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Brexit: the impact on workplace health

The recent upheaval in politics has caused a widely reported spike in anxiety among the general population. But how might Brexit impact corporate wellness in the medium to long term?

The answer will almost certainly sit in the area of mental health. If job insecurity and corporate reorganisations become a reality over the next few years, employers are almost certain to see the incidence of stress and depression climb sharply among staff.

The most important preventive measures will revolve around employee assistance programmes and - in the case of reorganisations - the quick and efficient dissemination of information to staff.

Experts say nothing is more likely to create anxiety in a workforce than knowing a reorganisation has been agreed but not knowing if they are affected. Company Boards need to be aware of this time lag and keep it as short as possible.

Keep your people active

It may sound a bit trite but keeping staff physically active can also help markedly in times of corporate upheaval and uncertainty.

Leading an active life is not just good for our physical health - the evidence shows it also improves our mental health and our ability to cope with change significantly.

Doctors and research scientists are not 100% sure how the relationship between mental health and physical health works but they are clear that the two are closely linked. For example, there is good academic evidence that everyday physical activity can: 

  • Prevent and treat mild depression, stress and anxiety

  • Cause positive chemical changes in the brain that lift our mood

  • Improve our self-esteem and ability to rise to a challenge

  • Create time for considered self-reflection and work/life planning

It is for these reasons that health regulators including the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and NICE in the UK recommend physical activity programmes as a key element of workplace mental health programmes.

As the CDC puts it: “Worksite health promotion programs such as physical activity are good adjunct therapies in preventing and treating depression. Employees who participate in physical activity programs can decrease depression symptoms and sometimes avoid mild depressive episodes”.

Tips for boosting physical activity in the workplace

Property and corporate wellness professionals who want to encourage greater levels of physical activity among their staff should focus on two main areas:

 1/ Active working - the capacity, opportunity and motivation for staff to move about the workplace in a way that encourages physical activity. Common solutions include:

  • Walking/standing meetings

  • Structured stair promotion schemes

  • Standing desks

  • ‘Talk don’t email’ policies

  • Micro ‘gyms’ on floors with desks (stretch area, pull-up bar, traverse wall, treadmill etc)

  • Incentivisation of in-office movement via challenges/rewards

  • The positioning of breakout areas, meeting rooms etc on deskless floors

  • Positioning of water coolers, rubbish bins, and WCs away from desk areas

  • On-site gyms and other fitness classes/facilities

  • Promotion and use of outdoor space where available

2/ Active travel - the capacity, opportunity and motivation for staff to travel to and from work in a way which encourages physical activity. Common solutions include:

  • Shower and changing facilities

  • Provision of staff lockers - large enough for a suit

  • Acceptance of casual wear if no lockers

  • Secure cycle/scooter storage

  • In-house cycle maintenance

  • Promotion/reward of ‘get off one stop early’ bus/train initiatives

  • Restriction of workplace car parking

  • Restriction on taxi travel between meetings

  • Incentivisation of outdoor movement via challenges/rewards

Improving physical activity in the workplace should always be considered as part of a more comprehensive workplace health programme. It’s key to building a ‘culture of health’ within any business. Read our full evidence-based guide to corporate wellness here.

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