Managing the fall out – supporting staff during the Ukrainian war

2022 has begun with the ending of the global pandemic and now the very challenging and ever unfolding conflict in Ukraine. While wellbeing and mental health have been key factors for all organisations in the last number of years, these events require many businesses and leaders to once again pivot to meet these new challenges.

It is a testament to our living and working in a truly global economy and a globally integrated workforce that the weight of this crisis is far reaching. Companies working outside of Russia have had to examine how they work with Russian companies and clients, as well as staff and colleagues impacted by the crisis in Ukraine.

While it has brought home how connected we are today, it is also highlighting how many people can be affected by an event that is happening in another part of the world. As consumers for example, many of us are being affected in a very direct way with seeing the prices at the petrol pumps increasing daily. Businesses may see many of their staff are also directly affected in their day-to-day interactions with other teams and other colleagues personally connected with this conflict.

Business Decisions

Once the position of the Business has been determined with regard the level of impact of this crisis, the Human Resources department and all managers need to respond to this decision quickly. Appropriate communications and policies need to be put in place, alongside the challenging task of both reassuring staff about ongoing business requirements during this conflict, while also putting in place sanctions that will certainly affect business as usual and in some cases dramatically affect certain teams.

On the Ground

Added to this is the more complex world of human relationships. It is here, above all else, that care needs to be taken. While many of us may be very close to and familiar with a number of our colleagues, in a large organisation there are many more that we do not know very well and do not know very much about and therefore we won’t know their family of origin, their place of birth, their ancestry, and indeed their identification choices – let alone those of their partners and wider families.

Global teams mean global influences and while the conflict in Ukraine continues to escalate, it is very important for managers and staff to be provided with support that adequately reflects the dilemma that many teams and a wider variety of staff now find themselves in, when being asked not to work with Russian businesses and Russian teams.

Effectively one day business as usual has become no business at all with a certain region. This will create many questions, a fair bit of discomfort and quite a few difficult conversations.

Deeper still, it is difficult to know who of the staff identify with being Russian, or identify with friends and relatives in Ukraine, or who identify with other counties that are also touched by a history of conflict?  What of the other colleagues and teammates who now find themselves caught up in this turmoil? How best as a business can you respond to them?

Effective Support

The reality is there is no quick solution. While the fall out of the invasion of Ukraine sinks in and the future of the war is uncertain, it is time to think about what to put in place for staff to help them navigate this new territory. While many companies have access to Employee Assistance Programmes, it is worthwhile to consider implementing a programme of specific training and a set of dialogues relating to this conflict. Proactively helping to both normalise many of the emotions and reactions that staff and leaders will be feeling, while also providing effective support around how to have the necessary conversations and how to be mindful of people’s individual experience of this crisis.

The importance of this support is to create insights for staff. To help them keep in mind not just the natural reaction to ‘what’ is happening, but a more intricate understanding of the ‘who’ is being affected, in a wider sense, which is not always obvious.

A little can go a long way, and proactive support in this area can curb a lot of distress. Avoiding the hurt that be experienced when we neglect to consider what is being said about the conflict in the context of the audience.

The role of the leader once again is key here, like it was during the challenges of Covid, and the need to be able to provide the key messaging to help staff navigate these turbulent times once again.

If you and your staff would like some supportive training, email wrkitwellbeing@wrkit.com  

Seeking Advice from Inspirational Women?

Look no further this International Women’s Day

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘break the bias’. In celebration of the day, Wrkit’s Digital Wellbeing Manager, Louise Nixon, reached out to some of the inspirational women that she has had the pleasure of working with over the years, asking if they had any advice they would like to share. Below are some truly inspiring pearls of wisdom that were expressed by these successful women.

“I believe that you have to live something to truly learn what you want and what’s best for you. Just over 5 years ago I made a career change after 20 years working in engineering. I went back to college and qualified in Nutrition. If I was to offer some advice to my younger self, I would say, do what you enjoy, what you gravitate to naturally. Working in something that you love, makes it easier to get up and face your working day.

I would also say what you do now, does not have to define you forever. You always have options, to change, retrain, educate, and start again, doing something different. You do not have to stay in one career, you can plan and make a change. When starting again you are not starting from zero, you bring life skills and life lessons, which you will always use, often in ways you would never have thought possible.”

Marie Donnellan, Registered Assoc Nutritionist and Director at Ciall Health

“It is also OK to be not OK as a Leader. In a week where I have struggled and felt truly alone that doesn’t mean I stay there. True resilience is that when you feel alone or broken, you have the toolkit to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back to your awesome self. So, this International Women’s Day, I wish you to find that toolkit, mirror the people you admire, gather your strength around you like a clock and have the courage to ask for help or just to talk. So be amazing in 2022.”

Kate Martin (FCIPD), Regional HR Head – Europe, Russia & CIS at VFS Global

Research by Venture Capitalist Mass Challenge showed that for every $1 investment in businesses run by a men-only Board generated 31c, for every business with women on the Board it’s 76c – showing that women are statistically proven to be key contributors to business success.

