, changes to routine etc – the risk to employee mental health is bigger than ever. This risk is going to escalate.

The individuals within this group may have been functioning members of your workforce with undiagnosed mental illness, or on the border of experiencing poor mental health. They may have been managing day-to-day, but suffering in silence.

This crisis could be the stress event that pushes them further into non-functioning or not functioning well. The critical question is – “Is your workforce physically and mentally resilient enough to deal with COVID-19 and still deliver on business outcomes?” More specifically, is group B resilient enough or will they ride a slippery slope towards group C who have a diagnosed mental health condition.

There is a lot within their control that can help protect their mental health, but education and awareness around these protective factors is crucial, in addition to being given the compelling reasons as to why they should make any lifestyle changes.

 

At Health by Design, we recognise that exercise, sleep, connectedness, drink choices and nutrition can have either a positive or negative impact on our health – depending on what choices we’re making with regard to each of these factors. That’s why we have programs and services, including our online webinars, that discuss each of these mental fitness strategies in more detail. This helps to empower your staff to make the right choices for those factors that ARE within their control, rather than focusing too much on those not in their control. In a time of such uncertainty, it certainly makes sense to focus on the “within my control”, and it pays to share this message with your staff to ensure a resilient, happy, productive workforce.

If you need help with employee health & wellness services or programs – regardless of whether your workforce is starting to return to work, has been at work the whole time or are still working remotely – get in touch. We can help, no matter what the logistical challenges may be.

Join the dots: fruit, veg & your health

Almost half of all deaths from type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke are linked to a poor diet. Worldwide, it has been estimated that 374,000 cancer deaths each year can be attributed to low fruit and vegetable intake.

The good news? Eating just 1-2 pieces of fruit each day can reduce your risk of stroke by 40%. It doesn’t have to be hard – studies by the FDA have confirmed that frozen fruit and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh.

 

What other benefits can you expect from boosting your fruit and veg intake?

  • Breathe easier. Eating 5 or more serves each day reduces your risk of lung disease by 35%.

  • Protect your mental wellbeing. Those who enjoy a Mediterranean diet have a 33% lower risk of developing depression in coming years.

  • The fibre in fruit and vegetables keeps your blood sugar levels stable, preventing dips and crashes in energy – and the associated mood swings. It can also help to keep your bowel movements regular, assist in lowering cholesterol, regulate blood sugar levels, and help you feel fuller for longer. This all helps to lead you to feeling healthier, losing weight, and eating less unhealthy food.

  • Eating a diet high in plant foods and low in animal foods is associated with a 20% lower risk of diabetes.

How to get started?

  • Start adding an extra serve of vegetables to meals

  • Beans are a vegetable we often forget about. However these little gems can add flavour, texture and nutrition to any meal. Try adding kidney or black beans to tacos or add lentils to your bolognese.

  • Mix sliced fruit into your yoghurt or cereal.

  • Make a stir-fry once a week that’s full of vegetables.

  • Have veggie sticks with dip for afternoon tea.

  • Add fresh fruit to oats or pancakes.

 

If you would like to support your team further on their journey to better health, get in touch today to discuss the many options we have available and the topics to choose from!

 
 

Why workplace health matters

Key findings of a recent working from home wellbeing survey cite a deterioration of diet and exercise with 20% of respondents admitting to an increase in alcohol consumption, 33% eating a less healthy diet, 60% exercising less, almost half (44%) report losing sleep due to

worry and 42% report more fatigue than usual. Each of these findings have considerable implications for employee health outcomes, productivity at work & mental well being.

 

The workplace, regardless of where it may be (ie. Working from home or not), provides an effective platform for addressing these health risk areas. The effectiveness of your employees and business outcomes depend on it. Here’s a quick summary as to why:

 

Additionally, it’s a legislative requirement.

Australian employers are legislatively required to provide a safe work place under workplace health and safety legislation (as far as is reasonably practicable) and have a duty of care to monitor the health of their employees which extends to risks to employees’ psychological and mental safety.

Consider employee health risk progression – and how you can minimise this risk.

Diabetes comes about gradually, influenced by lots of things. You don’t just wake up one day with diabetes. An employee with diabetes has been low risk, moved to moderate then high risk before their diagnosis. How would this risk progression have looked, and changed, if they were identified as moderate or high risk and provided with compelling reasons to reduce their risk and educated around how they could reduce their risk?

 

96% of working Australians have at least one chronic disease risk factor. 75% have multiple.

For many, these are largely preventable conditions with the right support, education and awareness. Is your organisation taking the lead and choosing to support your employees? It’s good for them, and it’s great for business. If you want the right support for your journey, with the best results – chat to us today.

Join the dots: exercise & brain function

Forget the energy drinks when you need some brain power – hit the footpath instead!

This image shows us how effective exercise can be for boosting brain function – even after just a 20 minute walk!

Below we have detailed more benefits of exercise on your brain, including:

  • Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.

  • Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.

  • A study from the University of Illinois saw a positive link between physical activity and the microstructures of “white matter” in the brain. This healthy white matter is linked to faster neural conduction between brain regions and superior cognitive performance.

  • The part of the brain that responds strongly to aerobic exercise is the hippocampus. Studies show that this brain structure grows as people get fitter! Since the hippocampus is at the core of the brain’s learning and memory systems, this finding partly explains the memory-boosting effects of improved cardiovascular fitness.

  • Studies on men and women aged 60 to 80 found that taking a short walk 3 times a week increased the size of brain regions linked to planning and memory over the course of a year. The prefrontal cortex and hippocampus increased in size by only 2% or 3%, but that was enough to offset the steady shrinkage doctors expected to see over the same period. “It may sound like a modest amount but that’s actually like reversing the age clock by about one to two years,” said Professor Kirk Erickson, a neuroscientist at the University of Pittsburgh.

  • According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, regular physical exercise can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50%.

  • Motivation, attention and perception are improved.

  • Blood flow to the brain increases, delivering more oxygen & nutrients and improving waste removal.

  • Enhanced mood due to the release of serotonin – one of the brain’s “happy chemicals”.

There are many ways to incorporate the brain-boosting benefits of exercise into your day. Movement comes in many forms, including, but certainly not limited to, the following suggestions:

  • Social sports

  • Gym classes – everything from a HIIT workout, pilates, Zumba, jungle body, bodypump or a circuit class!

  • Going to the gym

  • Walking the dog

  • Going for a walk before/after work, or on your lunch break

  • Parking further away at the shops

  • Getting off a stop earlier when using public transport

  • A 10 minute stretch break during your work day

  • A workout in your backyard or lounge room

  • Taking the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator

  • A bike ride

  • Walking to the shops instead of driving

  • A game of cricket or footy in the park

  • Walk around the office when taking calls rather than staying seated

  • Meet friends for takeaway coffee, then walk + chat for a catch up

  • Do an extra lap of the shopping centre

What will you try this week?

If you think your workforce could use more support in this area, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Spring Clean Your Fitness Routine

With the first signs of spring on the way, it’s natural that thoughts turn to getting outside and making the most of the warmer weather. While some find it easy to stick to their fitness routine year-round, that’s understandably not the case for everyone. Whatever the reason for a fitness hiatus – long work hours, lack of motivation, or the effects of the pandemic – spring is an ideal time to get back to exercise. While there are obvious physical benefits to a consistent fitness regime, there are also benefits for mental health. Exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood. It can also get you out in the world, help to reduce any feelings of loneliness and isolation*, and put you in touch with other people – all areas which are more important than ever in the current climate. Here are some of our favourite ways to refresh your workout routine for spring:

Let your pride take a backseat

If you have taken things a little slower this winter, that’s okay! Most people regress slightly during the colder winter months, even with a regular fitness routine. Ease into things by starting with a simple stretching or walking routine and build up by 10 minutes one week, 15 minutes the next until you’re up to a level you feel comfortable with. You’ll then be able to take it up a notch.

