Last year, research by Morgan McKinley found that the vast majority (81%) of UK employees are working beyond their contracted hours.
In addition, the problem of presenteeism in the workplace is costing employers over £15billion per year. Despite the economic retributions, the cost of poor mental health and wellbeing is harmful to both individuals and organisations, resulting in decreased productivity.
Recently, we spoke to Dr Christian Jessen, Doctor and TV Presenter of the BAFTA award winning ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ about ways to combat presenteeism and achieve a healthy work-life balance. “The fact that we don't really know how to do nothing is something I find rather sad,” he says. “We always feel like we should be doing something - we feel guilty about sitting and watching television; we feel guilty about reading a book for an hour; we think that we need to be emptying the dishwasher or putting another wash on.
“But, we need to get over that guilt, if we want to fully encompass all arms of our health. Eastern medicine has been doing this for a long time, whilst in the West, we’ve been ignoring it - and look who is suffering more.”
In that light, we asked Jessen about how we can truly rest: “No alcohol, no technology and just reading a book is one way to switch off your brain and get a good night of sleep. Alcohol really affects sleep, as it stops any form of recovery time - as does technology. There’s no exact formula for the amount of sleep we need, but what we can do is improve the quality of it.”
What’s the best way to stay healthy during the winter and avoid flu bugs that go around?
“For many animals, winter is a period of hibernation, which is why I emphasise the importance of rest. Some of us really struggle with it being dark when we wake up for work and dark when we leave. It just feels a lot harder to get up in the mornings, which I suspect has something to do with not getting enough light, which has a subsequent effect on sleep. That’s why it’s really important to focus on getting some daylight during work, to keep our body clocks in check.
“Take usual precautions such as washing your hands etc., and going into winter at your peak physical fitness, and maintaining it are other ways to maintain optimum health.”
How can we fit exercise in around our busy schedules? And how much should we be getting a week?
“For those who spend most of their day seated, you need to be getting up and having a wander round. You also need to gage your energy levels and adjust your diet accordingly, it’s common sense really.
“Employers can also shake things up a bit, especially during the middle of the afternoon which is the really difficult slog. Introducing initiatives to get employees moving more will improve productivity later on.
“If you’ve had a really busy week though, what you need is rest - not another hour of intensive physical exercise. The gym really increases cortisol levels (stress hormone) and can disturb sleep. Often, what you’re better off doing is an hour of nothing, not to say you shouldn't be exercising, it’s all about getting the balance right and not beating yourself up about it. I’d advise exercising for three or four times a week for around 45 minutes, the other time you need proper rest.”