A Resilient Mind at Work- HR Managers

In both Australia and USA depression is now the number one leading cause of disability and 50% of sick leave days taken in New Zealand are for mental health rather than physical health i.e. having a cold. Hundreds of businesses around New Zealand provide free Flu Vaccinations each year during winter for their staff, however this continues to be a single minded, quite ineffective ‘pharmaceutical approach’ to the issue of staff well-being, just like anti-depressants are to depression.

What managers need to be looking at is improving the overall big picture of what leads to stress in the workplace, why some people cope better than others and include a multi- faceted approach to the issue.  Most people’s stress or anxiety come from work or work related issues such as the amount and type of work, or the relationships at work, therefore businesses need to look at their organisational culture and identify hazards that promote stress or ideologies within the business. For example many employees feel it’s not ‘appropriate to be seen’ or feel ‘bad’ if they take a lunch break, therefore feel pressured to eat lunch fast at their desk. The mental and physical health complications of this habit and many others can lead to increased stress hormone cortisol, irritability, fatigue, low mood, present ism (meaning people are present but unproductive). The simple act of taking a decent lunch break with the ability to go for a walk AND eat their lunch away from the desk or job, giving them the mental and physical time to ‘switch off and reboot’ provides a more productive, relaxed and happy employee. 

Education and openness for both employers and employees is probably the biggest key into establishing healthier workplaces and wellness behaviours for the individual with diet, exercise, sleep and psychological factors. Both sides need to take action to reduce the growing scale of mood related disorders, obesity and workplace stress. Workplaces need to have consistent messages throughout the year rather than a once a year Well-being Expo.

Kate Walker is the Director Lifespark Nutrition, a nutrition consultancy firm specialising in workplace wellness, fun interactive cooking shows and one on one individual wellness programmes. For more information see www.lifespark.co.nz

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