 

Commit to a plan

Whether it’s working out three times a week, increasing your running distance, or signing up to a race or challenge, committing to a plan can make all the difference. Set a goal and write it down. Make sure you mark off your progress along the way. Little rewards help reinforce improvement and can add up to big changes

 

Pair up

If group exercise is currently permitted in your state, enlist the help of a friend to increase motivation and help keep both of you accountable.

The Köhler Effect is a phenomenon that occurs when a person works harder as a member of a group than when working alone**. Essentially, we don’t want to let anyone down so we 2 perform at our peak to keep going!

Variety is the spice of life

A new season calls for a change. Perhaps you’ve always been a runner, or maybe swimming is your ‘thing’ but why not mix it up a little? Try a new barre or yoga class on Youtube, or even search for local studios offering online trials. If you enjoy it, why not look for local classes in your area and make it a regular part of your routine (if it’s safe and permitted to do so in your state). Your body will thank you for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

If you think your team could benefit from a little get-up-and-go this September, we offer exercise and fitness sessions that cater to all fitness levels.

Our group exercise sessions are a great way to promote physical activity and health and wellness while generating enthusiasm and enjoyment amongst your employees. With in-person, online, and pre-made video options available, there’s something to suit all on-site and remote team members. Get in touch or click here for further information and pricing.

*1 Exercise and mental health, Health Direct https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/exercise-and-mental-health

**2 Buddy up: The Kohler Effect applied to health games https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21808077/

Join the dots: nutrition & mental health

  • Researchers have found that people who followed a Mediterranean style menu closest were 50% less likely to develop depression than those that didn’t follow the diet.

  • Drinking 2 cans of Coke a day may increase your risk of anxiety by 23%. This over-consumption of sugar triggers imbalances in certain brain chemicals, increasing the risk of experiencing depression and anxiety.

  • Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function – as well as worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.

Is the vending machine hurting your mental health?

Exhaustion often corresponds with high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. To decrease cortisol, your brain will often seek out a hit of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. An easy way to access serotonin is by ingesting comfort food full of carbs, sugar and fat. Hence the trips to the vending machine!

You can take charge by having four or five sensible ‘mini meals’ per day. This helps most people prevent cravings and also beat fatigue. Your meals should consist of 30% vegetables, 20% fruit, 25% whole grains, and 25% lean protein.

 

Don’t forget to water your brain!

Lack of water to the brain can cause problems with focus, memory, brain fatigue and brain fog, as well as headaches, sleep issues, anger, depression and many other issues.

 

How does sleep influence your food choices and mental health?

When we don’t get enough sleep or we sleep poorly, Leptin levels drop, resulting in a feeling of dissatisfaction after we eat. Cravings for high sugar and carbohydrate (high energy) foods increase. At the same time lack of sleep also causes ghrelin levels to rise. This hormone stimulates our appetite, so we want more food.

Get proactive about mental health. Start with these 5 nutrition-related tips.

1. Research has shown that countries with high rates of depression consume lower amounts of fish. Let’s look at some simple ways to add a few serves of fish to your diet each week:

Salmon. Steam with mixed herbs, bay leaf, lemon wedge and sliced red onion. Serve with a crunchy salad and boiled potatoes. – Trevalla. Place your grilled fish on a wholegrain bun, complete with salad. – Flathead. Steam with ginger, garlic, shallots and a little sesame oil. – Sardines. Mash in a bowl with a little vinegar, serve on toast with sliced tomato and cracked pepper.

 

2. Skip the refined sugars. A high intake has been shown to impact an area of the brain important for mood regulation. Aim for unprocessed food options to avoid added sugars.

 

3. Put beans on your shopping list. Full of fibre and antioxidants, beans and legumes keep you fuller for longer and stabilise your blood sugar. This helps steady your mood as well as elicit feelings of happiness.

 

4. Grab a couple of pieces of fruit to take with you to work each day. A high intake of fresh fruit and veg is linked to lower depressive symptoms.

5. Cut back your take-away meals. Those who eat take-away foods more than 3 times a week are over 50% more likely to develop depression than those who eat little to no fast food.

Health by Design is here to help you navigate employee wellness and to help you work out what initiatives would be the best fit for your workforce. Contact us today to start the conversation and to take the first step towards a healthier, happier, more productive workforce.

We believe every single person can be healthier, mentally

Mental health in the workplace – here’s what we know:

  • One in 5 Australians will experience a mental illness in any year

  • Almost half (47%) of Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime – this was before COVID19

  • 54% of people with a mental illness will not access any treatment – the proportion of people accessing help for mental illness is half that of people with physical disorders

  • One in 5 Australian workers is currently experiencing a mental health condition

  • Mental health can be brought into the workplace, or it can cause/be impacted by the workplace

  • Approximately $543 million is paid in workers compensation costs for work-related mental health conditions

  • Psychological safety is a legal requirement

The average time lost to a mental health claim is 15 weeks. The average time lost to all other claims is 5 weeks. You might have an EAP in place – but is your EAP proactive enough for mental health.

Usage rates of EAP’s in some industries are as little as 2-3% and average rates hover around 5-6%. Yet 20% of the community have a diagnosed depression or anxiety each year! The maths just doesn’t add up here.

Based on current statistics 45% will have a diagnosed anxiety or depression over the course of a lifetime. Despite this, 54% of people with mental illness do not access any treatment. Clearly, REACTIVE models are NOT WORKING. The focus needs to be on PREVENTION.

Mental illness was a recognised risk for businesses before the COVID-19 outbreak of 2020. This risk has now escalated due to the impact of isolation and economic strain.

While mental health services play an important role in providing care across the population and are useful reference points to direct employees to, these services are dominated by reactive approaches. To limit the impact of mental illness on employees, it is clear that a “prevention” based approach is enormously preferable to reactive interventions.

The output of an organisation is highly dependent on the wellbeing of their employees. Therefore, implementing strategies to protect and build health is not only important, it makes very good business sense.

Don’t just focus on the portion of the workforce that are already actively looking after their health, but instead focus on those who need compelling reasons as to WHY they should take action to improve their health.

 

Are you being proactive or reactive when it comes to mental health?

A proactive company is better able to support their employees and promote good

mental health. A proactive company teaches their employees how they can reduce their

risk of poor mental health by implementing scientifically proven, lifestyle improvements or

learning more about their brain chemistry so they can optimise sleep, nutritional, recovery

and exercise strategies to prevent depression and anxiety and optimise mental fitness.

Consider this:

  • Just 30 minutes of exercise each day can prevent depression and anxiety by up to 30%.

  • You can reduce your risk of depression by 50% by following a healthy diet.

That is just two lifestyle changes that can be taught to your workforce as part of a proactive

approach to mental health.

