On this first day of autumn, facing forward to the last quarter of the year, offices around the country are filled with talk of 'nights drawing in', plans for Christmas and wondering when to formally switch on the heating.
Given the short daylight hours and long dark nights, this time of year is notorious for spending more time sitting in the warmth and less time exercising outdoors. Add to that, office workers spend long sedentary hours in front of screens and, in shared office environments, are more vulnerable to catching winter coughs and colds from others.
In 2014/15, statistics from the Health & Safety Executive show that 23.3 million days were lost due to work-related ill health. However, the problem runs much deeper than catching a cold.
Research from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) for 2014/15 shows that stress accounted for 35% of all work related ill health cases. A total of 9.9 million working days were lost due to work related stress, depression or anxiety, which equated to an average of 23 days lost per case. Worse, the LFS states that the estimated number of work related stress cases have remained largely static for more than a decade.
Is it any wonder workplace wellbeing is becoming such a high priority?
Positively, more employers recognise the enormous impact that wellbeing has on its workforce and its effect on their business, and change is happening - which is at least partly reflected in the results of the BCA's latest research report.
BCA Research shows that clients of flexible workspace are staying longer and growing within their space, which can be attributed to many different factors, most notably the provision of high quality, supportive workspaces with comfortable lifestyle amenities. Indeed, lifestyle amenities such as on-site showers and good coffee are becoming increasingly important. Reflecting this requirement, the BCA's full report (available on request) shows that more workspace operators introduced shower facilities in 2014 than 2013, rising from 40% to 63%.
Workspace operators can play an important role in the wellbeing of their staff and clients, not just by providing high quality environments but also by encouraging health initiatives. For instance, for those without the space for fitness facilities, is there an opportunity to partner with a local gym or fitness class? Why not organise a seminar to educate business owners on how their wellbeing impacts their business growth? Or work with a local group to encourage healthier lifestyles?
As with many problems these days, technology offers a workable solution.
As reported on Springwise this week, Count.It provides an alternative approach to workplace wellbeing. It's an online workplace wellness challenge that links fitness wearables and apps, allowing teams in multiple locations to count activity towards a monthly tally. The social wellness platform encourages workplaces around the world to join up, backed by leagues, rewards systems and even bulk-buy discounts on health products.
But when it comes to wellbeing, technology isn't always the answer. Under normal circumstances BCA Trade Partner essensys might disagree with that sentiment, but where wellness is concerned, the company has opted for a more traditional approach.
Earlier this year essensys introduced a 'Wellbeing Masterplan' to their head office, which included the appointment of Allan Darvill as a personal trainer and full-time Health and Wellbeing Consultant to essensys staff.
"The harder we work, the more strain we place on our body and mind - especially if our diet isn’t too healthy," Allan commented. "A crucial factor in sustaining a happy and successful workforce is improving and maintaining health and wellbeing, both in body and mind.
According to Allan, only 9% of the world's workforce has access to workplace wellness programmes - but the tide is turning.
"This trend will explode in the next five to 10 years, and I think you can see why," he says. "Bottom line: a healthier employee is a happier and more productive one. It becomes a positive cycle in which everyone wins."Image: Wilfred Iven