With this in mind (and many more reports that are instantly searchable), always look at the job description and see the things you can already do – not the things you can’t. You’ll get much further, much faster and are statistically proven to achieve much more.”

Megan Sowney, Group Managing Director at Wrkit

“Don’t be afraid to try new things and push yourself outside of your comfort zone, and don’t be afraid to fail, either: it’s often how we learn the most. Ask for help where you need it but be confident in your own abilities too. You bring something else to the table that no one else does, in your own unique blend of skills and experience, and that is something to be celebrated.”

Kathryn Kendall (FCIPD), Chief People Officer at Benefex

“On reflection, I feel the biggest lesson I have learnt along the way has been in learning to understand and set personal boundaries. When you are showing up every day out of alignment with your beliefs, your values, what motivates you, and rewards you, it manifests as stress, anxiety and ultimately burnout. It took an episode of extreme burnout for me to sit down and really ask myself honestly, ‘How do I want to feel every day?’, ‘What are the behaviours I am not OK with?’, ‘Does this work make me happy?’

Being honest with myself about what I would and wouldn’t accept gave me the confidence and integrity to push back when I felt those boundaries were being challenged.  I have also learned that people are not mind readers, you have to take responsibility to say how you feel in situations where you are uncomfortable. It can feel scary to begin with, but the more you practise it, from a place of integrity, the easier it becomes.

So, take a Moment, take the time to really be honest with yourself about what feels right and know that a ‘No’ can take you just as far, and make you as happy, as a ‘Yes’.”

Fiona McKinnon, CEO & Co Founder of Moment Company

This International Women’s Day let’s celebrate women’s achievement and recognise that together we can #BeatTheBias. Share this article with a colleague, friend, sister, mother, or daughter to inspire and motivate them.

Social Isolation and How Our Ability to Connect Has Been Challenged

Reopening and Reconnecting

With the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, it has given us the chance to socially reconnect with people we may not have seen in a long time. While this is an exciting stage in our lives following the lockdowns, it may also be quite overwhelming for some. We have been socially isolating for a long time and the transition to reconnecting with others may take a bit of time to readjust.

The Wrkit Global Working From Home (WFH) Survey gathered feedback from employees who were WFH across many countries during the pandemic. This has allowed for a deeper understanding about the challenges and benefits employees faced while WFH, particularly the impact on employees living away from their home country. The survey revealed that many people WFH in their home countries did at times feel lonely but also rated feeling more connected to friends and family than feeling isolated.

Researchers have found that there are a wide range of benefits that stem from regularly connecting with others, particularly others we care about. For example, it has been discovered that social connectedness helps improve quality of life, relieve harmful levels of stress, boost mental health, and significantly decrease the risk of suicide.

Tips for Avoiding Social Isolation and Staying Connected

  • Check in with People You Know

When you’ve been isolating, it’s easy to feel that people you know are doing just fine and may not like to hear from you. This is a common reinforcing negative loop brought on by loneliness, and it’s usually untrue. Challenging these negative assumptions is an important first step and it is better to just go ahead and reach out to people you know and see what happens.

  • Practice Self-Care

It goes without saying that if feeling isolated or lonely it is important to maintain a good level of self-care. Finding time to be social, alongside time to rest well, eat well, getting exercise and taking adequate breaks all combine to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Getting back into being social again can mean more alcohol intake, late nights and rich food; so best to be mindful of balance as you readjust to an open society again.

  • Choose the Right Living and Working Situation

If you are working from home and living alone and are finding that you are struggling with isolation and loneliness, take action to make changes and see what the options are. Although you might not be able to move house, or your normal working office space may have changed, it is important to plan ahead and find ways to meet with colleagues in person. This could be booking time in the office as it reopens or planning social gatherings.

  • Develop Friendships at Work

Work relationships can help you to feel more connected to others. Overall, people with better co-worker relationships have lower self-reported loneliness scores. Ask a colleague if they would like to go for a coffee or, if you’re working from home, make the effort to give them a call rather than an email and share some casual chit-chat.

  • Find Ways to Participate in Your Community

Social groups like book clubs, choirs, and sporting groups are a great source of social interaction. Anyone can feel isolated at times and, while this is ok, everyone can benefit from community and group participation.

  • Keep a Journal

If you find you are struggling with feelings of social isolation, try writing down the thoughts that are going through your head. Then make a list of things that you enjoy doing and bring you happiness. These can be simple, small things like going for a walk, reading, or listening to music. When you notice negative thoughts and feelings creeping up, have a look in your journal and try one of your suggestions.

It’s important to remember that just because you are feeling socially isolated and alone does not mean that you are alone. There are people that care and want to know how you are feeling. There simply are times that you might have to make the first move and although it may be challenging, it’s proven to pay off in the long run and staying connected is good for everyone.

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.

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.