Previous pandemics suggest that the mental health impacts of COVID-19 will be felt in

the months and years following the event, not just during the period of lockdown and

significant change. Research following the SARS epidemic showed a spike in suicide and

alcohol abuse after the outbreak. Immediately post-quarantine during the SARS outbreak

there were reports of exhaustion, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, depression, stress, poor concentration and deteriorating work performance. This highlights the importance

and need for a proactive approach to reduce these risks among your workforce.

 

A proactive approach to mental health at work focuses on eliminating problems and reducing the risk of poor mental health before it becomes an issue and starts to cost you money, lost productivity etc.

 

A reactive approach is based on responding to events after they have happened.

What do you think sounds better?

If you’re ready to get proactive, talk to us today. We have a wide range of online and on-site programs, workshops and services available, including options that focus on reducing stigma.

Joining the dots: sleep, health, safety & performance at work

Gone are the days when fatigue was only a concern for traditional round-the-clock industries like mining or transportation. While the immediate impact of worker fatigue in your workplace may not be as catastrophic as, say, the Chernobyl nuclear incident in which fatigue was a contributing factor – it can absolutely still have a major impact on your employees, your company and your bottom line.

 

Worksafe states it very clearly: “Fatigue affects a person’s health, increases the chance of workplace injuries occurring, and reduces performance and productivity in the workplace”.

 

Research gives us valuable insights into the measurable impact of fatigue. Beyond stating that it can reduce your reaction times or hand-eye coordination, it provides insights as to what extent. Research has shown that being awake for 17 hours has a physiological effect on your focus akin to a blood-alcohol level of 0.05; being awake 20 hours is equivalent to having a blood-alcohol level of 0.11. Would you like one of your staff members performing a safety-critical task within an hour of consuming 4-5 beers?

 

There are numerous studies in Australia, the UK and the US that have looked at the error rate of nurses and other medical professionals in patient care during overnight shifts and long-call situations. The increase in error rate in relation to job time and/or sleep deprivation is undeniable – showing that the measurable impairments in cognitive and physiological function absolutely do have a flow-on effect to job performance. In addition to poor job performance, the increased rates of motor vehicle accidents while commuting to and from these particular working rotations are also higher. Job performance is compromised, risk of error, accident or injury while at work is increased, and the risk of personal injury outside of work is increased. Not to mention the risk to members of the wider community with drowsy, accident prone drivers on the roads. Is this a risk you’re willing to take?

 

A study by Spurgeon also suggested that in addition to night work or long shifts, long work hours overall have negative impacts on safety and health. She concluded working more than a 48 hour week significantly increased the risk of mental health problems. If she is alluding to stress or depression then you can bet it’s costing you or your company money. According to the University of Melbourne and VicHealth, work pressure is costing Australia’s economy $730 million a year, directly affecting your bottom line.

 

Spurgeon went on to conclude that an average work week of 60 hours or more significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease – Australia’s biggest killer.

Clearly fatigue presents a significant health and safety issue that, if ignored may be impacting on the productivity of your workforce, contributing to health costs and may be jeopardising your safety record.

 

We understand that industries vary in many ways, as do the demographics of workforces. Therefore, a blanket approach to fatigue management is not the answer. You need to consider your specific work environment, and where possible include your workers in the development of your policy.

 

Fatigue is one of those issues that can be difficult for an employer to effectively manage because of the need for a one-to-one approach. The education needs to go beyond the walls of your workplace and include other lifestyle issues, such as sleep patterns, nutrition choices and physical activity levels. After investigating some of the possible hidden costs fatigue may be having in your workplace as outlined in this whitepaper, a thorough approach incorporating several strategies may have a very positive impact.

 

Health by Design provide comprehensive health, safety and lifestyle programs that include a very individualised approach. The benefit of this is that program material is delivered to your workers in a manner that is applicable to them as individuals. Personal coaching in combination with tailored health promotional material can maximise the engagement of your workforce, and improve the amount of information learned and subsequently integrated into the daily behaviours of your workers. In terms of fatigue management, educating your individual employees on personally relevant lifestyle components such as sleep patterns, relaxation techniques, the role of food and exercise on sleep quality and individual pre-bed routines may help improve sleep outcomes. In addition, helping them personally with time management and lifestyle balance can all have a profound impact on reducing fatigue induced by our modern lives.

 

Get in touch today.

 

References:

  1. Worksafe Victoria (2008): “Fatigue: Prevention in the Workplace”; Worksafe Victoria, Edition Number 1, June 2008.

  2. Dawson, D and Zee, P: “Work Hours and Reducing Fatigue-Related Risk: Good Research vs. Good Policy”; JAMA. 2005;294(9):1104-1106

  3. Ross, J: “Fatigue: Do You Understand the Risks to Safety?”; Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing. 2008;23(1):57-59

  4. Dorrian J. Tolley C. Lamond N. van den Heuvel C. Pincombe J. Rogers AE. Drew D: “Sleep and errors in a group of Australian hospital nurses at work and during the commute”; Applied Ergonomics. 2008;39(5):605-13

  5. .Ricci, J.A; Chee, E; Lorandeau, A.L; Berger, J: “Fatigue in the U.S. Workforce: Prevalence and Implications for Lost Productive Work Time”; Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2007;49(1):1-10

  6. Spurgeon, A: “Working time: it’s impact on safety and health”; International Labour Office Report. Geneva: International Labour Organization, 2003\

  7. https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/media-and-resources/media-releases/report-shows-preventable-job-stress-costs-$730m-a-year

  8. The Australian Heart Foundation website: www.heartfoundation.org.au

  9. The Australian Bureau of Statistics website: www.abs.gov.au

  10. Australian Government – Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government website: www.infrastructure.gov.au/roads

Top Tips For A Healthy Festive Season 2020

Make some time for shut-eye When stress and anxiety mount during the festive season, it can be hard to fall or stay asleep. But good quality shut-eye can calm frazzled nerves.

 

Put your worries out of your mind before you climb into bed. At least an hour before bed:

• Make a list of any worries or concerns

• Write down the tasks that you’re worried will go undone

• Put the list in a safe place until morning

 

Aim for seven hours of sleep each night for good physical and mental health. Christmas weight gain is rarely lost Researchers have identified that weight gained over the holiday period is rarely lost. In addition, an Australian study by Nutrition Australia identified Aussies will gain an average of 0.8 – 1.5kgs over this period(1), thanks to larger portion sizes, more alcohol consumption and a larger range of calorie-dense foods. Healthy Christmas eating tips The festive season is a time for celebrating – particularly after this year! However, totally disregarding good nutrition can impact negatively on your health and leave you feeling exhausted and run-down. Try these simple tips to stay healthy during the silly season: • Avoid going to parties hungry. Before the party eat something light.Think apple, yoghurt or wholegrain sandwich with chicken.

• Don’t try to lose weight over the Christmas season. Instead, aim to maintain your current weight.

• Watch your portion sizes. If your willpower is weak and you know you will want to finish everything in front of you, use an entrée plate instead of a dinner plate. That way you are sure to eat less.

• Fill up with foods from the BOTTOM layer of the Healthy Living Pyramid. These foods include vegetables, fruit, legumes, rice, pasta and cereals.

• Watch what you drink. There are hidden kilojoules in both the mixer and alcohol in drinks, so keep tabs on how much you are drinking and be aware of the extra kilojoules. Keep on moving Currently, there is no other ‘medicine’ with greater benefits for the body than physical exercise. This party season, balance those nights out and office lunches with some physical activity. Try to exercise in the morning, before the family or work gatherings start, so you can relax and enjoy the day. If you’re ready to start 2021 in the healthiest way possible, talk to us today. We have a wide range of online and on-site programs, workshops and services available to help you and your team have the healthiest year yet.

