International Leadership Week: How can leaders look after their wellbeing?

This week is International Leadership Week and offers a chance to reflect on the importance of leaders maintaining good mental health and wellbeing, considering the challenges faced by being in a leadership role, which have been exacerbated throughout the pandemic. Whilst there is considerable focus on how managers can enhance the wellbeing of their employees, we can’t forget about the leaders themselves. After all, they must be taking charge of their own wellbeing in order to continue to lead.

Challenges faced by leaders

For many leaders, the beginning of the pandemic posed significant challenges, including remote working and the requirement to make difficult decisions, such as placing employees on furlough or making redundancies. Now, employees are returning to the office and there is the new issue of the great resignation, meaning that leaders are having to constantly adapt and change their approach to ensure they continue to lead well and look after themselves and their employees. These differing challenges are likely to increase pressure on those at the top and create greater risk of burnout and poor mental health, so how can leaders ensure they look after themselves and why is it important?

Why leaders need to look after their wellbeing

It’s important that those in charge are managing their wellbeing for a number of reasons. In  high pressure positions, stress and burnout are common and preventing these responses is vital to maintaining a healthy body and mind. Moreover, poor wellbeing at the top can trickle down to influence others and lead to low morale, less productivity and consequently result in more pressure on leaders.

How can leaders look after wellbeing?

Look after mental and physical health

Physical and mental wellbeing work in tandem and there must be a focus on both to ensure the maintenance of good health. This means that it’s important to be eating well, exercising on a regular basis, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep. Wrkit’s POWR platform is a great way to monitor all of these factors and keep track of progress on each path.

Additionally, leaders need to be looking after their mind as well as their body. Practicing mindfulness is a good way to do this, or taking some time to relax through breathing exercises or release tension via yoga. Leaders are generally very busy people but it’s crucial to take some time to focus on the self and just five minutes a day can make a real difference to wellbeing.

Take a break

It’s often difficult to disconnect from work, particularly in the age of remote working, where the lines between working hours and leisure hours are often blurred. To avoid stress and burnout, it’s vital that leaders stick to their working hours as much as possible in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Whilst pressure may mean it’s tempting to carry on working late in the evenings or check emails at the weekend, this means that there is no break from work and is likely to worsen performance in the long run.

Talk or write down feelings

Although it’s reducing, there still remains some stigma around asking for help, this is especially prevalent with leaders through the idea that it shows weakness or inability to do the job well. However, it’s much more likely to set a good example of speaking up and prioritsing wellbeing that employees will really understand and appreciate. Everyone should be entitled to support, regardless of their status in a business.

Talking to friends or colleagues about mental health can often be a daunting and difficult task, so it may instead be beneficial to write down thoughts and feelings, through the practice of journaling. This helps with clearing the mind, setting priorities and problem solving.

Recognition

Finally, it’s easy to remain focused on recognising and rewarding the hard work of employees, but leaders should remember to celebrate their own successes too.  Keeping the team’s morale up is important but recognising personal achievements helps to boost self-esteem and feelings of appreciation.

To access resources to maintain great mental health and wellbeing visit https://wrkit.com/contact/request-a-demo  to request a POWR demo.

Wrkit’s Guide to Buying Irish this Christmas

Now more than ever, it’s important to shop local and buy Irish. It’s also easier to do than ever before with hundreds of Irish businesses, small and large, now selling online.

 At Wrkit, we’re proud to work with fantastic Irish businesses of all shapes and sizes. With Christmas just around the corner, and shopping getting well and truly under way, you’re sure to find that perfect gift from one our brilliant partners. We’ve put together this handy guide that will help you support Irish with your Christmas Shopping this year.

Clothing & Accessories

Duck Hook

Duck Hook is on a quest to create fashionable and affordable golf apparel. We believe you should look great on the golf course and what you wear shouldn’t ever look out of place off it.

Birthday Cufflinks

Give a gift of a piece of history with a unique handmade set of coin cufflinks, made from genuine coins using a set of upcycled coins to remember a unique event from a special year.

Best Menswear

Established in 1948, Best Menswear is one of Ireland’s leading Menswear retailers with locations around Ireland and an online shop.

CarveOn

CarveOn is an Irish crafts company making Personalised Handmade Goods and Personalised Leather Golf Accessories. They use a blend of traditional and modern techniques to make personalised gifts.

