Drawing a line in the sand
The last 18 months have tested the resilience of most of us at some point. As a full-time working parent, alongside managing elder care and periods of home schooling, it has certainly presented me with personal challenges. Now more than ever before did I find that my own health and wellbeing slipped further down the priority list. Whilst I count successes of being able to run science classes at home with hand signals off camera whilst participating in zoom presentations, it now gets me questioning why I haven’t been able to manage my own health.
18 months on and I am faced with new personal challenges of excessive weight gain, poor diet, loss of stamina, and low moods. I now think that using the excuse of being too busy and having too much to balance was only hiding the real reason. Sometimes making those uncomfortable decisions on lifestyle and wellbeing don’t come naturally, especially for those who do not have a natural desire to participate in sports activities. My turning point was summed up well by a colleague who said “the pain of the present state has become greater than the pain of making a change.” It’s about drawing a line in the sand and reaching that turning point. It will be a different trigger for everyone, and we will reach it at different times. It could be the exhaustion of the last-minute dash to the school gates or the realisation that your favourite pair of jeans are now cutting off blood flow!
Having shared my concerns with colleagues, it quickly became clear that others around me were also struggling to find balance and had their own health challenges. A common comment was that work rates had increased and time for personal health and wellbeing had decreased, and this was starting to impact productivity. As a line manager I made a commitment to encourage employees to refocus on their health. We have had weekly huddles to talk about concerns and what changes we were making in our lifestyles to try and regain the work-life balance. What has been important is having an employer that recognises that employees need support, encouragement and sometimes a forum to speak out.
Encouraging employees towards a proportionate and measured approach to making a lifestyle change is best. There is no dash to the finish line, and there’s no pressure for employees to jump on a Peloton bike or join a running club. It’s important for employers to recognise and communicate that any small change is an improvement towards a longer-term goal of employee health and wellbeing. Sometimes slow and steady does win the race. Have a think about what activities your employees might enjoy doing and identify ways to encourage them. You also don’t have to start negotiating budges to kick start a change in employee health, as sometimes it’s possible to:
- Sponsor a step challenge where employees start taking regular walks
- Promote online exercise classes in the security of people’s own living rooms
- Educate the need for lifestyle changes via webinars
- Promote free fitness apps (often provided by group insurers) which are now available to track daily activity
- Refresh communications on wellbeing support
- Create a team of wellbeing champions
I have recently taken advantage of my employer-provided health benefits including recent taster classes in HIIT and boxercise.
Good luck to everyone who is reaching that turning point, and remember that no matter how overwhelmed you might initially feel, once you make that personal commitment to yourself you have in fact made your first lifestyle change.
Victoria Roe Dos Santos – Senior Group Risk Consultant and Operations Manager