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Team Health By Design!

References: (1) – SBS –https://www.sbs.com.au/food/article/2019/12/09/heres-easy-proven-way-prevent-gaining-weight-these-holidays

 

Join the dots: sleep & your heart

Did you know? Less than 6 hours sleep = increased risk of heart disease

 

Let’s look at some key stats & facts:

  • Studies have found that short sleepers have a 48% increased risk of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15% greater risk of developing or dying from stroke.

  • Lack of sleep is linked to a host of heart health risks including obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

While lack of sleep doesn’t necessarily cause heart disease, it does substantially increase your risk factors.

Too little sleep causes disruptions to underlying health conditions and biological processes such as glucose metabolism, blood pressure and inflammation. If you are getting less than 6 hours sleep, you likely have higher levels of stress hormones and substances in your blood which indicate inflammation – a key player in heart disease.

 

The link to obesity:

Obesity has a strong link to poor sleep due to ‘short sleepers’ being more likely to snack and eat more food in general. Insufficient sleep impairs various brain reward systems, including those that oversee energy intake, judgement and food choices. In addition to this, studies suggest that sleep-deprived people are more likely to eat fewer vegetables and instead choose sweet, fatty foods.

 

A word on sleep apnoea:

Obstructive sleep apnoea is characterised by a repetitive pattern in which a person briefly stops breathing. This is due to the tongue or throat tissues blocking the airway, sometimes up to hundreds of times a night. Sleep apnoea is strongly associated with obesity and is known to increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

 

Following basic sleep hygiene ‘rules’ can help ensure you’re getting enough sleep but chances are, your workforce needs more than just be told to get more sleep. Ask us how we can help today. We know that making behaviour changes to improve health is a continual process that requires structured, monthly engagement, and with this formula we can achieve:

  • Voluntary monthly engagement from 80% of your total workforce; and

  • 60% of your total workforce attaining measured behaviour change

Get in touch today to make a difference at your workplace.

Reduce your blood pressure risk with these dinner recipe suggestions!

Monday night dinner

Black beans are a good source of magnesium and potassium. Maintaining normal body levels of these minerals is important for muscle function and relaxing the walls of blood vessels. This lowers blood pressure. This recipe also uses spices to flavour your food instead of salt, which assists in lowering blood pressure.

 

Bean Tacos

Recipe serves 2. Ingredients:

  • 1 can black beans (rinsed)

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

  • 1 brown onion (diced)

  • 1 can diced tomatoes

  • 1 packet taco seasoning

  • 4 iceberg lettuce leaved (diced)

  • 1 medium tomato (diced)

  • 1 avocado (mashed)

  • 1 wholemeal wrap, halved

Preparation:

  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over a medium heat.

  2. Add onion into pan and fry until it starts to brown. Add beans and tomato into the pan and half the packet of taco seasoning. You can add more if you taste it and think it needs more.

  3. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  4. Dice lettuce and mash the avocado and season with salt and pepper.

  5. To serve, spoon some of the bean mixture, some lettuce and some avocado onto a wrap, fold and enjoy!

 

Tuesday night dinner:

Plant based meals tend to have low amounts of saturated fats as they have no meat or animal products. Choosing low fat options, like reduced fat coconut milk also decreases fat intake. Saturated fat can deposit itself in your blood vessels, making them narrower and increasing blood pressure.

 

Red Chickpea Curry

Recipe Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil

  • 2 tbsp Red curry paste

  • 1 medium brown onion

  • 1 cup chopped eggplant

  • 1 cup chopped zucchini

  • 1 medium carrot- diced

  • 1 cup chopped cauliflower

  • 1 tin chickpeas

  • 1 tin light coconut milk

  • 1 cup brown rice

Preparation:

  1. Cook rice as per package instructions. Heat vegetable oil in a large saucepan.

  2. Add curry paste into the pan over high heat and cook until fragrant. Add onion to pan and cook until it becomes translucent.

  3. Add in eggplant, zucchini, carrot and cauliflower and cook until vegetables are soft.

  4. Add chickpeas and coconut milk and stir through.

  5. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.

  6. Serve 1.5 cups of curry over 1 cup of brown rice in a bowl.

 
 

Wednesday night dinner

This recipe uses plenty of herbs and aromatics (garlic and onions) to flavour the sauce for the pasta. Salt in our diets is one of the largest contributors to high blood pressure. Using other flavourful ingredients to make our food taste good decreases the need to add salt and therefore assisting to lower blood pressure.

 

Spaghetti bowl

Recipe Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 cup lean beef mince

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 2 tsp Italian herbs

  • ½ brown onion (diced)

  • 1 cup zucchini (grated)

  • 1 cup carrot (grated)

  • 1 jar Bolognese Sauce

  • 1 cup wholemeal pasta

Preparation:

  1. In a frying pan, heat oil over high heat.

  2. Add diced onion, carrot and zucchini to the pan and cook for 5 mins or until it starts to brown.

  3. Add mince, cook, stirring and break it up until mince has browned.

  4. Add Bolognese sauce, garlic and Italian herbs. Reduce to medium heat and allow sauce to simmer for 15 minutes until sauce starts to thicken.

  5. Cook pasta in a saucepan.

  6. Place 1 cup of pasta and half the sauce into a bowl and serve.

 

Thursday night dinner

Potatoes are high in potassium and magnesium. When roasted, potatoes are a nutritious source of mineral. Potassium and magnesium balance assist in relaxation of muscles and therefore blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure. Seasoning with spices instead of salt also has a blood pressure lowering effect. Fibre in the vegetables also decreases bad cholesterol into the blood stream, limiting its ability to decrease the diameter of blood vessels and decrease blood pressure.

 

Dinner: Peri Peri Chicken Drumsticks with vegetables

Recipe serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken drumsticks

  • 3 tbsp olive oil

  • 3 tbsp Peri Peri seasoning

  • 1 large carrot (sliced)

  • ½ medium zucchini (cut into wedges)

  • 2 white potatoes

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees.

  2. Drizzle chicken with 2 tbsp olive oil.

  3. Season with Peri Peri Seasoning.

  4. Line an oven tray with baking paper.

  5. Lay the vegetables on the baking tray and drizzle with remaining oil, toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

  6. Place chicken on top of the vegetables.

  7. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

 

Friday night dinner

This recipe uses herbs and aromatics to flavour the meal instead of salt. Decreasing salt intake has a large positive impact on blood pressure. Including plant-based meals within your diet decreases the amount of saturated fat you eat, which decreases the amount of opportunity bad cholesterol has to attach itself to the inside of your blood vessels and increase your blood pressure.

 

Dinner: Vegetable Frittata

Recipe Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs

  • ¼ cup light milk

  • ⅓ cup light shredded cheese

  • 1 tsp olive oil

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • ½ purple onion

  • ½ tsp mixed dried herbs

  • 1 ½ cups pumpkin (cut into small cubes)

  • ½ medium zucchini (sliced into small wedges)

  • 1 cup capsicum (diced)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

  2. Dice all veggies and put them into a large bowl with olive oil, garlic, dried herbs and salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

  3. Line a baking tray with baking paper and spread on the tray. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove and decrease oven temperature to 180 degrees.

