Eat well to sleep well

Poor sleep, stress and anxiety are all normal and understandable reactions to the current COVID-19 pandemic we find ourselves in. These are extraordinary, unprecedented times after all.

 

In fact, esteemed Australian psychology and psychiatric authorities estimate that every individual is ‘carrying’ a 10-15% overlay to normal levels of anxiety in the current climate.

Fortunately, there are many strategies that can be implemented to combat poor sleep, stress and anxiety. Focusing on the factors that we can control to promote positive mental health and physical health is as important as ever. Let’s take a look at how our nutrition choices, and small changes, can make a positive difference.

Healthy eating = healthy sleeping

 

  • Improve sleep by avoiding stimulants such as caffeine, chocolate and alcohol in the afternoon and evening. Ideally, avoid caffeine at least 6 hours before going to sleep.

  • Avoid reaching for packaged and sugary foods as they can increase feelings of anxiety, increase cravings and fatigue.

  • Instead of late night chocolate biscuits, try walnuts – they’re a good source of tryptophan, a sleep-enhancing amino acid that helps make serotonin as well as melatonin which is the ‘body clock’ hormone that sets your sleep-wake cycle.

  • Add healthy fats to your meals – they are essential for brain health, reducing inflammation and helping to stabilise mood. Include oily fish in your dinner for a sleep inducing meal option. They are high in vitamin B6, which your body needs to make the sleep enhancing hormones melatonin and serotonin.

  • Fish such as salmon will also help to stabilise serotonin levels, which your body uses to manage stress.

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day – even mild dehydration can make you tired.

  • Avoid skipping meals to prevent fluctuations in blood sugar levels which can lead to unhealthy cravings and fatigue.

  • Eating low GI foods such as wholegrain foods, fruit and vegetables will help maintain your energy levels during the day.

  • Enjoy smaller, lighter meals in the evening rather than high-fat or heavy meals that can slow down your digestive system. If you get struck down with heart burn, you’re more likely to experience sleep problems and disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome and daytime sleepiness.

  • A nightly cup of tea (without caffeine) can be a perfect relaxing ritual. Chamomile, ginger, and peppermint are calming choices for bedtime.

Health by Design is here to help you navigate the many challenges of employee mental health and physical health during the COVID-19 outbreak. Contact us today if you need extra support.

Nutrition & work performance: are you putting the right fuel in your tank?

Food is fuel for our bodies. We need a certain number of kilojoules each day to function. However, when the kilojoules we consume are low quality (such as processes foods that are high fat and low in nutritional value), our bodies can suffer. An unhealthy diet hurts our organs and weakens our immune system, leaving us vulnerable to illness and poor energy levels. Factor in a demanding work schedule to the mix with deadlines to meet and it certainly isn’t an ideal combination is it!

Let’s take a look at the type of foods that drain your energy. We should avoid high fat, energy dense food if we wish to improve and maintain good energy levels. Food that drains our energy should be reduced or eliminated altogether (this can be a gradual process!). These foods, loaded with simple sugars, causing a quick energy boost followed by a decline that is just as quick – often leaving you more drained than before.

Stimulants such as caffeine and sugar may provide a boost of energy in the short-term, but long-term they deplete our bodies of energy by continually drawing out minerals and nutrients. They can also be highly addictive! Stimulants include:

  • Coffee

  • Soft drinks

  • Alcohol

  • Sugar

  • Artificial sweeteners

  • Trans-fats

 

In contrast, there are plenty of foods we can consume that improve our energy levels.

  • Dark green leafy vegetables are a high-quality food source providing many of the vitamins our bodies need to stay healthy with sustained energy. These vegetables are often high in calcium, iron, zinc, folate, potassium and vitamins A, C, E and K.

  • Whole grains are an important source of carbohydrates – which is exactly what we need to be able to supply energy to the body in the form of glucose. Glucose is the preferred fuel source for the brain and central nervous system. Without glucose, we cannot maintain our health.

 

There are other types of food which are important for energy, health and performance too. Protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats and certain vitamins are all associated with brain function and mental performance.

  • Brain food – protein: protein is found in meat, fish, milk and cheese. It provides the building blocks for the body’s tissues, nerves and internal organs (including our brain and heart).

  • Brain food – carbohydrates: as we’ve already discusses, carbohydrate is an essential fuel source. Grains, fruits and vegetables are all healthy sources of carbohydrates.

  • Brain food – healthy fats: omega-3 fatty acids are essential to the optimum performance of your brain. You can ensure your diet is rich in omega-3 fats by eating plenty of oily fish including mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna, herring and anchovies.

  • Brain food – vitamins & minerals: these are essential for the growth and functioning of the brain. The ‘B’ complex vitamins are particularly important for the brain and play a vital role in producing energy. Vitamins A, C and E are powerful antioxidants, which help to promote and preserve memory. Minerals are also critical to mental functioning and performance. Magnesium, for example is necessary for brain energy. Sodium, potassium and calcium are important in the thinking process and they also facilitate the transmission of messages.

 

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look into some more specific strategies about how you can use nutrition to your advantage at work.

  • Studies suggest that cognitive abilities tend to peak during late morning hours – so tackle your most mentally taxing work tasks before lunch. Experts suggest that alertness and attention levels taper off following meals. This is why you might find yourself struggling to concentrate in those post-lunch work meetings.

  • Our bodies are primed to digest and utilise food for roughly an 8-10 hour period in the day. Eating outside of these hours can mean that digestion takes a lot longer, and we process fats and sugar less efficiently – which impacts on our energy levels.

  • Research has found that increasing your vitamin B intake could significantly reduce work-related stress. Vitamin B is found in whole, unprocessed foods such as meat, beans and wholegrains as well as milk, yoghurt and green leafy vegetables.

  • Tempted to skip breakfast? Studies have found that eating breakfast may improve short-term memory and attention. Those who eat it tend to perform better than those who don’t. Foods at the top of researchers’ brain-fuel list include high-fibre whole grains, dairy, and fruits. Just don’t overeat; researchers also found high-calorie breakfasts appear to hinder concentration.

 

In summary, if your diet lacks essential nutrients, it can hurt your ability to concentrate. Eating too much or too little can also interfere with your focus. A heavy meal may make you feel tired, while not eating enough can result in distracting hunger pangs. It’s also really important to stay hydrated, so if it’s been awhile since you had some water – go fill up your water bottle now!

Would your workforce benefit from more education on this topic? Contact us today via [email protected] to discuss how we could help.

How our staff keep mentally healthy

During October, for Mental Health Awareness Month, we interviewed some of our staff to find out what they do to stay mentally healthy. There were some common themes and great suggestions. We’ll share them below:

  • I started kickboxing in January this year. Which has become one of the best ways for me to release stress and clear my mind. I always feel better after beating up on a bag for 45 minutes! Also, I love to jog and listen to my gospel music which helps me realign my thoughts to positive ones and helps to increase energy. I also meditate and pray in the mornings which I believe starts my day a lot better and gives me strength for the day. Also cooking new recipes and meals allows me to explore my creativity.

– Kristy, Health & Injury Prevention Advisor

 

  • My number 1 go-to is EXERCISE. I exercise regularly to protect my mental health – I can really start to struggle when I don’t exercise enough. It’s also just as helpful when I’m having a hard day. I’ll put my little boy in the pram & go for a walk – I think it’s the combination of getting outside & the physical activity that helps me out on these days. But I’m also a big believer in regular “self care” – whether it’s food prepping for the week ahead, reading a good book, listening to a favourite podcast, getting a massage, getting coffee with a friend, taking a long warm bath etc.

