Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace

By Mashal Kadri

Health Matters in nina-iraq

Health Matters

I started working at Accenture last fall. In our very first week, we were given a talk on the importance of prioritizing our health and wellbeing. As a part of this, the moderator asked us to download a mood-tracking application on our phones.  I remember eye rolls and smirks being exchanged around the table; monitoring your ‘mood’ seemed like a futile exercise to most of us. Now, nearly six months into work, I have a very different opinion. Incorporating small spurts of activity into my work day has not only helped lighten the load but also ensured that I am at my productive best.

Our initial reactions to ‘mood monitoring’, and paying extra attention to our health and wellbeing, were symptomatic of a wider problem.  Many of us are guilty of brushing aside complaints about ‘work life balance’ and not feeling our physical best at work (myself included.) We tend to consider this as part and parcel of the stresses that come with a job and I’ve found that this is even more prevalent amongst my female friends. Admitting that you may be feeling overwhelmed is  regarded as a sign of ‘weakness’ in a world where we are constantly trying to prove that we are just as capable, if sometimes not more, than the men around us.

While the first and most important step is to acknowledge this to ourselves, I found that a number of small, healthy, changes in your work routine can make your day that much more multi-dimensional and rewarding.

  • Activity before work: My colleagues who walk or cycle to work describe it as the best part of their day. Even in countries or environments where this isn’t possible for security or social reasons, a short exercise video/DVD is a great way to start your day.
  • Fruit days: Wednesdays at work are made happier by a big basket of fruit greeting us in the reception area and lo and behold by mid-afternoon it’s been wiped clean. Designating a day of the week as ‘fruit day’ encourages people to eat more healthily and gives them something to look forward to when coming into work in the morning.
  • Health champions– We’ve appointed one person in each team who is responsible for ensuring that everybody is looking out for their physical and mental well-being. Being the ‘health champion’ for my team involved coordinating ‘health challenges’ across teams. One such example was the ’10 minute stand’ i.e. getting everybody in the team to stand for at least 10 minutes every hour, for the working week. There was a lead ‘stander upper’ announced at the end of each day and people were encouraged to hashtag ‘10minutestand’ and update everybody on our internal social feed about how they were rising to the challenge. Soon enough, we had an inundation of team members happily tweeting away about ‘standing meetings’ and taking a walk at lunch time etc.
  • Open door sessions: An often ignored aspect of our health and well-being is mental health. Beyond exercising and eating right, this is just as important to our development. Regular ‘Open door sessions’ with senior members of the team are a great way to allow employees to have an informal chat and share their concerns with somebody who has a wealth of experience and wisdom to offer. Attending one such session recently myself, I found that hearing somebody who has been incredibly successful in their career admit that they too have had ‘low days’ and don’t always get everything right, was very helpful in putting things into perspective.
  • Compliments Jar: Finally, we have placed a ‘compliments jar’ at work. This allows team members to anonymously compliment each other- anything from giving somebody a thumbs up for their tie or their sense of humour- non work related compliments are strongly encouraged. We read these compliments out at team meetings and have found it is a great way to break the monotony and make somebody’s day.

I hope you can incorporate some of these ideas into your workplace and take just that bit of extra care to make sure you are looking after your health and mental wellness!

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