  4. Grease and line a square oven pan.

  5. Whisk eggs, milk and salt and pepper.

  6. Place the vegetables in the lined tray, pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Sprinkle with cheese.

  7. Bake 35-40 minutes until the centre is set.

 
 
 

*In the interest of your safety, it is important to check with your GP before beginning any nutrition program. This information is intended to provide general educational information to individuals concerning nutrition, and is not tailored to your specific situation. This information is not medical advice, nor is it a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment of any disease or condition.

WHY be active?

Do you need some reasons to move more? You’ve come to the right place!

Let’s start with these 3 reasons:

 
  1. Walking just 20 minutes a day may cut your risk of heart disease by 30%.

  2. One our each week of exercise could cut your chance of developing dementia in half.

  3. Researchers estimate that every hour of exercise leads to a two hour increase in longevity.

 

Another reason to get moving? You can beat brain fog. The scans below show how brain function can be increased, simply by walking (the increase in colour shows more brain activity).

Research/scan compliments of Dr. Chuck Hillman, University of Illinois

 

Here are some additional benefits to being active every day:

  • Prevent cardiovascular disease. A study found that physically fit men reduce their risk of heart disease by half if they exercise each day. Exercise helps to reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure. And an increase in fitness levels improves the body’s efficiency in uptake of oxygen which in turn puts less pressure on the heart.

  • Prevent obesity. Aerobic exercise and weight training contribute to reduce abdominal fat, helping to lower your waist/hip ratio. Exercise helps by burning kilojoules and improving your resting metabolic rate.

  • Prevent depression. Research on anxiety, depression and exercise shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help reduce anxiety and improve mood. Exercise can help ease depression by releasing feel good chemicals (endorphins). This reduces immune system chemicals that may worsen depression and increases your body temperature which may have calming effects.

  • Prevent cancer. Smoking and lack of physical activity respectively are the primary and secondary risk factors in burden of disease for Australians. Lack of physical activity is also a specific risk factor for both colon and breast cancer. The more exercise you do, the lower your risk of developing cancer. In addition to this, physical exercise aids weight loss, further reducing your cancer risk.

  • Prevent or control diabetes. A number of studies have shown that both resistance training and aerobic exercise can significantly improve insulin sensitivity. For those with type 2 diabetes, skeletal muscle is able to take up and lower blood glucose levels in response to exercise by mechanisms that do not require insulin.

That’s a lot of prevention! There really is no other ‘medicine’ with greater benefits for the body than exercise. Just 30 minutes each day can go a long way.

 

Don’t let the education and prevention stop here. Book a service for your staff today.

Join the dots: heart health & mental health

Updated: Jul 7, 2021

Improving one area of your health can have a significant impact on many other areas. That’s the the idea behind our ‘join the dots’ concept we so often refer to. In referring to this concept, we are trying to demonstrate to you how many areas of your health are interconnected! We know that by improving your risk factors in one area, you are likely reducing them in another area too. Today we’ll join the dots between heart health and mental health.

 

For starters, research shows that heart health and mental health are interconnected – by lowering stress levels we can also lower blood pressure, which has also has a positive impact on heart health.

 

Decades of research has revealed several, and sometimes surprising, links between heart health and mental health. Some have even suggested that both may cause one another.

Here are some more links worth noting:

  • Anxiety is associated with a 41% higher risk of developing heart disease

  • When compared to non-depressed individuals, depressed patients have a 2-4 fold increased risk of developing coronary heart disease.

  • The brain is the most cholesterol-rich organ in the body. A 2010 study found that low levels of HDL cholesterol (the good type of cholesterol) is linked to long-term depressive symptoms.

 

Most of us are probably aware that too much stress isn’t a good thing. But what exactly is the impact of stress on our heart?

Studies have linked stress to changes in the way blood forms clots, which makes a heart attack more likely.

In addition to this, research has found that men who report high levels of stress are twice as likely to die of a stroke compared to those reporting low stress levels.

 

When it comes to mental health (and heart health!) we need to work to stay ahead of the curve. It is estimated that 45% of the population will experience diagnosed depression of anxiety in their lifetime. This was before COVID-19. We absolutely expect this statistic to rise. Mental fitness is more important than ever.

 

Want to learn more about the links to good health? Chat to us today about what we can offer your workforce. We have options for every workplace!

Join the dots: sitting and your health

Updated: Jun 9, 2021

Did you know? “If you’ve been sitting for an hour, you’ve been sitting for too long.” – James Levine, co-director of Obesity Solutions, Mayoclinc

Idle muscle cells release lower amounts of lipase, an enzyme that’s important for eliminating fats from your bloodstream.

 

Your body was built for motion, not for stillness. And you don’t have to run a marathon every day to reap the benefits of physical activity. Beneficial changes occur to your body within 90 seconds of getting out of your seat.

 

Here are a few things that happen to your body when you sit for too long:

  1. Weak legs and glutes: By sitting all day, you’re not using your lower body muscles. This leads to weakening and without strong leg and glute muscles to stabilise you, your body is at risk of injury.

  2. Tight hips and a bad back: Sitting causes your hip flexors to shorten, and your seated position can also hurt your back, particularly if you have bad posture. Also, poor posture while sitting can cause compression on the discs in your spine and can lead to premature degeneration, which results in chronic pain.

  3. Stiff shoulders and neck: Hunched over looking at a computer screen all day? This places extra pressure and strain on your neck and shoulder muscles.

  4. Weight gain: moving regularly helps your body digest the fats and sugars you eat. If you spend a lot of time sitting at your desk, in your truck, in your car etc then the way your body digests food is not as efficient. As a result, you retain those fats and sugars as excess body weight.

  5. Mental health impact: while the research in this space is still developing, we do know that people who sit more are experiencing more depression and anxiety than those who are more active.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also links to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and blood clots.

 

Switch it up and see results.

Research published in the European Heart Journal showed that swapping two hours of sitting a day with two hours of standing led to:

  • 11% lower triglycerides (reducing diabetes risk)

  • 6% lower total/HDL-cholesterol ratio (reducing heart disease risk)

When two hours of sitting a day was swapped with two hours of stepping (aka walking), it led to:

  • 11% lower body mass index (BMI) (reducing injury risk)

  • 7.5 cm (about 3 inches) lower waist circumference

  • 14% lower triglycerides

Learn more and educate your workforce by booking a workshop or webinar on this topic today! Simply email [email protected] to find out more.

Lifestyle strategies for better mental health

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

It is important to remember that prevention has a big role to play to reducing depression and anxiety, and promoting good mental health. Yes, there are some things that are simply unavoidable such as genetics and certain life stressors, such as a death of a loved one or a lay-off from a job. However, if we focus on areas of our lives we can control, then we would have a much easier time coping with events that are out of our control; the “curveballs” of life.

 

This diagram is a good starting point for focusing on the areas of our life, including our lifestyle choices, that can help us build our resilience and promote better mental health outcomes. As this diagram shows, there is a lot within our control that can help protect our mental health. Let’s take a deep dive into how exactly these areas can have a positive or negative impact on mental health:

 

Movement

  • A study showed that about 60% of people were able to halve their depression score by exercising and more than 40% maintained this for at least three months.

  • Researchers have found that engaging in regular vigorous exercise makes you 25% less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next 5 yrs.

Sleep

  • Research has determined that there is a link between lack of sleep and depression – it can generate feelings of sadness, irritability and anxiety. Experts have found that people who suffer from insomnia are 5 x more likely to develop depression.

