The Lemsip advert epitomises how I think our society is made to feel about being ill. The clear message is don’t rest and recover or take your well being seriously, instead take a Lemsip and carry on. These products are designed to masked the illness, so you can continue to perform and work.
So many of my clients have told me that they have caught their cold or flu at work from their colleagues. They took the advice given out by Lemsip, don’t stop, carry on, and therefore continued spreading germs around the office and made everyone else ill around them, and they certainly didn’t stop what they were doing to recover.
Our cultures no longer encourage any form of rest and recovery instead I feel they are working my clients into various states of ill health.
We don’t like to do recovery in our society any more, it’s seen as a weakness and our environments and culture are incredibly unsupportive of us being ill.
We are not failures if we are ill and sick, we are acknowledging that something is wrong with us and that we should be practising self care which makes us stronger in the long run.
When we fail to recover we don’t perform as well in our roles, both work and personal, if we are not supported to recover fully then why would someone support you? It becomes a vicious cycle.
Work has become increasingly precarious and therefore stressful for so many of my clients, they tell me about long hours, commutes, contracts that are not renewed until the last minute, zero hour contracts, people being coerced to work as contracted self employed in an umbrella company, yet working full time for one company so they don’t have to be paid any benefits such as holidays or sick pay.
Well being is a word that is trotted out as part of the values and mission statement of their employers but little seems to be done in actuality to enable their staff to do more than survive.
Well being isn’t just about offering a cholesterol and blood pressure test to your staff once a year, or having a room with a health insurance person sitting in it. Or even offering a meditation space for those members of staff dealing with stress, seriously? Could I suggest you actually help them to deal with the stressful aspects of their job, and not just pass the buck!
Well being is about how you treat people day to day, it’s not about being performance managed to within an inch of your life with every task that you do, or to be told you have to eat within a 15-20 minute time window. So many of my clients tell me how their canteens sell cheap crappy food quick frankly, how by the time they have got to the canteen they have no time to even eat, so it’s easier to eat at their desk. These rules are making those people even more sedentary.
I’m told how they are not allowed to cook in the kitchen that they are provided with, because it will take more than the 20 minutes so they can only use the microwave.
What’s happening in some of our businesses that we seem to feel we should be treating people in this way? When people come to me for help with their diet, it’s clear that their diets is compromised because of their working environment, and the stress it is causing. This isn’t about their diet but used to be about changing jobs, but it’s coming to a point where it doesn’t seem to matter about where you are working so many of my clients are having these issues, that it is no longer isolated.
Contractual terms should go both ways, and help to reduce stress in staff not increase it, they should have renewal terms that help people to plan their lives rather than leaving them wondering if they will eat next month or even tomorrow. Does the employer understand how stressful it is to not know if their staff will be working for them next month because they haven’t bothered to talk to them about their contract? I do, I’ve seen it on my clients faces, and in how stressed they are about it.
Well being is about the treatment of individuals by others, stopping bullying, and not condoning it by ignoring it. Resolving excessive or unmanageable workloads. Well being is about creating environments that are enjoyable to work in, that create the feel good factor, when we feel good our stress levels naturally reduce and we are less likely to become ill and of course we work better. Surely this is a better outcome?
Well being is about having time to live your life, it’s not about having to deal with continually changing shift patterns that prevent you from planning anything more than a week ahead, or working excessively long shifts that leaves you shattered on your days off. I hear from too many of my clients how they rarely have 2 days off together, instead those days are split across a week or even a fortnight. Have we forgotten how important family life is to well being, how important rest and recuperation is for well being.
I feel that many of my clients are treated as though they are owned by their employer, so that their employer can therefore offer these types of working conditions. I’ve got a friend who because they are single hasn’t had a Christmas or Boxing day off work with their family for over 7 years, they are always rostered to work, despite asking for it off.
My clients are no longer secure in their work, and they are constantly performance managed and taken through training with the fear that if they fail they will lose their job, this is creating stress and is having a knock on effect with their health. They are forced to travel miles to training which they have to do on other shift patterns yet again affecting their home lives. Well being is about providing a supportive performance environment one of growth, of development that enables, not one of fear of loss that disables.
And I’ve not really even spoken about how important food and diet is to the performance of people in general. Instead we are working to the lowest common denominator often with the provision of canteen food, and not supporting people to even have a break to eat, never mind providing food that is nutritious.
Well being is about providing food that helps people to thrive, not one that encourages poor eating, reduced energy, poor performance and heart disease. In an increasingly obese and sedentary society our work is supporting people to mismanage blood sugar, creating excess stress levels, discouraging breaks preventing people in some cases from even leaving the building for a short walk, and discouraging connectivity. Well being is about enabling people to contribute to your business in real terms, rather than having them work in ways that leave them feeling disempowered.
Well being is about creativity and time for this to happen, most of my clients seem under so much time pressure to perform just the tasks they are given that the freedom to think seems to be disappearing. We all want a person who can think outside of the box, who can pull the rabbit out of the hat, but in reality when was the last time you enabled that or that was allowed to happen?
Well being is about having the energy to come home and want to contribute to the wider community, rather than just switching on the TV and picking up the bottle of wine and feeling grateful that the day is over. Dulling the pain of having to go back to it all in the morning.
Well being isn’t just providing a once a year provision of healthy testing, it’s an ongoing process for both you and your teams in understanding what that actually means,. Then like mindfulness it’s about putting it into practise on a moment by moment basis.
Well being has to become a robust philosophy in our lives and business that we want to make happen. Currently we are eroding away our health and well being in so many ways, from keeping our children sitting for too long in schools, precarious working environments, eating too many not doing enough lifestyle movement and therefore being too sedentary, to not caring about what our environment looks like and littering it. It has to become a philosophy that is integral with how we live and run our businesses. This is about our daily actions, not just putting a meditation room in place, and wondering why the staff who you’ve only given 20 minutes of time to eat their dinner aren’t using it!
It’s about everyone feeling good, feeling well, feeling positive, feeling happy and wanting to fully contribute to the overall success of the business they work in and having the energy left over from this to support the wider community environment they live in, when was the last time you woke up feeling like that?