– Lauren, Health Promotion & Marketing

  • Aside from exercise/physical activity which is probably my main way of maintaining my emotional/mental health in a good place, whenever I feel out of balance mentally I find socialising with my partner or friends, sharing a meal and talking about life helps me to get my perspective back on track and get back in balance.

– Pablo, IT support & client support services

  • Since becoming a parent a big thing for me is scheduling “slow days”. I’m usually always running around here, there and everywhere, so I make it a priority to schedule days every so often where I don’t have to be anywhere or tick anything off any lists! It gives me the chance to relax (as much as my kids will let me!) or catch up on anything in particular that has been weighing on my mind.

– Lauren, Research, Learning & Development

  • Fitness and Food are huge for me. But also a creative outlet is something I need in my life to feel “well”. Whether it is a goofy doodle, a colouring page, a fancy card making session, or writing. They all help to clear my head. Additionally taking a wellness day. A lot of people only take “sick days” of vacation time, but I think if we took more unscheduled wellness days, we wouldn’t need as many sick days.

– Nita, Health & Injury Prevention Advisor

  • A few different approaches depending on what aspect of my mental health needs a boost, and also the situation… am I at home, on the road, with others or by myself etc… In general, I’ve always turned to movement to clear my head. Exercise helps me blow off steam and I like to pair it with music to suit my mood. When a lengthy or sweaty workout isn’t really practical, I find even a walk is really beneficial for me. When I’m seeking some calm or perspective, while I know this might sound a bit lame… I’ll admit that I’m a sunset guy. When I travel I love to find a nice spot to enjoy a sunset. I find it calming and an excellent way to regain perspective. It reminds me that the world is big and that days will always come and go. Often times the things which are taxing me as an individual are probably pretty insignificant in the whole scheme of things.

– Andrew, US Operations

  • Definitely exercise for me. I find running very meditative and calming. Also mentally ‘re-framing’….especially when I know the serotonin is a little low and I might be viewing things a little negatively, I basically do cognitive therapy on myself to re-frame the negative and rationalise what the reality is. Prioritise sleep! When under the pump the most or jet-lagged I try to stick most closely to the things above plus good nutrition.

– Greg, Managing Director

  • I feel like exercise is a big one for me. Running always has helped me to distress. I feel like my mind is always clear after a good run. Hiking/ walking with my family and/or friends or by myself is another great activity for me. There is just something about being out in nature that helps me feel calm, happy and even gets some creative ideas flowing. Recently, I found that kickboxing has been a good stress reliever, especially after a hard, stressful day. Something other than exercise and is a quick go to for me would be simply petting and loving on my dog. Animals have always made me feel better on a rough day. Even just looking at some funny/ cute animal videos or photos brings a smile to my face.

– Kathleen, Health & Injury Prevention Advisor

  • Exercise is definitely my number 1 – closely behind is making sure I get outside (beach/park etc) as often as possible. The beach even in winter I find very calming and a massive help to switch off. If feeling a bit flat or unmotivated, getting some music on for that boost!

– Dan, AU Operations

  • Lifting heavy weights and moving fast! I also love to have some quiet time… cooking, listening to music or taking the dogs to the park and enjoying the outdoors getting some vitamin D.

– Sarah, AU Operations

  • Meditation 20 mins every day; martial arts 3 times a week; cardio 2-3 times a week; yoga 2-3 times a week. I also love going out for coffee with friends and family whenever I can.

– Gemma, Admin & Accounts

  • Always look on the bright side of life… no matter how tough times can be for you or those close to you, I think then of the starving in Africa or the kids & families in war torn countries and all of a sudden you know life is pretty darn good!! Must laugh or have a joke as often as possible with family or friends…. that really helps. Having a team or group activity… like my Friday morning tennis… is definitely my saviour each week – I love it!! Having something fun to look forward to in the not too distant future is also a good plan…. holiday, get together with friends, catch up with dad, going out with family… Or Elton John concert in Jan. at Hanging Rock… always good to look forward to something in life!!

– Patty, Finance Manager & Client Support

  • Crossfit and hiking! There’s nothing else that calms me and helps to rejuvenate me more than lifting heavy weights or being out in the woods or hiking up a mountain and just being surrounded by nature.

– Travis, Health & Injury Prevention Advisor

  • I love to exercise and listen to music. I love to listen to 80’s music or pump up music when I go for a run… its a great way to relax, have fun, and I make sure to focus on my breathing (which seems a bit meditative). I also make sure to do some hobbies or learn something new. A new experience (whether ice skating, travel, or even skydiving) is always a fun way for me to reduce stress and have fun. Meditation and my religion are also great ways for me to put my worries into perspective… it makes them not seem like not such big worries anymore.

– Melora, Health & Injury Prevention Advisor

Make a Quantum Leap in Wellness Engagement

“Organizations that can prove they are adding value to people’s lives will continue to grow and thrive.” Tim Rath

In an unregulated industry with no clear definition of “engagement,” the door is wide open for results “cherry picking” or claiming high rates of success for what is largely meaningless contact. Trying to determine the average engagement in corporate health programs is actually very difficult. Industry reports do exist, but many reported rates of “engagement” may be inflated as they count a one-time incentive driven screening as “engaged.”

To properly define engagement, it’s best to work backwards from the goals or type of outcomes you want to achieve and then determine what level of participation is most likely to achieve those goals. If you simply want to raise awareness, have a bit of fun, or check the box in order to promote that you “offer a wellness benefit”, then isolated, incentive driven one-time participation may be completely fine.

However, if you want to actually make a measurable impact on your employee experience, employee health, and organizational performance, then sporadic short-run engagement is insufficient.

In this area, an overwhelming majority of corporate “wellness” programs are vastly under-performing. They are one-dimensional or focus too heavily on specific generic actions, occur in the periphery, and many create a burden for employees (penalties, require proactive opt-in, logging points etc). Comprehensive program reviews have found that less than 7% of programs are comprehensive enough to have a significant sustained positive impact on individual health or organizational performance (Goetzel & Ozminkowski, 2008).

In order for people to make sustainable and meaningful change, they need to be consistently and actively engaged in the process: actively participating, learning, and progressively implementing actions. Therefore if measurable change and genuine employee value is the goal, the only real way to define engagement is by sustained, repeat and ongoing participation – ideally without incentives.

Comprehensive & personalized programs are more effective than incentives To take your health program engagement and effectiveness to a new level, you would be much better served by investing in a more comprehensive, personal-level program rather than trying to add or modify incentive strategies. Incentive strategies in reality are “let’s try to make marginal short term gains for a program our employees are clearly not responding to” strategies. Recent evidence (NBGH) suggests the major reason employees do not participate in corporate health programs is because they lack “personal relevance.” Is that really surprising when you consider the one-dimensional, dictated prescriptive nature of most programs?In addition, a 2014 RAND study found that engagement in comprehensive programs more than doubled the rates of engagement in more limited traditional programs and outperformed the impact of adding incentives to those programs by around 30%.

Programs will only have a positive impact on an employee’s job satisfaction if they provide value, and they will only provide value if they help people improve. This only occurs if employees clearly see the personal relevance and remain voluntarily and continually engaged long term.