  • A good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience. Chronic sleep disruptions set the stage for negative thinking, depression, anxiety and emotional vulnerability.

Communication / connection with friends

  • Scientists have found that staying connected with family and friends helps relieve harmful levels of stress, which can adversely affect coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system.

  • Make staying connected a priority. Research has found that lack of strong relationships is as dangerous to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, being obese or physically inactive.

Drink choices

  • Drinking 2 cans of Coke a day may increase your risk of anxiety by 23%. This over-consumption of sugar triggers imbalances in certain brain chemicals, increasing the risk of experiencing depression and anxiety.

  • Research has found that those who drink more plain water experience a lower prevalence of anxiety and depression.

Nutrition

  • Eat fresh! Researchers found people who followed a Mediterranean style menu closest were 50% less likely to develop depression than those who didn’t follow the diet.

  • The Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may combat depression both on their own and when taken with antidepressant medications.

  • People eating fast food more than 3 times a week = 50% more likely to develop depression than those who eat little to no fast food.

  • Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function – as well as worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.

Alcohol use

  • Drinking alcohol can temporarily boost serotonin levels, therefore making you feel happier, but in the long term, excess alcohol can actually lower serotonin levels, and therefore either causing or exacerbating depression.

  • Research has found that individuals experiencing clinically significant alcohol problems are frequently observed to be experiencing depression and anxiety, and similarly people experiencing clinically significant depression and anxiety are frequently observed to be experiencing alcohol problems.

Ready to support your workforce on their journey to better mental health? Contact us today.

Why sleep?

Sleep is one thing that many of us just are not getting enough of. Unfortunately, when we don’t get enough sleep, it starts to impact our mental and physical wellbeing.

Consider these fast facts:

  • After just one night of only 4-5 hours sleep, your natural killer cells – the ones that attack the cancer cells that appear in your body every day – drop by 70%.

  • Sleep deprivation can cause prediabetes in healthy adults in as little as 6 days.

  • Loss of just 90 minutes of sleep can result in a 32% reduction in daytime alertness.

Sleep allows us to “clear out the cobwebs”. When you sleep, your body has a chance to recharge and repair itself. Sleep literally helps clear out the cobwebs from the previous day.

A night of uninterrupted sleep leaves your body and mind rejuvenated for the next day. If sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have time to complete all of the phases needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite.

Tired, sleepy workers are 70% more likely to be involved in accidents than workers that are well rested.

Lack of sleep takes a serious toll on perception and judgement. In the workplace, this leads to reduced efficiency and productivity, errors and accidents. Don’t risk it!

When it comes to sleep and your mental wellbeing, check out the graphic below. You’re also welcome to download it and share it with colleagues who might need a reminder about the importance of a good night sleep.

Learn more and educate your workforce by booking a workshop or webinar on this topic today! Simply email [email protected] to find out more.

OBESITY, FATIGUE, STRESS & THE LINK TO SAFETY AT WORK

Staying safe at work is about more than just wearing your high-vis vest and hard hat. It’s also about ‘joining the dots’ between your health and safety. Today we will discuss the impact of obesity, fatigue and stress.

 

Obesity, safety and injury risk. Overweight workers are more likely to experience health risks, longer periods of absence due to illness and higher health costs. This translates to workers that are less productive, more prone to injury and higher claim costs. Obesity increases the risk of injury, including an increased likelihood of slips, trips, falls and musculoskeletal injury. It is believed to be a factor in the increasing occurrence of workplace musculoskeletal injuries due to the mismatch between the overweight worker’s physical needs, abilities and limitations of the work environment, machinery, equipment and job tasks.

 

“We know that obesity prevention policies and programs in the workplace are important simply because of likely improvements in employee health,” – Pollack, the Leon S. Robertson Faculty Development Chair in Injury Prevention, John Hopkins University

 

In addition to this, our own client case studies have revealed the clear link between obesity and injury risk. You can see an example of that here.

 

Fatigue, safety and injury risk. Fatigue can have a serious impact on your ability to work safely and effectively. It reduces alertness and concentration, which can lead to errors and an increased rate of incidents and injuries. Think about your workplace. How would fatigue impact on safety? Do you work in the transport industry? Do your workers have to operate machinery? Does the job require a high level of concentration? When you consider that sleep deprivation can significantly reduce reaction time, motor control, decision-making ability and situational awareness, it becomes clear the link that this has to serious incidents, injuries and near misses in the workplace.

 

Stress, safety and injury risk. Work related stress develops because a person is unable to cope with the demands being placed on them. It has a negative influence on how people think, act and react which creates a clear link to high levels of absenteeism, staff turnover, increased error rates, accidents and injuries.

  • A study of over 3000 aircraft employees showed that employees who “hardly ever” enjoyed their job were 2.5 times more likely to report a back injury than those who reported “almost always” enjoying their job.

  • Another study found that employees with low job satisfaction are 30% more likely to have multiple injuries than those with high job satisfaction.

Reducing work-related stress can help to:

  • Improve employee mental and physical health

  • Reduce injury rates and absenteeism

  • Increase productivity and improve staff morale

 

Learn more and educate your workforce by booking a service with Health by Design today! The need for a safe and healthy workplace never stops. Simply email [email protected] to find out more about what options are available.

Stay ahead of the curve this national mental health month

October is National Mental Health Month, so what better time to give your employees the tools they need to stay ahead of the mental health curve. Poor mental health was a huge risk to organisations BEFORE covid-19 hit, now the need for proactive, preventative approaches are highlighted more than ever…

 

Our experience and research tells us that:

  • 50% of your workforce is healthy and coping at the moment – let’s keep them here.

  • 30% of your workforce is vulnerable. They could go in either direction – let’s ensure they move in the right direction.

  • 20% of your workforce have a diagnosed mental health condition- ie. Depression or anxiety – they need positive support now more than ever, concurrent with clinical treatment.

The mental health needs of workforces across Australia (and the world!) have been rapidly expanding with the stress of COVID-19. But many need help with HOW to help their employees in a time like this. They aren’t alone in being unsure how to navigate this new workplace health challenge, and they certainly don’t have to navigate this on their own. We’re here to help, with a range of services that can be implemented immediately – even if the workforce is largely working from home or restricting site visitors.

 

The mental health impact of COVID-19 and its associated isolation impacts include:

  • Lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes per day

  • Loneliness and isolation can be twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity

  • Along with contributing to depression and suicide risk, loneliness can also lead to heart disease, diabetes and dementia

The below findings from a Work from Home study conducted in 2020 also highlighted the impact of covid-19 on employee mental health and wellbeing.

 

So, where to start? There are many things you can do today that will help boost and protect your mental health. This includes:

  • Get moving. Exercise can boost your mood, alertness and propensity to look on the bright side! Researchers have found that those who engage in regular vigorous exercise are 25% less likely to develop depression or anxiety over the next 5 years.

  • Eat fresh. A high intake of fruit and vegetables is linked to reduced depressive symptoms. Also, the fibre in vegetables keeps blood sugar levels stable, preventing dips in energy and the associated mood swings.

  • Listen to soothing music. This can lower your blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety.

  • Get enough sleep. A good nights sleep helps to improve your focus and boosts your mood. It’s like an in-built mechanism for building resilience and strengthening your ability to bounce back!