Peachylean

Peachylean are on a mission to help women to feel comfy and supported in their skin with active wear shapes and sculpts like shapewear, worn as comfortable as gym wear.

Food, Wine & Hampers

Blackrock Cellar

Blackrock Cellar is an independent fine wine and craft beer store and winner of the 2017 and 2019 National Off-licence Of The Year at the Noffla Awards.

Gifts Direct

Gifts Direct is Ireland’s largest online gifts & hampers delivery company. Thousands of specially created gifts perfect for every occasion.

The Green Grocer’s Daughter

The Green Grocer’s Daughter is a unique Irish Artisan Luxury Food & Gift Hamper Online Store which provides customers with exquisite food items and lasting gifts that keep on giving.

Cloud Picker Coffee

Specialty coffee roasters seeking the best coffee on earth. The perfect gift for that coffee lover in your life.

Hampers & Co

Hampers & Co is Irelands Luxury online Hamper & Gift retailer. For over 22 years, they have packaged, sourced designed & delivered beautifully presented hampers of exceptional quality.

Wines Direct

Wines Direct is an Irish family owned and operated wine importers with a mission to source independently made wines directly from growers around the world.

Homewares

Arran Street East

Arran Street East is a lifestyle brand, designing and making simple and beautiful ceramic tableware. They design and produce their hand-thrown pottery homewares in their Dublin studio.

April & the Bear

April and the Bear is one of Ireland’s leading interior + lifestyle stores, filled to the brim with eclectic homewares, exclusive art prints, gifts and beautiful furniture.

Rathbornes 1488

Established in Dublin in 1488, Rathbornes are the world’s oldest candle-makers. Their chandlers hand pour luxury fragranced candles, diffusers and bath and body products designed with a modern sophisticated edge.

Woolow

Woolow is a pioneering sleep-care company that designs and manufactures a range of natural, allergy free and eco-friendly sleep care products in Ireland.

Fitness & Health

Huku Balance

Based in Donegal, Huku Balance hand craft balance borads. Their boards are designed to aid you in developing better balance, coordination, and core strength, as well as having fun.

Fitness Equipment Ireland

Fitnessequipmentireland.ie is an Irish company determined to supply you with the highest quality products in fitness equipment at the lowest prices on the market.

Kuma Bikes

Kuma Bikes is an Irish electric bike company based in Dublin. Established in 2018, their goal is to offer an alternative to the traditional style electric bike.

Spotlight Oral Care

Take care of your health by taking care of your teeth. Irish brand Spotlight Oral Care is a safe and effective range of products that consumers can trust in and use in the comfort of their own home.

Kids & Toys

Jiminy Eco Toys

Jiminy Eco Toys is an eco-specialist toy company specialising in toys made sustainably from natural materials that are well-designed, well-made, educational, and fun.

Stocking Fillers Ireland

Stocking Fillers Ireland is home to a wonderful selection of quality Christmas gifts and toys. There’s something for everyone in our range of Christmas goodies.

Taylor’s Santa Experience

Taylor’s Santa Experience is Dublin’s most exciting Christmas event of 2021. End the year with this magical in-person festive event that’s sure to capture the magic and wonder of Christmas spirits.

Zoom Santa

Book your live call with Santa direct from the North Pole. Include your friends and family on the Zoom call to see your child’s reaction.

Best of the Rest

Tecca

Tecca is an Irish tech store located in Dublin. With thousands of electronics and gadgets including electric scooters, iMacs, smart home devices, and much more, you’re sure to find that perfect gift.

Buddabag

Treat yourself to the ultimate lounging experience with Buddabag. Handmade in Ireland, Buddabag is known worldwide for their high-quality products.

Mama’s Hospital Bag

Mamas Hospital Bag is an online Irish Company, providing luxury hospital bag bundles and gift boxes for mums, babies or both.

Kambukka

Say goodbye to single-use water bottles and coffee cups, and replace them with a new, sustainable and – not unimportant – stylish alternative from Kambukka.

Lifestyle Savings at Wrkit

You’ll find savings for all of the above partners and so much more in the Lifetsyle Savings module of your Wrkit portal.

If you’d like to learn more about how Wrkit can benefit your employees, get in touch and request a demo.