Are you comparing apples to apples? It’s common for vendors to report engagement or satisfaction only from participants, or based on the largest attended (and often incentivized) event. For example, we recently consulted for a company of 20,000 employees who reported a “health program participation rate” of around 60%. When we dug deeper, we determined they had 60% of their employees “opt-in” and participate in an annual screening – primarily based on incentives and plan design. However, they only had 2.5% of their population complete follow up coaching or any meaningful change intervention. So is their engagement really 60%, or more like 3%? Another client’s vendor reported employee satisfaction from a recent challenge as “96% would recommend the program to a friend and would choose to participate again next year.” That sounds impressive, but when you read the fine print, that percentage is only from a sub group of respondents who “completed the entire challenge and both the pre-and post challenge survey”. That clearly creates a response bias to the few people who were really into the challenge, and it represented less than 5% of this employer’s total workforce.

At HBD, our mission is to help people change and enhance their lives by changing their health habits and behaviors. This is only achievable when people are effectively and consistently engaged. That’s why we monitor and report our non-incentivized participation back to our clients as a proportion of total workforce, monthly. By watching sustained high average monthly engagement (in excess of 80% of the total workforce monthly), we know the majority of people are routinely and consistently engaged on an ongoing basis. This is what creates the platform that allows us to help individuals on an effective and sustainable personal pathway to change. We aim to lift the curtain on vendor reporting and provide an easy, transparent view of a program’s success.

 

So with that context, let’s take a look at our engagement numbers in comparison to the industry:

 

– Average one-time engagement in wellness programs: 20% – Average one-time engagement in health programs with incentives: 40% – Average engagement in “comprehensive” health programs: 52%

Average sustained month-to-month engagement in HBD’s programs without incentives: 82%

*Level of engagement considered optimal for achieving the best program outcomes and returns for an organization >60% (Goetzel & Ozminkowski, 2008).

The type AND frequency of engagement matters if you hope to provide employees value and achieve sustainable health and wellbeing improvements. Our methodologies which include integrating consistent engagement into an employee’s workflow, and providing personal level contact and coaching helps us create some of the highest performing programs globally.

If you are seeking to make a quantum leap in the effectiveness of your workplace health programming, please contact us to discuss your unique workforce and challenges.

Guess Less. Gain More.

How neuroscience could change the game for executive health and performance coaching.

 

In the current competitive labor market the challenge is not only to attract the best talent, it’s also to keep them as long as possible and get the best performance out of them while you have them. More than ever, high performers want to find meaning in their work or get a sense that their work adds value to their life. Salaries are no longer the key differentiation for engaging key talent. Instead, helping high performers better themselves as people, and as workers helps them feel valued, fulfilled and more connected to your company.

Traditional executive health programs, like broader wellness programs, are largely generic and offered in the periphery as a fringe benefit. While it’s nice to have these programs, the irony is that the executives that may need them the most, the ones who are most stressed and time poor or the ones who are least proactive with their health, are the least likely to seek them out.

Now neuroscience is changing the game. Executives need programs which are efficient and relevant. The power of neuroscience in executive health and performance is that it allows for highly personalized, precise, and relevant interventions that executives can see benefit and meaning from. The other powerful benefit of having insight into personal brain chemistry is that it not only provides short term benefits, but it also (and perhaps more importantly) allows for predictive and preventive interventions which can help high performers better understand and mitigate the negative impacts of natural behaviors under periods of high stress. In contrast, other generic “stress management” programs require a lot of self-directed learning as well as trial and error to find what works for an individual under specific circumstances. That takes time and effort – something employees under high stress don’t have!

How many high potential leaders have been lost as a result of burnout? What if that risk could be minimized while also boosting performance under periods of stress? What if you could help executives improve their communication and relationships (both inside and outside of work)? What if you could help executives understand why they behave how they do – even when those behaviors may be counter to their health or performance goals? These are exactly some of the ways in which neuroscience can provide more precise answers and add value to an executive health and performance initiative.

Besides the individual value for executives or high value talent, there are broader potential impacts. Do you have “executive support for wellness” but struggle to actually get your executive teams to actively participate? A “good for our people but not good enough for me” type attitude can be very damaging toward attempts to build a culture of health. It also widens the gap between management and the broader population by feeding that “them and us” mentality. A program which genuinely provides management with positive personal value in regards to improving health, wellbeing, and performance can make your executives some of your biggest champions for broader health promotion. Nothing helps build support like experiencing personal success. Not only are they more likely to inherently understand the benefits and support the programs, but they are more likely to be seen actively promoting or participating. That difference between supporting in principle and actually leading by example can have a huge impact on culture and the promotion of organizational values.

If you’ve struggled to engage executives in effective health promotion or to find something that can give add more meaningful personal value in developing both personally and professionally, then a small pilot (say, a team of 5 for 8 -12 weeks) incorporating and utilizing the insights of neuroscience is fairly inexpensive and can achieve short term health improvements, long term resilience and performance gains, as well as boosting job engagement for your biggest human assets. To learn more, contact us and ask about out Chemistry for Success brain chemistry program.

Why “Hub & Spoke” Wellness Models Under-perform

What if you could DOUBLE the positive impact at HALF THE COST of most current “wellness” models? What if you could truly get your population engaged (over 80%), and have over half of your population improve their health, without any incentives? Wouldn’t that be worth considering?

While most large employers in the U.S. say they offer a wellness program, less than 7% use all the program components required for successful interventions (Goetzel & Ozminkowski, 2008). So, chances are, you are throwing money at an under-performing employee health promotion program.

The greatest weakness in most health promotion strategies is that the interventions are designed for the wrong people. Most interventions are built to accommodate people at advanced stages of behavioral readiness. The problem is, the vast majority of people are at early stages of readiness, and unfortunately, simply raising their awareness or incenting them to minimally engage will not magically advance them to the stage of sustainable action.

The “default” wellness strategy of most large organizations is a hub and spoke model like this (click here).

I understand the logic – “people have different needs and interests, so let’s put together an array of options to cover all our bases…”

Unfortunately, most of these bases are never reached. They require an employee to proactively choose to engage (e.g. opt in, log on, make a call, fill out a form, or attend something outside of their normal work and routine).

As you can imagine, being proactive is not a characteristic of someone at an early stage of readiness (i.e. most of your workforce). Even if you get someone to participate, the expectations or actions within the individual programs are short term, or also oriented to people who are ready to make a change. And finally, even for those who do participate in some activities within this model, travel within this framework is a constant “out and in”. That is, it is rare for the different elements of the program to cohesively reinforce each other or actively encourage flow around the circle from one activity to the next. The result is that overall engagement is low, and repeat consistent engagement across different activities (which is most likely to reinforce and facilitate change) is even lower.

These downfalls lead us to incentives. When traditional “wellness” wasn’t working, rather than address the flaws in the model, the great epiphany was to introduce incentives. Again, I see the logic – “we have all these great programs available, if only people would use them…so let’s use incentives and challenges to make it fun and rewarding, and everything will be fixed, right?…”

Well, it turns out that works initially…but it’s superficial and unsustainable. People can be easily enticed to make short term shifts or episodic changes, but these rarely translate into meaningful sustained change because you haven’t appropriately taken an individual through a complete, inherent change process. So as soon as the incentive is removed or is no longer appealing, or as soon as a non-routine stressful interruption happens in someone’s life, they inevitably revert back to their old poor behaviors. Why? Because the episodic behavior was never inherently driven or meaningful – and as soon as it’s no longer convenient, it’s terminated.

