Home/ Blog

13/10/10 Health gain through hard work

It was refreshing to visit a company yesterday and see the pile of trainers by the back door, fitness boot camp, 6am, majority of employees attending.  Brilliant!  Although, not for everyone.  If you are thinking of implementing a fitness programme for your employees, the key is to keep it varied.

There are many benefits of running an in-house service, research from the University of Leeds and the University of Bristol show that people who take part in physical activity at work have lower blood pressure and resting heart rate compared to those who do not.

The research showed that after exercising, study participants returned to work more tolerant of themselves and more forgiving of their colleagues. Their work performance was consistently and significantly higher, as measured by:

  • Ability to manage time demands
  • Ability to manage output demands
  • Mental and interpersonal performance

The study involved 210 workers whose employers offered on-site exercise programs—chiefly aerobics classes, but also yoga and stretching. Participants completed questionnaires reflecting the ease of completing tasks using a seven-point scale. This was done on a day when they exercised during the workday and again on days when they did not. Most of the workers had sedentary jobs; all were involved in voluntary workplace exercise programs and reported feeling confident in their work performance before beginning the study.

“The results are striking,” said Professor McKenna, who now works at Leeds Met. “We weren’t expecting such a strong improvement on productivity linked to exercising. Even more impressive was that these people already thought they were good at their jobs. Participants tracked mood, and as expected, exercising enhanced their mood. However, boosts in productivity were over-and-above the mood effects; it’s the exercise—or attitude related to exercise—that affects productivity.”

Focus groups confirmed the surprisingly strong effects of workplace exercise. “We expected to hear more about the downside, such as afternoon fatigue,” said Professor McKenna. “But out of 18 themes raised by study participants, 14 were positive. It was almost overwhelming.”

Workplace exercise programs, said Professor McKenna, benefit more than just the workers. “Companies see more productive employees who also work better together. From the public health side, health care costs can be expected to go down for employees who regularly exercise at work. Think of it; fewer sick days, better attendance and more tolerant co-worker relations.”

The workplace is an ideal setting for promoting physical activity and if you don’t have space inside, perhaps you could try the boot camp approach?  Visit our fitness pages.

13/10/10 Developing Emotional Intelligence

We are just around the corner from this year’s National Stress Awareness day (November 5th), promoted by ISMA, The International Stress Management Association. This year’s message is ‘Start Living, Stop Stressing’.  If you find yourself frequently on the treadmill of ‘the stressful situation’ then you have to decide whether you are ready to get off!  This sounds stupid, there may be value to feeling stressed for you, it can have emotional ties, some people thrive on the adrenaline of a frantic lifestyle and constant crises, while others feel tense at the slightest deviation from their routine.

Q.  Do you feel that you perform better under stress?

If your answer is yes, then it is time to understand that this is not sustainable!

You can perform better under pressure, this is okay, but stress…. stress is an unhealthy reaction to excessive pressure.  We are designed to cope with short bursts of a stress reaction, our ‘fight or flight’ reaction is triggered, adrenaline and other stress-linked hormones are released into our body to allow us to deal with the immediate problem or – as in the days when we used to hunt down our own food – run away as quickly as possible.

Longer-term or chronic stress, however, is a slightly different problem and, although it is never on someone’s death certificate, it is probably a risk factor for developing heart problems in later life. It also undoubtedly contributes to other health problems, such as insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis and migraines, if it is allowed to continue unchecked.

How do I know if I am stressed?

When we think of, or refer to stress, it is often unclear what exactly we mean.  ‘Stress’ can cover a multitude of emotional responses, you can be said to be stressed out when actually you are just angry about something, or ‘they must be under too much pressure’ when you burst into tears at your desk because your cat has used up his nine lives.  Acquainting ourselves with how we actually feel about things is surprisingly not something we all do.

‘I’m Fine’, when you hear this gentlemen, and it is said in a final ‘I want to say no more’ tone, it really is far from the truth!  In fact Fine can be a mask for many emotions, ( F)eeling (I)nsecure, (N)eurotic and (E)dgy is one that fits the bill.

A good key to noticing signs of stress is to listen and observe your body, for example:

  • When you’re uptight, you feel tightness in your chest
  • When you’re happy, you feel light–in your body
  • And when you’re sad, you feel heavy–in your body

Your body impacts your thinking and your thinking reflects your body. Except most of us are too busy rushing around to notice!

Encouraging employees to understand how they are feeling, is the key to making behavioural changes, and can greatly help with team dynamics, creating a healthy working environment and increasing the bottom line.

We can all be told that we need to exercise regularly, eat our five a day and get lots of fresh air, and this help, but are we missing out on our feeling selves, listening to our emotions can give us space to be who we really are and with this greater understanding, we can recognise the changes within us, get to know our comfort zones and we can then expand our ability to cope without putting our health in the firing line.

Need help with this?  You can book a face to face chat with us, and we can understand how training can benefit your organisation.  Further information on our training pages.

13/10/10 Are you sitting comfortably?

It’s Back Care Awareness Week…. Before reading on, are you sitting comfortably?

Backache is the cause of one in six days off work and about one in three Britons will suffer from it during their lifetime.  Whilst there are many contributing factors to spinal health, our change in working habits and lifestyle have to be the greatest contributors to back pain and injury.

There is no getting away from it…. we all do alot of it….. sitting down….

As PC use has increased  and expanded (or is that shrunk) in the shape of laptops, netbooks and tablets, the potential to be glued to a screen while not giving a second thought to your eyes or posture is  a recipe for problems.

Hopefully everyone has a certain level of personal responsibility and in turn an awareness of bad habits and/or recognition of ailments as they arise.

Employers also have a responsibility of care to their employees.  This is not just reinforced by recommended standards or guide lines but by the legality of the The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations Act. Compliance to this is vital to ensure any organisation doesn’t fall fowl of HSE fines or employee litigation.

Naturally computers are all over the workplace from the common open plan office to the white van man’s spare seat.

People’s exposure needs recognising, assessing and recording to fully comply with the standards.  Of course this is time consuming, but help is at hand with our online DSE Assessment.  It is easy to reach out to all members of your workforce and as our system is web based so there is no intrusion on your companies IT system and is accessible wherever you have an internet connection (useful for home workers with a bespoke module).

This isn’t a box ticker; problems can be identified and solved via the program, there is a built in library of potential solutions and self help topics.  It can educate your staff to understand better workstation practices.

Graphically pleasing and with a start to finish time of approximately 10 minutes, getting staff to complete your DSE requests is a doddle.  The back-end dash board sees the administrators take a sigh of relief.  All elements are managed here, from assessment requests and reminders, reported problems, and full management reporting.   Of course if further action is needed we can send in a either a ergonomist  or a physiotherapist depending on the issue.  All in all a  tidy solution to ensure compliance and maintain the wellbeing of your PC users.

For further information on our DSE Assessment Software please click here