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Combating Burn Out With Wellness in the Workplace

All work and no play can take a tremendous toll on the mind and body.

Sometimes it's important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it's essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow. - Douglas Pagels

If you think about it, many of us spend more time and energy at work than at home. As a society, we spend long hours at the office, spend a good amount of time commuting to and from work, and even spend some of our ‘at-home time’ working from home. All work and no play can take a tremendous toll on the mind and body. No wonder so many people burn out.

If you think about it, many of us spend more time and energy at work than at home. As a society, we spend long hours at the office, spend a good amount of time commuting to and from work, and even spend some of our ‘at-home time’ working from home. All work and no play can take a tremendous toll on the mind and body. No wonder so many people burn out.

Some employers have started to take note of their employees’ health and wellness and the effect it has on overall productivity and health care costs by introducing health and wellness programs. Kudos to them!!! Countless studies have shown that stress has an incredibly negative impact on overall health, which does not bode well for health care costs. With high levels of stress and very little free time, it becomes difficult for many people to focus on exercise and stress management.

In conversations with friends and family, many of whom have experienced workplace burn out, I hear a lot of the same frustrations. For example, I know countless individuals who feel guilty leaving work on time, even if they’ve successfully finished their projects for the day and are no longer feeling productive. They occupy themselves with busy work until others have left the office. Sound familiar? As a result, they waste countless hours trying to appease their employer, instead of spending that time on themselves. It may only be 30 minutes here and there, but that time adds up.

Another qualm people have is vacation time (or lack thereof). I’ve found that people either don’t get enough vacation time or feel guilty taking their much-deserved time off. In my opinion, this is a significant factor when it comes to stressed and over-worked employees. We all need time off. It helps us to spark our energy levels and decompress from the everyday pressures of the workplace. Well-deserved time off makes people happy.

I understand the importance of employee wellness first-hand (aside from my work as a Health and Wellness Coach). I was lucky enough to work in London for a period of time where I went from getting five days of vacation with my full-time job in the U.S. to a mandatory (GASP!!!) 25 vacation days in the U.K. Not only were you given this time off, but also it was encouraged that you take it. This made me absolutely giddy! Even better, there were no feelings of guilt when you went on holiday.

This amount of vacation time was not unique to my situation. In fact, it seems most of Europe is on holiday for the month of August. These 25 days gave me the opportunity to take sporadic long weekends and longer periods of time off throughout the year. And guess what, when I came back to work I was refreshed, excited and more productive!

Along with vacations, I noticed that several companies in London supported their own versions of employee wellness. They encouraged biking to work by providing bicycle storage and showers at the office, they had weekly employee get togethers at the end of the week where you could leave your desk a bit early and enjoy snacks, drinks and chit chat with your co-workers, and they threw big yearly bashes (sometimes two a year) to celebrate accomplishments and encourage camaraderie. I’m not saying it was perfect, but in my experience, I felt valued and cared about as a person. So why is it so difficult for so many companies in the U.S. to see the value of happy, healthy employees?

As a Health and Wellness Coach, I could list all the things people could do to reduce their stress levels and improve their health. For example, take a 10 minute cat nap at your desk, workout at lunch time, don’t bring work home with you, leave when you’re done being productive, enjoy more time with your family, BUT in reality, it’s hard for people to follow through when they aren’t given the time, support or, let’s face it, approval from their employers. Nobody wants to be the guy who leaves at five on the dot for fear the boss will think he’s not working, or take an hour and fifteen minute lunch to get in a good work out, even if it means being more productive throughout the day. Why is there such a stigma? Why is the quantity of hours worked valued over the quality of hours worked?

For any stressed and over-worked employees reading this blog, does your organization have any wellness programs in place? Would you like it if they did? For any business owners and managers reading this, would you support a wellness program if it meant a healthier and more productive staff?

I would love to hear your opinions!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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