That brings us to the current state of our industry. The majority of workplace health promotion programs are vastly under-performing, yet companies continue to increase incentives or chop and change vendors in an attempt to make marginal improvements – all while slowly losing faith that any of it is worth the effort (or cost) – and all while slowly extinguishing any limited motivation their workforce may have had. According to SHRM, the average wellness incentive is now just shy of $600 per head per year. That’s a really poor investment of wellness budgets which could more effectively be spent on better interventions.

In any other aspect of business, if you determine there is an ineffective process, do you continue to invest more money to marginally improving that flawed process, or do you look to innovate and correct the process? Einstein is often credited with a definition of insanity to the effect of “doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome.” So I ask, are American businesses completely insane?

If people are not effectively utilizing your program without incentives, it DOES NOT mean you should tinker with different incentive models, IT DOES mean that you have the wrong program.

Low effective engagement without incentives is a clear sign that your employees do not see inherent value in your program. Therefore, you need to change your program, and what the science tells us is, you need approaches which are easier for people at earlier stages of behavioral readiness. Remove the proactive “opt-in” barriers, reduce the clutter of excess, narrowly-focused programs, and create a basic process of consistently and repeatedly delivering short – sharp bits of relevant, actionable health information to your whole population.

If budget permits and methods of appropriate coaching that allow the information to be tailored and delivered relevant to an individual’s personal needs and stage of readiness, then the impact is even greater. You can still have other relevant targeted interventions available for those that need them, but people’s progress towards those more advanced interventions should be nurtured and supported – not coerced.

At HBD, we’ve rethought the health promotion model. We’ve de-cluttered it – because that makes it simple and more relevant for people at earlier stages of behavioral readiness. We try to filter out the noise, and create a clear, structured process for more consistently “drip-feeding” relevant and progressive education using fun, non-threatening themes which help re-frame complex health concepts. We work to integrate the education and engagement into the normal work flow so that people don’t have to opt-in, and we adjust the content so that it’s relevant depending on individual interests, needs, and stage of readiness. While additional resources for high risk individuals may still be necessary (e.g. PCP, EAP), moving people to an appropriate stage of readiness before referring them to these services will make the interventions more successful. This more successful health promotion model is more linear (click here) and provides greater consistency and continuity, making engagement and action far more sustainable.

So if your health promotion strategy looks like the hub and spoke model: stop. If the value of your annual wellness incentives are more than $100 per head: stop. If challenges or incentives are the only things that are keeping your program alive: stop. There is little long term value in continuing to battle for marginal improvements within that flawed system. Instead, reinvent the system, and redistribute that wellness budget into something that will actually make a difference, and that your employees will actually get satisfaction and value from.

You have very little to lose from at least giving us the time for a conversation. If the idea of DOUBLING your program effectiveness while potentially reducing the investment at all peaks your curiosity, then try giving us a call or visit the “contact us” page and send us an email.

 
 

Fill the Gaps for Sustainable Outcomes

Workplace health promotion strategies continue to evolve. But are the ideas really changing, or are we just throwing new tools at old problems? For many employers the problem lies not within their specifically chosen vendor or this year’s “beta version” of their favorite tool, but rather in the structure of their approach in general. Program pieces are not implemented with a strong strategic process or alignment. Instead, many programs have strong start points and end points but lack considerable consistency and strategy to help people navigate the area in between. Unfortunately it’s that “in between” where people’s behavioral journey evolves.

In the wellness industry new companies, new technologies, and new iterations seem to germinate constantly. And yet while so much changes, there’s so much that stays the same. New products and technologies are touted as innovative and game changing, and yet many of their applications rely on principles of traditional approaches which are known to be flawed – short term challenges, self-directed learning, sleeker looking platforms or apps, more accurate activity trackers, smarter bean-counters for incentive systems…

Many of these strategies still rely too heavily on the employee being proactive. That is, making the assumption that they are at an advanced enough stage of readiness to engage with the platform or be convinced to engage via incentives. However, the majority of people are not at an advanced enough stage of readiness, and incentives do not foster the type of inherent motivation required to get them there (refer to previous posts for more discussion on the down sides of incentives). Many of the strategies we continue to see defer to the traditional: testing to identify risk, filter high risk into disease management while trying to get the rest to proactively engage in optional challenges, opt-in coaching or requiring people to maintain or improve their test results in order to receive incentives the following year.

Improving health and changing behavior (in a sustainable way) is a lifelong endeavor. Stop-start programs like challenge based programs can be disjointed and begin to feel repetitive. Testing, triage, clinical compliance and retesting puts a lot of emphasis on outcomes without giving people the physical and mental tools to sustainably evolve their behaviors in the middle – that is, people might reach goals in the short term, but you haven’t changed their mindset or behaviors for the long term.

More evolved programs are ones that blur the boundaries between the separate health promotion activities. Rather than a distinct series of events, services, challenges or programs which people opt in to or are ushered into via incentive plans (which inevitably leads to employees participating in some aspects but not others), elements of advanced programs seamlessly fit together and flow from one to the other. Each additional element builds on and progresses the previous. Each additional element reinforces the last and provides a new layer of information that builds motivation and skills for change. The result is less of a disjointed “two steps forward, one step backwards” stumble towards the finish line, and more of a strategic and progressive journey towards a healthier workforce.

Program integration is not about having the data from your HRA vendor filter in to your disease management vendor. Integration is about the perception from the end user. Health behaviors are complex and do not occur in isolation. Integrated programs that show the relationship between different aspects of health (i.e. an overall health program instead of separate programs for weight loss, stress management or smoking cessation…which are all inter-related) and which provide ongoing and consistent reinforcement of key skills and benefits make more sense and are more actionable in the real world compared with isolated activities.

So perhaps your next true advancement in workplace health is not looking for that next great product or technology that could add another layer or new dimension to your program. Your program may already have too many dimensions. Instead the real innovation might be stripping back some layers and getting to the core of providing a more structured and progressive approach to filling the gaps between your start and end points.

HBD are experts in population health behavior change. Our programs are designed and tailored to fit into our client’s work flow and employee life flow. The result is more sustained engagement (programs average over 80% ongoing month to month participation from the whole workforce without incentives) and high sustainable behavior change across multiple risk areas (our programs average over 65% of the entire workforce improving health behaviors or health risk measures). We don’t rely on gimmicks, just hard work. From stress, engagement and high performance to general health and injury prevention; If you want to learn more about what we can do for you, why not give us a call?

Safety Beyond Compliance

Honored this past week to be invited to speak and share best practices at a European Union OSHA event on effective safety communications and behavior change. It’s always nice to have your work recognized for effectiveness and innovation and to share or collaborate with like-minded people.

In the early days of workplace safety, assessing risk, engineering controls, raising awareness and enforcing compliance made great gains on injury incidence and severity. However, in many industries, while there are still opportunities to utilize technology and continue to implement job controls, injury rate reductions appear to be plateauing, and in some industries, rates are beginning to creep up again. We also continually hear concerns from safety managers about the “frustrating ones”… wondering how they can make a difference on what appear to be silly mistakes and behavioral errors.

As safety has become such an expected and routine element of the modern workplace, the risk of desensitization and “going through the motions” has become an increasing issue. In addition, we face an aging workforce and a younger generation who is, in general, in poorer physical health than the previous generation. That is, the physical capacity of our workforce and resilience to injury is decreased, while we also face new challenges of a more stressed, chronically under-rested and less attentive population.