How employers can support financial wellbeing at work

Financial wellbeing is a significant component of overall wellbeing, defined as feeling safe, secure and in control of finances. Not feeling financially secure can cause a huge amount of anxiety and stress for employees, which can negatively impact overall productivity and performance, which is why it is so important for employers to support financial wellbeing within their organisation.

November 9th – 12th is the Money & Pensions Service’s Talk Money Week, which aims to reduce the stigma around money by encouraging conversations among families, friends, neighbours, customers, colleagues and communities.

Employers are uniquely positioned to support their employees with guidance at the times they most need it, with most employees believing there is a role for employers in supporting their personal financial wellbeing. However, only one in five are satisfied with the efforts their employer makes to help them manage their finances.

Money can be an uncomfortable workplace subject, especially for the British where it is a particularly taboo topic point, so we have compiled some tips for employers to help alleviate financial pressures from employees.

Take stock of financial wellbeing within the workplace

Sending out an anonymous survey to employees will give employers an indication of financial health within their workforce. This also gives employees an opportunity to confidentially highlight any areas that they may be struggling and the kind of support that they need.

Benefits packages

Ensure your benefits package has financial wellbeing support, and make sure this is well advertised. Wrkit’s Lifestyle Savings offering gives employees access to discounts on both leisure, such as shopping, and essential expenditure, such as fuel.

It is crucial that employees know how their benefits package can help them out financially, otherwise they won’t take full advantage of it.

Financial education

Educate employees about finance. This could be by implementing a financial wellness programme or learning module to help employees budget better, understand the importance of emergency savings, educate them on debt or plan for retirement.

Enlist expert support

Bring in varying personal financial experts to talk about topics such as the basics of investing. This will give employees invaluable extra insight into the world of finance and help them to feel more confident and comfortable in managing their money.

In addition, experts can offer financial counselling services or resources for those who need them. This will help employees be more prepared for any emergencies or setbacks that arise.

Be sensitive

The past year especially has been financially challenging for many people. By being aware of and sensitive to this, employers can improve financial education, financial health and overall wellbeing.

According to Neyber, a quarter of workers have lost sleep over money worries, 59% say that financial troubles prevent them from performing their best and 46% say pressures affect their relationship with their manager. The research also found that poor financial wellbeing costs the UK economy £120 billion and 17.5 million lost hours of work.

Request a demo of Wrkit today, and don’t let low financial health negatively impact your workforce and business.

The Power of Journaling

Journaling is a practice that has become increasingly popular as awareness of its benefits grows. Simply put, it is writing down thoughts and feelings regularly, usually daily, to help the writer to understand and process emotions. It is often likened to a more modern version of keeping a diary and is something that everyone can easily do, reaping the positive mental health benefits that come from reflecting on the day.

What are the benefits of journaling?

It may come as a surprise that there are quite so many benefits to journaling but the power of writing down thoughts and feelings to clear the mind should not be underestimated.

  • Helps to practice gratitude

Taking time to appreciate the successes of the day and celebrate these positives can increase life satisfaction and allow people to focus on what they have, opposed to what they lack. In turn, this helps to appreciate the good and alleviate negative thoughts.

  • Time to focus on the self

Dedicating just five minutes a day to sitting down somewhere comfortable and quiet to journal is a great way for people to take time for themselves. It’s also an opportunity to step away from screens and technology and really disconnect from work and the world around to focus on self-awareness and reflection.

  • Improves mental health and wellbeing

Journaling has the potential to significantly improve mental health and allows people to manage their symptoms effectively. It has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression by helping people to manage their feelings and improve memory, aid stress relief, increase optimism and improve general mood.

  • Assists with problem-solving

Writing can help to address problems and overcome them by breaking them down and making them seem more manageable. This enables people to think more clearly and tackle issues without feeling overwhelmed.

  • Benefits creativity and writing skills

Finally, journaling is also a practice that prompts and enhances creativity and allows for development of writing skills, both of which can aid performance at work. People in busy roles often have a million things going through their minds, but journaling can help consolidate these thoughts, set goals and foster clear thinking.

Tips for effective journaling

In order to get the most out of journaling, it’s important to write somewhere relaxing to optimise focus. For it to be most effective, people should get into the habit of writing every day or as regularly as possible. Always keeping the journal to hand means that it’s possible to write down thoughts throughout the day. Some people may choose to have a digital journal, for example, on their phone, which means it is always with them if they want to note something down.