  • Express gratitude. Research indicates that people who keep gratitude journals on a regular basis exercise more regularly. That’s DOUBLE the mental health boost!

  • Watch what you drink. Drinking 2 cans of sugary drink a day (e.g. coke) may increase your risk of anxiety by 23%. This over-consumption of sugar triggers imbalances in certain brain chemicals, increasing the risk of experiencing depression and anxiety.

Ready to bring mental health awareness to your workplace? We have lots to offer in this space! Options include:

  • Mental fitness (health) webinars or workshops

  • Interactive displays and expos

  • Human Performance Programs

  • Stress Management Programs

  • Our Headquarters branded mental fitness program

  • Health promotion material packages

If you’re ready to take action at your workplace, we’re here to help. Email [email protected] to discuss options today.

Joining the dots: fruit, veg & your health

Eating ‘fast foods’ and other processed foods lead to weight gain. Most of us know this. But did you know it also leads you closer to 12 different types of cancer? Read on to find out more about the power of fruit and veg for good health!

We all know that we should be living a healthy and active lifestyle, but it’s easy to dismiss the idea by thinking we are just too busy. But good health doesn’t have to be time consuming and in fact, practising good health habits may actually give you more time!

Healthy habits such as including more fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet lead to increased energy levels, AND if you have more energy, you have more time.

Think of your body as a machine. If you fuel your body with the good stuff then you are giving your body the opportunity to create MORE energy, and therefore more time to do the things that matter most to you.

Little wins can lead to BIG REWARDS: simple choices can lead to big risk reductions.

When it comes to what you eat, increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables by just 50g (e.g. half a piece of fruit, or 2/3 cup of veggies) a day is associated with a 20% reduction in cancer risk. Could you add this amount of fruit and vegetable to your daily food intake?

Need some ideas for incorporating more fruit and veg into your daily meals?

Add fruit to your breakfast cereal or toast, or add a side of avocado or tomato

Swap cheese/dip and crackers for dip and vegetable sticks (eg. carrot, capsicum, celery)

Add a side of salad to your lunch and dinner

Have a piece of fruit for a snack instead of something processed (eg. chocolate, potato chips)

Meal plan for the week ahead and do a food shop accordingly so you have everything you need for the meals

Keep chopped vegetables in the fridge so they are ready to be added to meals

Add grated carrot or zucchini to sauces (eg. spaghetti bolognaise or lasagne sauce)

While you can’t force your employees to change what they eat, you can still educate them around making healthier food choices. We take the hard work out of this task! Contact us today and we can work together to make a difference in the lives of your staff.

10 SELF CARE TIPS TO TRY THIS MONTH

There’s no doubt that the past few years have been a rollercoaster of emotions for everyone, with many people stretched to their limits both physically and mentally.

Self-care is a multifaceted approach to taking care of yourself, and is critical to good health – it allows us to fill up our own cup, and in turn, show up for all of the other people and responsibilities in our lives.

Here are 10 simple self-care tips that can be implemented throughout the week, without an expensive spa day or face mask in sight. These tips can positively impact all areas of life, while helping you feel less stressed, more resilient and ready to face the world.

Physical self-care

1. Prioritise sleep – let’s face it, sleep is always a good idea, and is one of the best things you can do for your health. Lack of sleep can take a toll on your perception and judgement, make you more sensitive to the effects of stress and in turn can affect heart health, mental health and diet choices. Sleep gives the body the chance to clear the cobwebs from the previous day, so it makes sense that a good night’s rest equals the ultimate self-care act.

2. Spend time in the great outdoors – the environment can have a huge impact on your physical and mental health, and for many people is a go-to strategy to calm and decompress. Spending time in nature can lower your heart rate and blood pressure and provides space for mental clarity. Remember that you can just as easily connect with nature in your own garden or nearest park, as you can on a hike through the forest.

3.Food for thought – how you fuel your body can have a huge impact on your health and overall wellbeing. Cooking wholesome and nutritious meals and snacks is absolutely an act of self-care, and a tasty one at that!

Social self-care

4.Get face-to-face – more than ever, close connections are important to wellbeing and mental health. Everyone has slightly different social needs, but it’s important to spend time cultivating positive relationships with the people in your life who make you feel your best. Friendships can help prevent isolation and loneliness, increase your sense of purpose and belonging and ultimately boost happiness and reduce stress levels.

5.Try a new hobby – learning a new skill or revisiting an old hobby can put you in a different frame of mind and give you a new perspective on life. Why not try an activity or class that involves spending time with friends or meeting new people to boost those social skills and reap the endorphin rewards that come with it.

Mental self-care

6.Take a microbreak – if you find your motivation is dipping, take a step back and refocus your attention elsewhere for a microbreak. A five-minute time out when neded can help you remain stress-free during the workday. During lunch, consider taking a walk outdoors if possible. A 20 minute walk or bike ride can help to increase blood flow to the brain and improve motivation, attention and perception – all of which will help you get back to the task at hand.

7.Financial check – financial instability can cause a build up of stress, so having a solid financial plan can be a positive act of self-care. A great place to start is by using free apps like Pocketbook or Moneybrilliant to boost your budgeting skills and set you on the way to financial peace of mind.

8.Declutter – you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘tidy house, tidy mind’. It turns out that a quick clean up of a disorganised space can be an act of self-care. A study from the Mayo Clinic found that extra ‘stuff’ is stressful and can lead to higher levels of cortisol (the hormone related to stress response) in the body. Set a timer for 15 minutes and choose one area of the house to give a once over.

Emotional self-care

9. Practise positive self-talk – we praise our friends, family members and colleagues almost every single day, but forget about one important person – ourselves. Try putting the ‘self’ in ‘self-care’ and celebrate your little wins with positive words and encouragement. Even if you run on the more pessimistic side of life, studies have shown that you can train your brain to learn positive thinking skills.

10. Consume with care – while it’s important to stay up-to-date with current affairs and the news cycle, it can be emotionally and mentally draining. Limit how much time you spend consuming news and current affairs and avoid checking just before bed so that you are not left feeling anxious, stressed or upset before sleep. Following accounts such as the Good News Movement can be a fun and uplifting way to break up often negative news cycles.

If you’re looking for ways to build resilience and improve mental fitness for your team, we’re here to help. We have a range of webinars, virtual or face to face health checks, and wellness programs, that will teach you and your employees how to perform at their best, whilst maintaining a healthy work/life balance. Get in touch via [email protected] to find out more.

The Great Resignation & re-imagining the work environment

2021 saw the beginning of the “Great Resignation” – a global shift in the labour force where workers have quit their jobs at historic rates. The reasons for this trend are varied, ranging from pandemic burnout to a psychological frameshift of gaining fulfilment from work. Considering this labour market will most likely continue in 2022, we can question why some industries are more affected by mass exodus whereas others have maintained their employee relationship and fostered a positive work environment.

What sectors are seeing a wave of quitting?

The average quit rate in the US in November sits at 3%, according to the Bureau of Labour and statistics. While November 2021 marked the start of the Great Resignation, only certain industries saw a quit rate greater than this average. These industries included Leisure and Hospitality (6.4% quit rate), Professional and Business Services (3.7% quit rate), and Trade, Transportation, and Utilities (3.6% quit rate).