The structure of workplace health and safety initiatives has never been more critical. While safety has done incredibly well in terms of embedding itself in company culture, where it potentially could still be improved is in the type and structure of communications at those regular touch points. Many safety models have a range of elements – from toolbox talks, to safety shares, tips of the day, audits & observations, annual training revisions and so on – the problem is that many of these elements are independent in nature, or they are campaign based, meaning that they push a singular focus for a short period before switching to a new focus at the expense of reinforcing the previous one. To be stronger from an educational perspective, and to have a greater impact on employee behavior, the structure of these programs and communications could be improved to be more consistent, provide a more tangible value proposition for employees to change (that is, be more purpose driven rather than mainly warnings or reminders of rules).

I think there are incredible opportunities for safety to broaden their perspective and consider more comprehensive initiatives that help address not only work task behaviors and ergonomics, but also improved resilience to injury through promoting meaningful maintenance of physical capacity and meaningful education and mitigation of poor engagement, focus, fatigue, and mental health concerns. Workers on auto-pilot will inevitably cause errors. Workers who come to work in poor physical and mental condition are not only under-productive, but they are at risk. More effective integration or safety and broader elements of health also provide more personal benefit to employees – bridging that gap between personal and professional gain – which are likely to improve their perception of, and engagement in the organization.

I was particularly buoyed by a presentation from a multi-national software company, who is thinking of using worker happiness ratings as a leading indicator of risk. It’s one simple example of how stepping back and thinking beyond traditional engineering, PPE, risk assessments and audits could open the door to more effective interventions.

If you’d like to learn more about HBD’s award winning and industry leading approaches to health and safety behavior change, including programs that achieve an average of 30-60% reductions in injury, hit the “contact” link and send us a note.

Disconnect to Connect

Did you know today the #InternetTurns30? (Just for giggles, here’s the first web page. Go on, check it out, you know you’re curious… It’s OK, I’ll wait). Boy, how our world and culture has changed since then!

While the internet and technology has opened the door to seemingly limitless opportunities and information; it’s also created overload. Never have we been so connected yet simultaneously so lonely. “Communication” is not the same as social interaction and connection. Connectedness, social interaction, interpersonal relationships and support are all critical to our wellbeing.

Among the thousands of emails, tweets, pokes, swipe rights, news feeds, likes (and not to mention actual work) that people partake in every day, is it really any wonder that companies struggle to get employees to engage with their wellness web portal? #HeckNo

 

Wellness programs structured primarily as a web portal, an app, a device, a challenge, or counting points… or even a seemingly “comprehensive combination” of these things (read: Achieve Incentive Level 1 by doing a screening, logging in to the web portal once, and registering for one challenge; Achieve Incentive Level 2 by doing all of the above, plus do an even more generic challenge, run around the block backwards and chug a glass of water; Achieve Incentive Level 3 by completing all of the above plus learning the secret handshake and… WTF?…Seriously? That is not making me healthy!). At best, they tick the box and provide some resources for the small portion of your workforce who are specifically interested in managing their own health… ahem… sorry, that’s only about 3-30% of your population. At worst, they become a chore, a process employees begrudgingly comply with simply to receive their premium discount. Yes, that’s right – they can actually be dis-engaging (#gasp!).

 

A client recently articulated it quite well:

We soon learned it’s one thing to offer a good wellness program, but it’s another to offer a program that truly engages the workforce. People will go through the motions to gain financial incentives, prizes, or discounted insurance premiums, but simply going through the motions doesn’t lead to sustainable results.

Some think that on-site coaching isn’t effective, or that it’s too expensive (sorry to burst your bubble… it’s cheaper than the hundreds of dollars of incentives you are using to coax people to participate in things that are less effective). Real people meeting employees where they’re at – actually connecting with them, listening, and guiding long-term positive improvement is so refreshing in our modern connected world that it’s increasingly more effective. While tech is often “sexy” and coaching might feel antiquated…(you mean they come and talk to me. with their mouth. more than 240 characters. using full sentences and punctuation. OMG LOL). It shows your employees a genuine level of commitment and care. It also conquers the number one reason why employees don’t participate in wellness programs: a lack of perceived personal relevance. What could be more personal than someone working with you on your own specific goals?

Imagine if more that 80% of your total workforce was engaged in your wellness program – ongoing, without incentives. (Is that even possible? #HeckYes!) Imagine if more than 2/3rds of your workforce were actively improving their health and lifestyle behaviors. That’s what can be achieved when you provide a program where employees actually get inherent value.

 

Programs which are campaign based or comprised of a bunch of individual (but independent) elements will always struggle to gain employee attention, sustain high engagement or lead to anything other than short-term shifts in behavior.

Programs which have a strong foundation in routinely connecting with employees within their regular workflow, checking-in and providing content that’s relevant and progressive will be far more effective at sustaining the interest of employees and influencing more sustainable behavior change.

So while the internet has changed our world in amazing ways, it’s also created a whole host of new-world problems. Sometimes the best way to truly connect is actually by disconnecting. #MindBlown

Interested in learning more about health, wellness, high performance, and safety programs with results that more than DOUBLE industry averages? Check out www.hbdinternational.com. I’d say just PM me if you have questions… but that might be hypocritical given the content of this article… so maybe you should call instead 🙂

Safety Month 2019

The theme for Safe Work Month 2019 is: ‘Be a safety champion’. How will you be a safety champion?

Traditional approaches to safety are often compliance driven. However, stop and think about your most common workplace injuries and accidents. The majority of these are preventable, and strongly relate to employee focus, stress, fatigue, task behaviours, and physical condition. This is why we help you move beyond compliance. We will help you influence safer behaviours and a safer culture, as well as create health and safety initiatives to target your key organisational risks. This is the stuff that has a REAL impact on safety and lives. Are you ready to commit to building a safer and healthier workplace for your staff and colleagues? Below is just a snippet of what you could implement at your workplace to spread the National Safety Month message.

Workshop + action planning session: Choose from a range of topics and take it to the next level with an action planning session so your staff can immediately implement what they’ve learned – this is where the magic happens!

Roving interactive displays: We bring the display to your employees for minimal disruption to their work day. All interactive displays are attention-grabbing, educational and engaging. Your staff don’t even have to leave their work station to benefit!

Healthy Heart Screens: Healthy employees are safer workers, with much lower injury risks. Join the dots between health and safety by booking Healthy Heart Screens for your workforce. It only takes 15 minutes.

Ergonomic assessment options: Choose from 15 minute comprehensive ergonomic assessments, deskdrop coaching including a 5-point workstation check or a workshop + ergonomic assessments combination. An ergonomic work station set up = lower injury risks + higher productivity.

Senseless safety expo: A fun and interactive safety exhibition. When it comes to safety, there are no second chances! Staff will learn how to stay switched on, protect their senses and stay on top of their safety at work.

Brain chemistry – the implications on safety and risk taking workshop: Your staff can learn how their individual brain chemistry influences their health, their safety, their likelihood of taking risks and the strategies they can put in place to reduce safety risks.

Plan for a safer, healthier workforce with a National Safety Month service now. Be a safety champion! Contact us today to book in one of the above services or to discuss what would be the best fit for your workforce.

Your brain on food

Let’s look at the link between nutrition & mental health. Let’s call it food for thought! See what we did there 😉

 

Did you know?

Nearly two thirds of those who do not report daily mental health problems eat fresh fruit every day, compared with less than half of those who do report daily mental health problems!

Studies have also shown that when people take probiotics, their anxiety levels, perception of stress and mental outlook improve, compared with people who did not take probiotics.

Research also shows that people who eat more unhealthy and junk foods are at increased risk of depression.

Let’s look at the following food rules for good mental health.