The Centre for Journal Therapy offers the following tips for journaling:

  • W – What do you want to write about? What’s going on? How do you feel? What are you thinking about?
  • R – Review or reflect on it.
  • I – Investigate your thoughts and feelings. Start writing and keep writing. Follow the pen or keyboard. If you get stuck or run out of juice, close your eyes and re-centre yourself. Re-read what you’ve already written and continue writing.
  • T – Time yourself. Write for 5-15 minutes. Write the start time and the projected end time at the top of the page or set a timer on your phone.
  • E – Exit start by re-reading what you’ve written and reflecting on it in a sentence or two at a time. Note any action steps to take.

There are many benefits of journaling and the list goes on. WRKIT’s POWR platform has a reflect feature that provides prompt questions to get people started on the road to reflection and get in tune with thoughts and feelings to improve wellbeing.

World Heart Day: Why NEAT is so critical to employees’ health and wellbeing

World Heart Day, which encourages us all to take a step back and assess our cardiovascular health, falls on September 29th this year.

In terms of how we can improve our heart health – and wellbeing more generally – becoming more active is one of the most important lifestyle changes we should be looking to adopt, with studies suggesting a direct link between sitting time, obesity and impaired cardiovascular (heart) health. However, many employees frequently flag that they struggle to find time to schedule exercise around their hectic work, home and life schedules – particularly since having made the return to office-based working.

When we think of exercising, the mind tends to immediately spring to the gym or going for a run. However, arguably the most important determinant of caloric expenditure, and subsequently fat loss and cardiovascular health, is not how many times a week you work out, but rather how much you move throughout the day – known as your NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis), rather than your EAT (Exercise Activity Thermogenesis). 

Simply enough, NEAT refers to all of the activity we do outside of our “planned” exercise, such as gym sessions or cardio. NEAT can be any form of movement outside of formal exercise – whether gym-based or otherwise – such as the amount of steps you cover in a day such as on a lunchtime walk, fidgeting, and even actions such as typing. 


What are the benefits of NEAT exercise? 

Because NEAT is such a critical deciding factor behind our calories burned, those with higher NEAT levels will naturally be able to consume more calories while trying to lose fat, making NEAT a crucial tool for weight loss, dietary adherence and heart health.

Furthermore, NEAT is free, doesn’t require any special exercise kit or a monthly gym membership, and is also far more manageable than scheduled exercise due to being lower-intensity. Indeed, increasing your NEAT can be as simple as going out for a stroll during lunch, opting for the stairs rather than the lift, or even getting up from the desk to make a cup of tea.


How much NEAT exercise should employees be aiming to do?

There is no hard and fast rule around how high our NEAT should be in a given day, as it will vary greatly dependent on career and lifestyle choices. For example, employees in highly active jobs such as construction or nursing are likely to already have high NEAT levels whereas those who work in a more sedentary office job may well be lower – particularly those working from home. 

It’s not unheard of for those in more active jobs to burn hundreds, or even thousands, more calories a day than their desk-bound counterparts. Therefore, employers looking to support the health of their workforce could encourage team members to always try to get out for a walk during lunch or after work. For shorter commutes, staff could consider walking if possible, or parking the car and walking part of the way. 


How staff can increase their NEAT

Employers should note that employees increasing their NEAT will often require a continued conscious effort – particularly if they are time-poor, or on a low-calorie diet which has regularly been linked with a decrease in activity levels. This unconscious reduction, combined with the fact that many may be breaking inactivity habits formed over a lifetime of desk-based work, means that employees must make a deliberate effort to incorporate activity into their daily routine wherever possible. 

For example, if there is a choice between taking the lift and the stairs, staff could be encouraged to take the stairs by specially-placed custom signage. While actions such as this may seem small, they will have a substantial cumulative impact over time if done consistently. Employers have a critical role to play in encouraging this consistency, and to this end could consider setting company-wide initiatives, such as a timed step challenge, to inject some friendly competition while facilitating team bonding.  

