Are long working hours getting you down? It’s more than likely. New research by the Australian National University (ANU) has found that people who work more than 39 hours a week are endangering their health.
Around two out of three Australians in full-time employment work more than 40 hours a week. Often that’s before unpaid work, such as caring for children and domestic work, is considered. The ANU researchers suggest that a major cultural shift regarding long working hours, as well as employer action, is needed to resolve the problems affecting work-life balance. Change is not going to happen overnight.
So, in the meantime, what can you do at the individual level to promote your health and wellness at work? There are a number of aspects to consider, including physical, emotional and occupational wellness. Here are 10 steps you can take to kick-start your personal health and wellness journey.
- Eat healthily
You’ve probably heard the same a hundred times before, but eating well is an essential part of health and wellness. Swap the junk food for a healthy sandwich or salad, and replace your stash of chocolate bars and chips with nutritious snacks. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated.
- Get enough sleep
The National Sleep Foundation in the US recommends an average of 7-9 hours for adults aged 18-64 years old, and 7-8 hours for the 65+ population. Other factors to consider include sticking to a sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleeping environment, and turning off electronic equipment, such as mobile phones, before bed.
- Exercise daily
Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, wrote a great article about the benefits of exercise at work, referring to it as a “clear win-win – in terms of health, morale and productivity”. You could walk or cycle to work, for example, or head to the gym during your lunch break. A spot of exercise each day should refresh you and improve your concentration.
- Make time for family and friends
Think about scheduling time for family and friends. This could be as simple as a blocking out a couple of evenings each week, or planning an activity on a scheduled day off. By freeing up time in advance, you are actively creating balance during your busy working week. And sharing quality moments with those you care about most.
- Reduce stress
Work and excessive stress often go hand in hand. There are many approaches to tackling stress levels, including nearly every tip on this list. Additional tried-and-tested ways to regain a sense of control include deep breathing, mediation and yoga. Some people find it useful to write or speak daily positive affirmations, such as “I am fantastic at my job.”
- Share ideas
Feeling valued at work is a key part of health and wellness. So share your talents and creativity with your colleagues and line manager. You could suggest a different way of approaching a task that would enhance productivity or increase profit. You could also take up opportunities to learn new skills to further your sense of worth (as well as your career).
- Adapt your role
Now could be the time to talk with your employer if your workload is too great, or hours too long. Many companies are open to flexible working practices. Establish if others in your workplace are working part-time or have shifted roles. These precedents suggest that your employer would be open to discussing alternatives for you too.
- Ask for a career break
Step back from your situation by taking time out of the workplace. Many companies offer sabbaticals to valued employees, or you may be eligible for long-service leave. Make the most of your time away by doing something different. And take the time to reflect on where you want to go with your job and your career.
- Act with your voice
Major change to working conditions nearly always comes through collective action. Discuss the need for reduced working hours with your colleagues at work, join your union and/or lobby the government for change. In doing so, your individual voice becomes one of many, all acting with the same end goal in mind.
- Change jobs
If you are unhappy in your current job, and cannot see a way to improve the situation, consider changing jobs. You may well find your ideal role in another workplace, with a workload and hours to suit. So take a deep breath and start looking.
How do you promote your health and wellness at work? We’d love you to share your experiences and suggestions.