Wellbeing is one of the buzzwords making its way through the modern workplace, and for once it is one I am delighted to see.
We are now officially more than one week in 2019 and already the New Year’s resolutions made with such grandiose intent at the start of the month are waning.
The folly of placing such an emphasis on making large-scale changes to one’s life simply because of the commencement of a new calendar year is often mocked but I have always felt that making a commitment to bettering one’s self should be applauded regardless of timetables.
The pursuit of lofty goals such as “new year, new me” should not be ridiculed, least of all in the workplace when the wellbeing of staff has never been higher on the corporate agenda.
You only need to look at the changing face of office spaces in the region to see that the physical and mental health is increasingly being given a huge amount of attention by bosses.
And with good reason too.
Companies large and small should treat the welfare of their staff as a top priority. But equally employees themselves should also lead the charge in making sure that their colleagues, and themselves, have the support they need.
Thanks to the work of many unsung heroes the mental health of staff is now being taken genuinely seriously by many companies. And while there is unquestionably a long way to go, we seem to be travelling in the right direction.
There is evidence of that all over the region. One need only look at the fine work carried out by Thrive Law founder Jodie Hill to campaign for a Mental Health First Aider in every workplace as a symptom that solutions are being found and attitudes are changing.
Ms Hill’s campaign objective is one I would urge all employers to look towards adopting. A Mental Health First Aider can spot or be referred to signs that someone may be encountering problems and point them towards the required help. This can be crucial in ensuring people get the care they need in what is, let’s face it, a working environment that is increasingly busy and attention sapping.
Equally, bosses and colleagues have to create an environment at work in which it is totally acceptable and comfortable to admit there is a problem in the first place, often the hardest step for many people.
Wellbeing should also apply to the physical health of a workforce.
Followers of mine on social media will know I cycle to work most days. If I can avoid the roads of Leeds I do, opting for canal toe paths and other careless routes.
Despite millions being spent on cycle improvements in Leeds and cities across the nation we are still no closer to making cycling to work a viable option for commuters. Whether it is haphazard cycle pathways, lack of changing facilities or incentives for staff to leave their cars at home, it is a vital missed trick in terms of giving workers the chance to keep fit, ease congestion and reduce the need for parking.
I would add that companies should include opportunities for regular exercise as part of the Terms & Conditions of employment, be it subsidised gym memberships or office running clubs.
Another easy win in terms of boosting the wellbeing of employees is allowing a period of rest from work. Before the advent of smart phones this used to be called going home at night.
Now, work emails can resemble a task akin to Sisyphus, the king in Greek mythology condemned to push a boulder up a steep hill each day only for it to fall back down the hill at nightfall. The answer could be to disable servers after say 9pm until the morning but equally staff can simply work on breaking their addiction to replying to every message sent.
I am far from a self-help guru (regular YP columnist Dr Jon Finn has far more informed opinions on the subject than mine). But I think, regardless of which month it is, there is more we can do for our staff and ourselves to make work life more safe, healthy and productive, and at a price which is comfortably within what it could cost if our best people are not allowed to operate at their best.