Overall, just as NEAT has a critical role to play in improving heart health, so too do employers have a role in increasing NEAT amongst their workforce. For those who would like to move more, or empower others in doing so, WRKIT’s Move module on the POWR platform has over 80 hours of workouts that can be performed anytime, anywhere, as well as dozens of educational articles on the topic designed to improve staff’s knowledge, and health, significantly. To find our more about WRKIT and POWR, please visit: https://wrkit.com/products/

Recognising and managing burnout inducing stress

The discourse around workplace burnout has been increased in recent years as awareness of the damaging mental health effects of long-term, chronic, inefficiently managed stress at work has increased. Especially throughout the pandemic, when people have been working longer hours and dealing with the pressures of remote working and lockdown, incidences of people completely burning out and needing to take time off work have been prevalent. This has especially problematic among healthcare workers, with mental health related absences reported to have cost the NHS £805 million from January 2020 to June 2021.

Burnout can be avoided, but only when people are given the tools to recognise and manage the signs of stress that can amount to burnout when left alone for too long. As with other forms of stress outside of work, human psychology reacts to workplace stress in three key evolutionary displays: fight, freeze and flight.

Recognising signs of stress

Those who have a fight response to stress may experience increased irritability and anger. This can be accompanied by urges to lash out or smash something, a frequently raised voice and a tendency to be accusatory towards others. This response can also manifest physically as a tight jaw or shoulders, neck pain, high blood pressure, clenched fists and a red face.

The freeze response is expressed as an inability to concentrate, brain fog, the mind freezing or locking up and becoming very forgetful. Those experiencing a freeze response may find themselves avoiding certain situations, distancing or isolating themselves from others and becoming demotivated both at work and in life.

The flight response can cause people experiencing stress to become restless, fidgety and unable to sleep. They may also feel trapped and excessively or constantly worried. The physical manifestation of the flight response is anxiety-like symptoms, such as a tight chest, affected breathing, stomach pains and excess sweating.

Managing stress

If you notice signs of stress that are detrimental to work or your daily life, it is crucial to manage them as quickly as possible. Allowing stresses to persist on a long-term basis will lead to burnout when the brain cannot function properly anymore.

Slow the body down

Stress makes your brain and body operate at high speed and one of the first steps that need to be taken is using tools to slow it down. Guided meditation and focused breathing are effective ways to achieve this through stimulation of the diaphragm and vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve runs through the diaphragm muscle and as the muscle moves around the nerve in deep breathing exercises, a parasympathetic response, the nervous system’s relaxed state, is triggered. In addition, the heartbeat naturally slows during deep breathing as the body works to ensure that lungs are properly filled with oxygen and that excessive pressure in the arteries is avoided.

Slowing the body down will limit the physical responses to stress triggered by the evolutionary fight or flight mechanisms. Wrkit’s breathe and listen sections on the POWR platform are excellent places to start in slowing the body down and manage stress. Guided meditation sessions are also available to help refocus both body and mind.

Sleep hygiene

Focusing on your sleep hygiene plan to ensure you are sleeping well for enough time will help to regulate stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, in the body.

Establish a consistent bedtime routine so your body and brain know to start winding down for the night, try and go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, avoid exercising, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the evenings and limit blue light exposure, such as from phones, for an hour before going to sleep.

Good sleep hygiene helps to keep cortisol and adrenaline fluctuations in a normal rhythm, improving mood, lowering stress and generally supporting mental wellbeing.

Exercise and movement

Exercising boosts the production of the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters – endorphins. Any aerobic exercise will pump endorphins through the body, reducing stress. In addition, activity leads to positive physical effects, such as improving cardiovascular, digestive and immune health and can protect the body from the negative physical fight or flight responses.

In addition to exercise, daily pick me ups such as spending 10 minutes in a park or the garden can be beneficial in minimising stress. Fresh air and greenery are instant mood boosters that do not require putting time aside for a long, strenuous workout.

Personal reflections

Journalling and reflecting are effective ways to manage stress as they encourage people to scrutinise the causes and meaning of stress. It is a good technique to come to terms with and gain a deeper understanding of stress by putting it into writing and then working to improve the root causes of negative feelings.

Reflecting can give people the tools to mindfully treat triggers of stress, rather than simply managing the symptoms of the stress. This will reduce overall stress as problems are solved and removed.

To find out more about how businesses can help employees avoid burnout by effectively identifying and managing stress, request a POWR demo at https://wrkit.com/contact/request-a-demo.

Remote Working & Its Impact on Healthy Movement

Join Wrkit’s very own physical wellbeing expert, Conor Barry, and Human Centred Movement rehab therapist and movement expert, Mark McGroarty, as they discuss how remote workers can optimise their movement to reduce pain, improve posture and move better while working from home.