Despite hospitality and retail trade traditionally having a high turnover rate, it is still notably higher than previous years. While these industries were heavily impacted by the disruption of the pandemic, the pandemic also exposed how these trades failed to support their workers effectively. These two industries are low-wage and notorious in their maltreatment of employees, both within the management team and externally from patrons. The pandemic saw added pressure on this already challenging industry, where workers were accosted for enforcing COVID protocol and put on the frontline, jeopardising their health. Consequently, many workers may have simply seen little motivation to return to these jobs where they were overworked and underpaid.

The high quit rate from professional and business services also raises questions as to the nature of the corporate profession and why people are no longer feeling fulfilled in this sector. While these careers offer more stability than the hospitality and retail trade, they are not without faults. During the pandemic, business services saw extended hours, inflexibility in child-care despite school closures, and a high stress environment without social entertainment to counteract work life. This resulted in workers re-evaluating their priorities in day-to-day life, with the consensus being a desire to dedicate more time to life outside of work.

How to create a supportive work environment for employees

The mass exodus is sending a signal to employers. Certain work standards that have been previously established are now exposed as outdated and inflexible in the current labour climate. As a result, there is an imperative for work settings to acknowledge this shift in worker values and adapt their work life accordingly. While this includes systemic changes, such as flexibility to work remotely and extended time for leave, it also includes creating a genuine work environment that is committed to supporting their employees.

A supportive work environment can be fostered through developing a larger sense of belonging in the work community. The emphasis on creating a workforce with diversity, equity, and inclusion lends itself to the larger ethos of welcoming every employee as who they are. This removes the need for workers to intentionally hide aspects of themselves if they feel the need to fit in and downplay a stigmatised identity to belong. Creating an environment where all people feel they belong not only removes the added labour of trying to hide certain aspects of themselves, but also allows workers to contribute at their highest level by developing an affinity to the organisation.

Work environments should also pivot away from the mantra of “business as usual”, as the reality is this is very much not business as usual. People are struggling, facing issues that range from illnesses and quarantines to financial instability and school closures. It is important to recognise that previous business targets may no longer be reasonable in our current climate due to the added stress of their employees. Businesses must make time for their employees and consider what additional support structures they can implement to help and encourage their team. This could include accommodating flexible hours, working from home, redistributing resources, or providing extended leave where possible. The bottom line is for businesses to not drive out workers who are already stressed due to extraordinary circumstances and instead serve as a point of stability by accommodating their concerns.

Finally, it is important for businesses to create a culture of caring, focusing on the needs and wellbeing of their workers. People want to feel safe in their work environment and should be able to bring forward their concerns and strengths knowing that it will be heard by their leader. Knowing that a leader cares and has their back will make an environment that people want to be associated with. Research has also shown that caring about workers improves employee engagement, resulting in higher motivation, better performance, and greater likelihood to go above and beyond what is required of them.

Work norms in a post-COVID world

What is significant about the Great Resignation is not the fact that people are looking for new work, but the reasons for which they are leaving their previous work. These reasons are different to typical reasons of the past, where people are after more flexibility in working remotely, the ability to move from a 5 day working week to a 4 day week, extended time for taking off, or wanting greater benefits and compensation packages. There’s a desire to establish a better work-life balance and have a work environment which is supportive in facilitating this. These are extraordinary times, but perhaps a positive to come out of COVID-19 is the re-imagining of work standards which bring to the forefront the values of their workers.

FINDING FULFILMENT FROM WORK IN THE AGE OF PANDEMIC BURNOUT

Evidence suggests we don’t work only for the money. Billionaire moguls boast intense work hours, individuals with high earning potential spend less time on leisure, and children of rich parents are twice as likely to have summer jobs. On top of this, people often say the stakes of their job is more than just their income; people are searching for careers that impassion them and contribute to a greater meaning than just a wage.

This has been the work culture for decades and generally this ethos has not changed. However, in the age of COVID-19, which has disrupted our regular nine-to-five, the culture of extreme work ethic has been placed under critique.

This is primarily due to the newest edition of occupational burnout – Pandemic Burnout. Associated with exhaustion, feelings of negativity, and reduced professional drive, burnout has become exacerbated by the added pressures brought on by the pandemic. Burnout is a psychological phenomenon that has defined our working age, resulting from the chasm dividing what we hope to get out of work versus what we actually get.

The mythology that drives us to the point of burnout is the promise that if we work hard, we will be fulfilled and self-actualised. Before 2020, this has for the most part rung true – when engagement in work was high, so was the wellbeing of the worker. This also interacted in an additive manner, where if a worker was both engaged and thriving at work, the possibility of burnout decreased and overall productivity increased.

However, a Gallup poll revealed a paradox in the COVID-19 workspace: as engagement in work increased, the wellbeing of the worker decreased. Working during COVID-19 is associated with an intensified level of engagement but with correlated levels of negative emotions such as stress and worry. Consequently, we are seeing high levels of work engagement, which would normally be associated with fulfilment and wellbeing, but is instead causing stress, anxiety, and negativism.

So how do we navigate this Engagement-Wellbeing Paradox in 2022 and beyond? The greatest concern is that, once workplaces return to some form of normalcy, many employees will be approaching burnout. While part of the onus is on the workplace to ensure they are appropriately caring for their employees (see: The Great Resignation and re-imagining the work environment), possibly there are steps to be taken at an individual level to reduce chance of burnout and improve wellbeing.

First, it is important to get an understanding of what purpose in the workplace can look like, and how it relates to an individual worker’s strengths. What motivates you most about work – do you like solving problems, or seeing a difference you make on another person? How are these motivators entrenched in the company’s mission and vision? Workers can actively look for ways to pursue these actions and values in everyday work, even if implemented at a small scale.

Additionally, a way to improve wellbeing from work is to change your perspective in how you find purpose. Attributing a sense of purpose from work is often the result of three main elements: feeling connected to something bigger than yourself, knowing your work matters, and understanding how your work affects others, both within the organisation and the greater community. Workers can connect what they do to the bigger picture, situating their work in values which matter most to them.

Another way to improve worker wellbeing is to be empathetic and positive to other colleagues. Sharing positive narratives with other colleagues, such as commending someone’s presentation or work progress, helps shift a collective attitude to positivity and growth. This is the belief of “social contagion” – where behaviours and attitudes can be spread throughout social networks and influence the cultural mindset. Not only does praising others improve their own sense of self-efficacy, but it feeds into this contagion effect of high productivity, high sense of fulfilment, and community value.

Finally, what the pandemic has taught us is that our total sense of fulfilment does not need to stem from work alone. Where our work ethos was previously obsessed with striving for notable achievements, we have reached a point where we must ask, “what are we trying to prove?”.

When focusing intensely on professional targets, we can forget that there are other aspects of life which provide fulfilment and self-actualisation.

Having a sense of purpose outside of your nine-to-five can actually help enrich your work with more meaning. By evaluating what you prioritise in a holistic sense – whether it is family, friends, community, or work – you are more likely to be left satisfied as a whole, as you are finding fulfilment through a multitude of facets.

2020 has demonstrated that we can no longer rely on intense work engagement to gain a sense of purpose. Instead, we must seek out purpose beyond our regular working hours, using each sector of life to enrich our sense of fulfilment. The pandemic has provided a unique opportunity where we can deconstruct how we shape our purpose – whether it is through connecting to the bigger picture, having a positive impact on others, or finding meaning outside of work. We can hope that this shift in work ethos in 2022 and beyond will help restore the path to self-actualisation.

Want to read more on this topic? Check out our recent blog post about The Great Resignation,