 

To have the best shot at feeling good mentally and physically, follow these key rules when making food choices:

  1. Food from a farm is probably good for you; if it comes from a factory it probably isn’t.

  2. Does it rot? If it doesn’t, it’s unlikely to be good for you.

  3. Does it have a brand? If so, it’s unlikely to be good for you.

  4. Would your great-grandmother have recognised it as food? If not, it’s unlikely to be good for you.

 

What do you think about these ‘rules’?

 

If you’re ready to take action, here’s one nutrition change you can implement immediately to improve mental health outcomes:

 

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.

Are you keen to learn more? Could your workforce benefit from education around how they can prevent poor mental health? (tip: EVERYONE can be healthier, mentally)

Research tell us that mental health conditions present substantial costs to organisations. However, through the successful implementation of an effective action to create a mentally healthy workplace, organisations, on average, can expect a positive return on investment (ROI) of 2.3. That is, for every dollar spent on successfully implementing an appropriate action, there is on average $2.30 in benefits to be gained by the organisation.

How can we best help you? Speak with us about your unique needs and challenges, and what you’d like to achieve. We’d love to help you make a difference to your organisation.

Contact us today.

Body Mechanics: Joining the dots between lifestyle, health & injury risk.

How does your lifestyle & health make you more – or less – likely to suffer an injury?

 

Lifestyle factors, physical capacity and resilience to injury are all linked. See below for a selection of examples of this link: 

  • Strength & flexibility: inadequate flexibility leads to stiffness, poor posture, back problems, movement limitations, fatigue and higher risk of injury.

  • Excess weight: 1kg of extra weight equals 3kg extra pressure on your knees, increasing the rate of wear and tear and putting you at greater risk of injury.

  • Nutrition: prevent fatigue and improve concentration on the task at hand by eating small, frequent meals throughout the day.

  • A person with sleep apnoea = 7 times more likely to have a car accident.

  • Obesity increases the risk of injury, including an increased probability of slips, trips and falls and musculoskeletal injury. Sleep apnoea increases road injury risk and is strongly associated with obesity.

  • Poor posture: this places extra pressure on your spine, increasing your risk of back injury (such as a slipped disc).

  • Diabetes and pre-diabetes results in an increased risk of blurred vision, black spots and holes in vision.

  • Fatigue: can result in a lack of alertness, slower reactions to signals or situations, and affect a worker’s ability to make good decisions.

 

What lifestyle prescriptions would be most effective for you – and/or your workers – to improve physical capacity and resilience to injury? (If you’re not sure – we’re here to help!)

Numerous research studies consistently show that worker health and wellbeing is closely linked to productivity, risk of injury and business costs. It’s time to take action.

One of our health and injury prevention solutions is ‘Body Mechanics’. It involves a fun, engaging and different way to look at the body that works to improve health, physical capacity and task specific techniques to reduce injury risk.  Let us know if you’d like to find out more about how this program could work at your workplace!

Effective Ergonomics: Ergonomics beyond compliance

Effective Ergonomics is more than just ergonomics. It is part of a program and suite of materials we have developed that looks to join the dots between key health risk factors and the impact they have on how a person works.

 

We know that by outlining simple and effective changes to workstation set up, employees can prevent musculoskeletal pain and improve performance. However, this goes beyond your standard ergonomic assessment/program (ie. chair set up, phone use, availability of foot rests). 

 

We consider factors such as hydration, movement, nutrition and stress because the research has shown us that they have a considerable impact on work performance. For example:

  • Regular breaks: research recommends that computer based or seated workers take a 1-2 minute break to stretch and mobilise muscles, for every 30 minutes of sitting they undertake.

  • Nutrition: brain glucose is depleted approximately every 2 hours. Hence the correlation between regular small amounts of nutritious food and efficient cognitive function and energy levels – both of which can impact posture, ergonomics and movement compliance.

  • Hydration: low water intake is associated with increased levels of dehydration, which can be linked to joint-related problems and fatigue

 

For a quote or more information on how we can help you achieve better work performance and reduced ergonomic-related injuries at your workplace, contact us today.

A look at the health of Australia’s FIFO workforce

How can you make 14 x 12-hour consecutive shifts in a hot, dirty and isolated work environment attractive? How about a six-figure salary, meals, accommodation and every third week off with a plane ticket home? It’s a start, but what effects will such a demanding schedule have on a worker’s health and personal relationships?

 

FIFO work schedules

Fly-in and fly-out (FIFO) work schedules became popular in the 1990s as a way of attracting skilled workers to the industry, with over 40 mining operations Australia wide (majority in Western Australia and Queensland) adopting the idea. Fast-forward to 2019 and the odds are you know at least one person living this lifestyle.

It’s certainly a cost effective option for mining organisations in comparison to establishing and maintaining remote residential communities for their employees. FIFO employment is often promoted as a way of improving the quality of life of employees by allowing the freedom to live in urban communities rich in culture and resources for their families.

However, there is much controversy over who wins and loses with FIFO arrangements. Regional governments air concerns on the impact to regional communities. For example: workers utilise local infrastructure whilst on site, but contribute little to the local community life. Is the opportunity of maintaining work in the mines with an ability to live in urban areas is contributing to rural population decline?

There is also the popular notion of getting ‘sucked in’ to a FIFO lifestyle. Individuals entering these projects with a short-term plan of working hard, making good money and then moving on become accustomed to living within inflated salary ranges and can find it difficult to get out. They end up instead choosing to tolerate isolated working conditions in order to meet their financial obligations, an idea referred to as the ‘golden hand-cuffs’ in a report in The Australian newspaper. 

Therefore, we should consider – what are the costs of being trapped in a work environment you do not wish to remain? How does that dissatisfaction translate to mental wellbeing? What are the impacts on relationships and physical health of demanding work, separation from family and social networks, increasing fatigue and emotional drain?

The health status of workers

The health and wellbeing of workers has challenged the Australian mining industry for almost 70 years, yet it has never found itself in such an exciting position; poised at the brink of becoming a true leader in promoting a healthy workplace.

Historically, health and lifestyle consequences range from physical to emotional and social. Strains on interpersonal relationships may be the most obvious downside of FIFO work. Although such work environments may bring employees closer, these relationships cannot replace the interactions with friends and family outside of the workplace.

Below is just a small a snapshot of some of the health issues facing a FIFO workforce:

  • Two-thirds of FIFO workers report moderate or high levels of dissatisfaction with the time available for social and domestic activities.

  • 23% strongly agree that their work had a negative effect on their families.

  • Sleep quality for FIFO workers is significantly worse than their non-FIFO counterparts.

  • 26% of FIFO workers could not recall any available mental health support services onsite.

  • A small WA study found that FIFO workers had higher rates of obesity than the national average and that more than 80% of them were at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes or heart disease.

  • A study that looked at the health of workers and their partners found that both workers and partners reported poorer sleep and nutrition quality for on-shift periods compared with off-shift days. Both workers and partners exercised less, smoked more cigarettes and took more physical health medication.

  • Numerous studies show sleep disturbances, substance abuse (including alcohol) and chronic fatigue affect as many as two-thirds of our FIFO workers.

  • Employees working night shifts or shifts longer than 12-hours report higher rates of fatigue, drug and alcohol abuse, and psychological distress. This translates to HUGE impacts on the quality of their work performance, and how safely they can do their job.

Future progress

To the mining industry’s credit, since 2005 there has been an encouraging shift to manage employee fatigue by shortening longer shift cycles. In 2006, the Council for Minerals and Energy in Western Australia reported a rise in the proportion of companies moving to 8 hour shifts, and no companies using shifts longer than 13 hours. These organisations can expect significant returns via improved employee productivity and work satisfaction.