“Thank you for hosting a great webinar on ‘Remote working and its impact on health movement’. Within our company we had attendees from the Sales and Business development team as well as our HR department. They gave great feedback and said how helpful and informative Conor and Mark were. I think we could all take a tip or two from their presentation! We are currently transitioning back into the office following the pandemic and this topic is very high on our agendas, as well as those of our clients. The webinar topics are always on interesting and relevant subjects and presented in a way that is easy to digest. We can’t wait to see more from the WRKIT team and the webinars that they provide.”

– Stephanie George, Client Account Manager at Healix

The right to disconnect in a remote working world

New research from Autonomy thinktank has highlighted an ‘epidemic of hidden overtime’ as a result of employees working increasing hours at home. With the recent influx of companies moving to permanent remote working or hybrid working approaches, there is an evident need for the boundaries between work and home life to be more clearly defined to protect employees’ wellbeing.

The pandemic has started to instil a working environment with an increasing and unhealthy expectation for people to always be available and never wholly disconnected from work. However, this assumption can have damaging impacts on mental health, as employees are more likely to feel overwhelmed with stress if they think that they can’t take a break. As a result, there are calls for ‘right to disconnect’ laws in the UK to prevent overworking and unpaid labour.

What is the right to disconnect?

Generally, the right to disconnect means that employees do not have to engage with or reply to work-related communications, such as emails and calls, and can turn off work devices outside of working hours.

 In some countries, this is a legal right and in others, it is advisory. As ‘normal’ working hours differ across varying industries it may be beneficial for some workers to work outside of these hours and have time to disconnect at alternative times in the day.

Where is it implemented?

France is considered a pioneer in this area, leading the way in implementing laws that grant the right to disconnect. It is worked out on an individual basis to create charters that meet the needs of different businesses so companies can put their own regulations in place to determine when staff are not supposed to be disconnected.

Most recently, in April this year, Ireland granted employees the right to disconnect under a Code of Practice. Encompassed in the code is the right for employees to not have to engage in work-related matters after hours and the right not to be penalised for doing so. Additionally, workers must universally respect the right for others to disconnect.

Similar legislation has also been introduced across Europe, in countries such as Italy and Spain but there is currently no legislation in the pipeline for the UK. 

How is it beneficial?

Allowing employees time to really disconnect is beneficial for mental wellbeing and productivity and reduces the chance of staff burnout. In an increasingly remote business world, it’s fundamental to maintain a distinction between work and life.

Overall staff morale and enthusiasm is likely to dwindle if employees feel overworked and lacking in rest, which can have negative repercussions for employee retention and company reputation. The right to disconnect enables employees not to feel guilty about not responding after hours and allows for a better overall work/life balance.

How can disconnecting be encouraged?

Despite the fact that the UK government currently does not intend to implement right to disconnect legislation, there are several actions that employers can take to tackle overworking.

It should be clearly communicated to employees that they won’t be penalised for not working beyond their contracted hours and companies should encourage their staff not to respond to or send work-related communications outside of those hours. Employees should be able to take adequate holiday and have at least one rest break in the day where they can step away from their desk. Employers also have a duty to check in on staff regularly to ensure their wellbeing is not adversely affected by work.

The benefits of disconnecting cannot be underestimated, for employers and employees alike, and the increasing recognition of this is encouraging moving forward. With remote working looking like it’s set to stay, avoiding staff burnout and setting boundaries is more important than ever.

The role of the workplace in combatting loneliness

The number of adults in England who feel lonely has been on the rise since 2017, but the last year has unsurprisingly accelerated the increase. Between 2019 and 2020, loneliness in England jumped by 44% from 2.6 million people to 3.7 million as the population was forced to stay at home and socialising in professional and personal capacities became digital.

The increase in loneliness coincides with a general decline in wellbeing, which has been in motion since before the pandemic and exacerbated by lockdowns and restrictions. These red flags around general wellbeing in the population have led to calls to measure national progress in wellbeing via the gross domestic wellbeing (GDWe) index, rather than traditional metrics such as GDP.

For many people, working from home has brought about lifestyle changes that promote a better work-life balance meaning flexible, hybrid working looks like it now has a permanent place in society, but with this, there is the potential for employees to become isolated.

Following the lifting of restrictions and the return to the workplace, employers should consider the role that their office or central space has in combatting loneliness among employees and supporting their overall wellbeing.

