Did you know, every time you a take a step you’re using up to 200 muscles, each pumping oxygen around your body and into your brain?

How long have you been sitting, stationary, at your desk? 30 minutes, an hour, more?

Not only might this compel you to trade your al-desko lunch for al fresco – but it also begs a much bigger question: are we truly healthy at work, both mentally and physically? After all, the workplace is where we all spend the largest proportion of our waking hours, so the stakes are high.

Cornwall Council’s Healthy Workplace annual conference, held in March, explored how organisations can maximise the health and productivity of its people. The event delved deeper than ‘wellbeing’ as a self-care mantra (though still important) and confronted issues such as musculoskeletal disorders, stress-related conditions, changing the culture of domestic abuse and suicide postvention.

Alongside keynote presentations – including speaker Dame Carol Black, expert advisor for Public Health England – interactive workshops on presenteeism and sleep resilience, among other, showed us what more needs to be done to help ourselves, and our businesses, thrive.

Presenteeism or just present?

Have you shown up for work even though you’re ill? You’re present in body, but not so much in mind. That’s presenteeism, and – according to CIPD – it has more than tripled in the UK since 2010.

Now, how about using your annual leave or flexi-leave to catch-up on work, or to cover sick days? This is more commonly known as leaveism and is a likely result of presenteeism – aka working when you shouldn’t be – and has been closely linked to increasing levels of stress, anxiety and depression in the workplace.

It may sound counter intuitive to suggest that staying at home – cut off from emails and the daily to-do list – is more productive than being at work, but according to Aylle Brown of Healthy Cornwall, presenteeism and leaveism costs businesses 27 days of productive time per employee and more than £4,000 for each person working whilst ill. Bottom line aside, presenteeism has a wider knock-on effect: decreased productivity, more frequent mistakes, low morale, health and safety breaches and, ultimately, higher staff turnover rates.

The good news is 68% of organisations are taking steps to identify and reduce workplace stress. Here’s a bitesize rundown of how your business can prevent presenteeism:

• Ensure wellbeing policies are holistic; encompassing physical health and wellbeing
• Recognise stresses faced inside and outside of work
• Promote health and wellbeing including a healthy work/home balance
• Approach mental wellbeing as a whole organisation
• Look under the skin of your absence policy – does it drive presenteeism?
• Ensure annual and flexi-leave is used for R&R
• Lead by example

Click here for the full presentation.

Resilience & Sleep

Value sleep more. That’s the fundamental message from Kevin Simpson, Clinical Psychologist and CEO of Outlook South West, who hosted a workshop on sleep and resilience.
A state of the nation poll found that sleep deprivation has grown in Britain over the past 75 years. In 1942, 8% of us were getting six hours or less sleep per night. Fast forward to 2017/18, and that figure has shot up to 50%.

We should all be aiming for between 7-9 hours of sleep each night to reset our brain, body and health. It’s all about creating sleep opportunity; changing bad behaviours, habits and embracing the importance of sleep.

Here’s some top tips:

• Establish a bedtime routine. Our primordial instinct is to sleep in cooler, darker environments. Set the thermostat to 18 °C, cut the noise levels and turn out the lights
• Avoid caffeine six hours before your scheduled bedtime
• Alcohol disrupts REM sleep so consider your intake
• Avoid gadget light which artificially mimics daylight, ideally 1-2 hours before going to sleep
• Set regular sleep hours; go to bed and wake up at the same time each day (weekdays and weekends) to improve your sleep quality
• If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and enjoy the relaxation until you feel tired

For more information on creating a Healthy Workplace, visit https://www.healthycornwall.org.uk/.