Could these gains in productivity and work balance be further enhanced by promoting better physical health and lifestyle behaviours?

In short – absolutely!

 

Improving the health, focus and vitality of a mining workforce has a huge potential to impact the sustainability of one of Australia’s biggest economical export sectors. It has been demonstrated that men involved in FIFO work are clearly able to identify aspects of a healthy lifestyle, including consumption of a healthy diet, regular physical activity, relaxation and good-quality sleep. However, few maintain such practices in their own lives, citing perceived lack of time, fatigue and stress as barriers.

 

There is emerging evidence that elite workplace health promotion companies are capable of driving widespread improvements of lifestyle behaviours across many industries. Due to advances in communication technology and streamlining of contact modalities, it is now possible to actively engage a working population, empowering and nurturing them through the process of modifying their health and lifestyle.

Evidence shows us that single, stand-alone awareness programs, training or health assessments do not provide long-term or sustainable improvements to health or safety behaviours.

Comprehensive programs that foster an environment which facilitates sustained positive change and continually reinforces healthy choices have been shown to be most effective.

 

FIFO operations provide a unique opportunity to address a workforce historically challenged at maintaining their physical and mental wellbeing.

These settings inherently create a captive audience allowing unprecedented access while at work and at camp. As new projects break ground, organisations should consider taking this opportunity to help develop a healthier, more productive, more satisfied and ultimately more sustainable workforce in order to optimise their human assets.

Isn’t it time we broadened our scope and definition of health and safety?

Let health and safety not merely mean absence of accident and disease, but rather optimal vitality and wellbeing. Through education, encouragement and follow-up we can empower workers with the knowledge and the means to improve their lifestyle behaviours, making them healthier, happier, safer and more productive – at home and at work.

Health by Design are leaders in designing and implementing effective workplace health, injury prevention, and high performance programs. With a focus on working with clients to create engaging programs which successfully help employees change their behaviour, we are well placed to provide programs which will positively impact a business’ workforce costs and performance outcomes. Contact us to learn about how Health by Design’s award winning programs may be able to help you and your team.

Little wins, BIG results

A common mistake many people make: Assuming small changes don’t add up.

The underlying assumption is that your achievements need to be big to make a difference. Because of this, we always talk ourselves into chasing a big habit! “If I want to lose at least 10 kilos, I need to start busting my butt and working out for 90 minutes a day!” Sound familiar?

If you look at your current habits, however, you’ll see a different picture. Nearly every habit you have today, good or bad, is the result of many small choices made over time. It is the repeated pattern of small behaviours that leads to significant results. Each day we make the choice to become one percent better or one percent worse, but so often the choices are small enough that we miss them.

Small changes add up to big wins!

50% of heart disease can be prevented with good nutrition & moving regularly. With the right help (you can’t just tell people what to do!), good nutrition and moving regularly isn’t hard to achieve. But the impact is HUGE!

A little change: five serves of fruit & vegetables a day = big results

  • 20% lower risk of heart disease & stroke

  • 35% reduced risk of lung cancer

  • 25% reduction in risk of premature death… to name a few.

That’s a small price to pay for big results. It’s also only a small habit to change/make for a big payback.

 

Are you ready to learn more about our Little Wins, Big Results services?

You could start with an interactive workshop, interactive display, health promotion material or a full program – completely customised to suit the needs AND budget of your workforce.

 

Contact us today if you have any questions or you’re ready for some BIG changes at your workplace.

Run a workplace challenge/competition and reap the benefits of healthier, happier employees

Health by Design have created and developed a wide range of workplace challenges, designed to engage your employees in positive health behaviours.

Competitions encourage team work, camaraderie, improved culture, all while having a positive impact on one’s health.

Two of our most popular challenges are the “Walkabout Challenge” and the “Healthy Habits Challenge”.

The “Walkabout Challenge” is a team based physical activity competition where teams make their way along a virtual track of your company’s choice e.g. West Coast to East Coast, Sydney to Perth, The Great Ocean Road, Melbourne to Alice Springs, The Murray River

Track, Perth to Broome.

Walkabout challenge online preview

The competition length can of-course be selected to suit company needs and logistics.

The competition can be run and managed on or off line depending on what best suits the participating employee group. The inbuilt activity converter on our online system allows competition participants to participate in physical activities other than just walking, such as riding and cycling.

 

The “Healthy Habits Challenge” is designed to encourage employees to practice healthy behaviours, the Healthy Habits Challenge can be run as an individual challenge or team based challenge.

Healthy habits challenge resources

Healthy habits challenge resources

Each employee is asked to:

• Start performing a new healthy behaviour

• Stop performing an existing unhealthy behaviour

• Keep performing an existing healthy challenge

Points are awarded according to how well you stick to your chosen ‘start’, ‘stop’ and ‘keep’ habits. The competition is designed to run for one calendar month.

If you’d like to learn more about how easily you can implement a workplace challenge/competition for your workforce, get in touch today!

Obesity & injury risk: joining the dots

Obesity and injuries each have their own significant burdens on society, and the workplace is no exception. But what about the link between the two? Let’s delve a little deeper.

The increasing and strong prevalence of overweight and obesity across Australia has huge impacts on our workplaces. Put simply, overweight workers are less productive, need more time off and they are more prone to injury.

This is obesity by the numbers:

  • 2 in 3 adults are overweight or obese.

  • Obesity is linked to over 4 million lost work days each year.

  • Overweight employees are 15% more likely to suffer a workplace injury. For obese employees, this figure rises to 48%.

  • The probability of being absent from work increases with increasing body weight. Overweight workers are 32% more likely to miss work, obese workers are 62% more likely and the morbidly obese are more than 118% more likely to miss work than their healthy weight counterparts.

 

The link between obesity & injury risk – why it needs to be a priority for your workforce:

 

For every kilogram you are overweight, 3 extra kilos of pressure is placed on the knees.

 

Obesity accelerates wear on the joints limiting the body’s amount of movement and agility. Obese workers will often experience difficulty squatting and climbing stairs. This is because the force on the knees is about three times a person’s body weight with walking – when other activities such as running or climbing stairs are undertaken, the forces can reach six to 10 times the body weight.

 

Can you afford for your staff to have difficulty squatting and climbing stairs? Unfortunately, these are basic activities that need to be performed daily for a large percentage of the population, but 2 in 3 of these people will be doing it and be at high risk of sustaining an injury.

Being overweight or obese also restricts your physical capacity by reducing mobility and flexibility, which leads to a higher risk of injury compared to healthy weight workers without these physical capacity limitations. Research states that the probability of falls, trips or stumbles, and resulting musculoskeletal injury, rises with obesity. This is at least partially attributed to the way obesity negatively affects balance and postural stability, increasing the risk of falling. There is also evidence that obesity increases the risk of certain work-related injuries such as musculoskeletal disorders, heat stress, transportation accidents and vibration- induced injury. Alarmingly, protective clothing and equipment may be less likely to be worn by obese workers, or be less suitable for them because of poor fit or reduced availability, potentially leaving the worker vulnerable to injury. Or, obese employees may simply be less likely to wear protective equipment such as gloves and goggles because it is uncomfortable. This is a huge risk that could ultimately cost a life or significantly reduce quality of life due to catastrophic injury.

 

Is it your industry? Does the job promote obesity?