As we move forwards, the workplace needs to become something more than simply a place to work as many people have discovered that they can effectively work from outside it. The workplace now needs to be a place for colleagues to be together, to collaborate and to socialise. Viewing it in this way and encouraging employees to think of the workplace as more than that will help to promote social interaction and minimise loneliness.

Rather than asking employees to come into work on specific days, employers could encourage them to come in for specific events. This could be work-related, for example, a team brainstorm, learning session or company catch up, or entirely social, perhaps a special lunch or post-work drinks.

By doing this, the workplace offers something extra that they don’t get at home. Offices will then move away from being a place for stress and towards being a place to interact with others, encouraging workers to spend less time alone.

Using the workplace as a social work hub will improve overall company culture, as employees have the opportunity to bond outside the boundaries of work. As well as keeping loneliness among colleagues to a minimum, promoting a social, friendly culture will improve engagement and job satisfaction.

Loneliness is a difficult feeling for people to process and can have an incredibly negative effect on overall mental health and wellbeing. Although restrictions have lifted and many people are socialising regularly again, the new hybrid working world may make it easy for people to isolate themselves from their colleagues, heightening feelings of loneliness. Putting measures in place to keep workforces cohesive and social is a great step to take in supporting employee wellbeing and combatting loneliness.

Why demanding that young people return to the office isn’t the answer

Chancellor Rishi Sunak made headlines this week when he publicly aired his view that young people should return to the office, or risk damaging their long-term career prospects. For better or worse, these comments have sparked a great deal of debate across both employers and wider society, with public opinion divided across the board.

So, is encouraging younger workers – and, indeed, the workforce in general – back to the office en masse the answer? As with so many aspects of employee wellbeing, the answer is more nuanced than a simple yes or no.

There are without doubt many benefits to having members of the team in the office full-time, such as collaboration, creativity and overall workplace culture, which is naturally crucial for long-term engagement and success. However, for many employees there is also an opportunity cost to full-time office-based working and, indeed, many staff also saw a number of benefits from working remotely – which will be difficult to give up. For example, our recent Global Working from Home Survey found that staff were almost universally sleeping better with no commute to contend with, scoring this affirmation 8.6 out of 10.

Factoring in other benefits such as staff being able to tailor workspaces to their own needs, less need to arrange childcare and being able to save money on everyday expenses such as office lunches, and it becomes clear that a blunt-force approach to enforcing office-based working will not sit well with all.

For staff to return to the office, therefore, there must be some kind of incentive for them to do so – employers must provide more of the carrot, and less of the stick. For starters, the office could, and should, become more than simply a place to work, which we now know can be achieved just as effectively as at home in many cases. Employers should position the workplace as more of a hub in which teams can come together, collaborate and socialise, creating working experiences that are greater than the sum of their parts.

Rather than asking employees to come into work on specific days, employers could encourage them to come in for specific events, such as a lunchtime learning session, a team brainstorm, or even a more social event such as a teambuilding day or post-work drinks.

By doing this, the workplace offers staff something extra that they don’t get at home. Offices will then move away from being a burden to work from and more towards being a place staff actually want to visit because of the wellness benefits the workplace offers them – not merely because they feel they have to.

Looking outside the office, the daily commute – a recurrent pain point for staff – could also change. According to new research from transport technology specialist Kura, almost a third of employees (32.4%) spend more than an hour each day commuting to and from work each day, which is time many would prefer to spend with loved ones, pursuing personal passions, or organising life admin – not to mention the significant financial cost of commuting.

Given this, businesses that expect staff to return to the office could consider factoring commuting-related perks, such as season ticket loans and flexible working to beat the rush-hour traffic, into their overall benefits package. On this note, it may also be advisable to offer coaching to help employees with their personal finances, to help offset the increased costs of commuting and office life. For example, businesses could consider offering a savings programme, such as Wrkit’s Lifestyle Savings, to help employees spend less money.

Overall, moving forwards there will be no one-size-fits-all approach to either working patterns or employee wellness more widely, and businesses should not seek one. In order to ensure healthier, happier workplaces long-term, employees must be offered flexibility in how they work, as well as how they are supported, rewarded and recognised for the work they do.

To find out more about WRKIT’s suite of wellbeing and engagement products, please visit: https://wrkit.com/products/