The biggest health issues affecting employees

The biggest health issues affecting employees

30 Jul 2020

Employee wellbeing is one of the most important investments a company can make. A healthy and happy workforce leads to a productive and successful company. There are many health issues which can affect employees, many of which have been exacerbated by recent events and more time working from home. In this article we will try to address some of the most pertinent health issues affecting employees, and how to combat them.

1. Sedentary lifestyle

One of the most widely reported health issues is too much time sitting. Even before lockdown many of us spent too much time sitting down at desks or on the sofa. Now, post Covid we’re still doing the same but perhaps not even leaving our homes to move about. For a lot of jobs, time spent sitting down at a screen is unavoidable. Particularly as we get older and enter the workforce, our physical activity levels tend to decrease. However, the effects of this sedentary lifestyle can be very damaging.

Sitting down for extended periods of time has been linked to chronic health problems, including heart disease and high blood pressure. It can affect the body in a negative way including weight gain and varicose veins. It can also have ramifications for mental health. Luckily, there are ways to alleviate these problems.

Factoring in physical activity is simpler than it may seem. Aside from regular exercise classes or sport, you can start by structuring more activity into your daily routine. This could be opting to cycle or walk rather than travel by car or public transport. If the journey is too long, cycle part of the way, get off one stop earlier and walk or park your car a little further to get you moving more.

On your lunch break, take the opportunity to get some fresh air and walk around the block. Your body and mind will thank you. Physical activity boosts overall energy levels, muscle strength and bone density. It is also a well-documented mood enhancer.

2. Extended screen time

Staring at a screen all day can exhaust us. It can lead to poor quality sleep and inactivity. The perils of “Zoom Fatigue” were well-documented during lockdown as meetings were conducted via video-conferencing services. As well as making us tired, it is a strain on our eyes and neck, discourages physical movement and has been linked to attentional disorders.

With many jobs being desk-based or reliant on screens it may be easier said than done to cut down on screen time. However, small changes can make a big difference.

When not absolutely necessary, get away from the screen! Make your bedroom a screen-free zone. It is widely reported that the hour before bed should be screen-free. Read a book, practice yoga or have a relaxing bath. The absence of a screen will hugely improve sleep quality. Keep your screens away from mealtimes. Aside from being antisocial, using your phone during meals leads to unnecessary screen time and can cause overeating as you are not concentrating on your hunger levels.

As much as possible, keep your socialising social. Meet a friend for a coffee, go for a walk, or eat together. Try and opt to be physically together rather than speaking over text. If screens are a must for work, make sure to take regular breaks. Experts suggest no more than 60 minutes of screen time per session. On your non-work days, try and engage in “digital detoxes”. It may sound impossible, but it will have an enormously positive impact on your wellbeing.

3. Increased stress

Work can be stress-inducing at the best of times. The issue of a global pandemic has added an extra layer of stress and anxiety. We feel stress for our health, our loved ones and our job security. With our colleagues, there is stress stemming from strained communication. With regulated office hours it is easy, for the most part, to clock in and out whereas working from home presents the challenge of balancing work and free time.

There has also been the stress of too much time at home placing strain on our domestic relationships. On a more global level there is stress about the state of the world and what the new “normal” looks like. These matters of stress can cause sleep deprivation, decreased immune function and anxiety.

Once again, an active lifestyle plays an important role in reducing stress. Not only does it keep our body functioning, it does wonders for our mental health. It also helps aid sleep deprivation as it physically tires the body. Doing something relaxing, whatever this means to you, can also be a huge help for stress. Whether you disconnect by cooking, reading, taking a walk or meditating, these relaxing activities can help you unwind and destress.

Even something as simple as deep breathing or relaxing music can make a big difference to stress levels. If you are feeling stressed, share your thoughts with a friend, family member or partner. Never underestimate the power of a sympathetic ear.

Equipsme provides a Stress Support service, available to businesses as an optional extra when they buy a health insurance plan for their team. It includes a confidential telephone service 24/7 and counselling sessions.

4. Diet and drinking

That one glass of wine at the end of the workday is a moment that many look forward to. However, when working from home, the “end of the day” can become earlier and the “one glass of wine” can turn into a bottle. This can quickly become an unhealthy habit and can lead to many alcohol-related health issues. If you are noticing an increasing dependence on alcohol, replace a glass of wine or beer with a non-alcoholic alternative such as tonic and lime. If you normally drink at a certain time of the day, do something else at this time like go for a walk.

More drinking goes hand-in-hand with a poor diet, another health issue largely exacerbated at this time. Healthy eating can make a positive impact on stress management, energy levels, mood and general well-being.

Increased time at home comes with the temptation of the snack cupboard. However, overindulgence of sugar can make you feel sluggish and tired. It can cause irritability and place strain on relationships. By having regular, healthy meals, it also helps to provide structure to the day.

The benefits of employee health plans

Employee care is paramount for any company. Even just the knowledge that they can get quick access to a healthcare professional can provide invaluable peace of mind for your employees.

Equipsme health insurance plans start from as little as £7 per person per month. Find out more about the plans available here.