Research continually tells us that shift work can contribute to obesity due to the disrupted sleep and eating patterns which characterise this work type. Any job roles that are sedentary in nature, such as office jobs and truck/taxi driving, also promote obesity if employees do not have opportunities to exercise – and/or the education and awareness of the importance of exercise and healthy eating. In addition to this, job roles which involve meeting deadlines and working under time pressure may also encourage weight gain if employees do not have time to prepare healthy food or take time out to exercise. Nor does this consider the impact of stress on one’s health, which can also significantly impact waistlines.

If you consider yourself to be in a high risk industry, or you agree that 2 in 3 Australian workers being at risk of injury due to their weight is too high – then get in touch today to discuss the many options e have available. Our workplace services are customised to each workforce, ensuring the biggest impact on health and lives changed for the better.

 

Email [email protected] to get the ball rolling on improved health, safety & injury outcomes for your workplace today.

Self care during the Coronavirus outbreak

The outbreak of the Coronavirus may be very stressful for some people, and be impacting your or those around you in various different ways.

 

Thankfully, despite the extraordinary circumstances we currently find ourselves in, there are still a number of things you can do to support yourself and those around you:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories – including social media. Repeatedly hearing about the pandemic can be upsetting, and increase feelings of fear, panic and anxiety.

  • Take care of your body. Make the time to take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs. Consider these your ‘essentials’.

  • Make time to unwind. Find the time to do activities you enjoy.

If you are in self-isolation, quarantine or social-distancing, Lifeline Australia recommends the following strategies:

  • Perspective – try to see this time as unique and different, not necessarily bad, even if it something you didn’t necessarily choose.

  • Connection – think of creative ways to stay connected with others, including social media, email and phone.

  • Be generous to others – giving to others in times of need not only helps the recipient, it enhances your wellbeing too. Is there a way to help others around you?

  • Stay connected with your values. Don’t let fear or anxiety drive your interactions with others. We are all in this together!

  • Daily routine – create a routine that prioritises things you enjoy and even things you have been meaning to do but haven’t had enough time. Read that book, watch that show, take up that new hobby. Try to see this as a new and unusual period that might even have some benefits.

  • Limit your exposure to news and media. Perhaps choose specific times of day when you will get updates, and ensure they are from reputable and reliable sources.

If you would like to distribute a mental health resource to your staff or team during this time, please feel free to email [email protected] to request a copy of our ‘Self-care during the Coronavirus’ handout.

Navigating mental fitness during COVID-19

There is a real, current challenge for people and companies in staying ‘mentally fit’ right now. But where there is a challenge, there is also a huge opportunity for organisations.

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- i.e. 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!) are rapidly expanding with the stress of COVID-19. But many need help with HOW to do 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.

Having already dealt with the immediate physical risks associated with COVID-19 (i.e. the basics of removing people from crowded office spaces, improved hygiene processes and limiting face to face contact etc.), many organisations are now considering how they will meet their obligation to provide an ergonomically/physically safe work environment, as employees set up workspaces from home. The aim here is obviously to mitigate against ergonomic injury risk to employees and subsequent (costly) WorkCover claims. We have remote, online ergonomic options that meet this need.

Organisations are also now considering their obligations to deliver a “mentally safe” work environment for their employees. In part because it is their legal obligation, but also because they are particularly mindful of being able to deliver business continuity during and beyond the current circumstances we find ourselves in – and this requires healthy, operational staff.

In Australia, employers have a duty under workplace health and safety legislation to provide and maintain (as far as is reasonably practicable) a safe workplace. In addition, employers have a duty to monitor the health of their employees, which extends to risks around employee psychological and mental safety. We can assist organisations in meeting these obligations – it’s one of our areas of expertise.

How can we help? We have programs that address the things we can control, i.e. sleep, nutrition, movement, caffeine, alcohol, mindfulness etc. This will help employers meet their obligations to keep the 50% well, while also being scientifically proven to improve the health of the health of the 30% and 20% of your workplace. This latter category is made up of vulnerable and unwell people. We address your obligations via a total population approach.

You might have an EAP program in place. But now is the time to be proactive about mental health, not simply reactive. 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 population will have diagnosed depression or anxiety each year. This is BEFORE considering the mental health impact of COVID-19 and its associated isolation:

  • 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

How is your organisation supporting its people through COVID-19? Let’s get proactive together, because the mental health of your workforce cannot be ignored and it’s your legal obligation. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

How to keep a remote team connected during COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed a lot of areas of everyday life, for a lot of people. A huge amount of us are now working from home, without the usual opportunities for social connection due to not being ‘at the office’ (or your usual place of work), as well as due to the government restrictions in place to help us stop the spread.

A global health crisis and a resulting change in work arrangements has the potential to create tremendous stress and anxiety for you and those around you.

Feeling lonely can increase the risk of depression by 15.2%(1) and can be linked to poor health behaviors, poor sleep, and poor immune function, leading to a potential greater risk of COVID-19 infection, as well as a cold or the flu. According to a Workforce study, isolated employees are often less productive, make poorer decisions and are less committed to their employers.(1) 40% of lonely workers feel less productive, 38% make mistakes and 36% report getting sick more often(2). Can you afford these outcomes for your remote team and colleagues?

Below are a few effective strategies that you can implement in a short space of time in order to take action against reducing these employee health and productivity risks.

  • Ensure everyone has access to platforms that allow for social connection. This could be a WhatsApp group, Zoom meeting software, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Skype, etc. There is an abundance of software available that allows for video conferencing; the key is to make sure everyone knows how they can access it. Of equal importance is to ensure they have access to a camera and microphone. In some circumstances, this will be built into a laptop, for others they may need to have a separate device purchased.

  • Organise a daily/weekly catch up. If you’re at work, it’s easy to go and chat to someone at their desk or as you pass them on the way to the photocopier or kitchen. Working from home takes away this luxury. If your team or colleagues are working remotely, set up regular online catch-ups. This provides a good opportunity to check if anyone is experiencing any IT or work-related issues and/or to make sure everyone knows what they’re doing. If nothing else, it allows the opportunity to see another face and someone to talk to. For some, this might be the only time they get this human interaction. With remote teams, communication can be more challenging and things can get lost in translation, therefore it’s important to be crystal clear about duties and responsibilities. A weekly catch up with your team certainly supports this.

  • Be available and supportive. Everyone is feeling the strain of this “new normal”. It’s going to take some time to adjust to this change. A good question to frequently ask is how can I help you be more productive and feel more connected?” As well as making sure your team and colleagues know you’re available if they need support, you could set up an employee engagement survey (if you don’t have one in place already) to understand the general mood within your remote workforce. Upon receiving feedback, you can act accordingly.

  • Schedule time for Q&A. Regular check-ins can go a long way to make people feel included and valued, plus gives them the opportunity to raise any questions they have that they might normally ask you at your desk. These scheduled check-ins help employees maintain their productivity levels and feel less disconnected.

  • Host a workplace competition. Build & promote health, keep connected & boost morale with an online competition. This could be range from seeing who can increase their daily step count by the highest percentage to voting on the most delicious ‘at-home’ lunch recipe of the week. Competitions encourage teamwork, camaraderie, and improved culture, all while having a positive effect on an individual’s health.

How have you been staying connected and supporting your team during COVID-19? If you’d like some help or advice on how to look after employee health & mental wellbeing, contact us today to find out how we can help.

Sources:

1 – https://www.workforce.com/news/workplace-loneliness-is-sad-for-people-and-bad-for-business

 

2 – Workplace Loneliness Report – A future that works, Dr Lindsay McMillan

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,