Naturally, every business is there to fulfil a demand and to make a healthy profit or to provide a 'not-for-profit' service.
In today's business environment and the demands from life in general, we have little time to reflect - and that's the problem.
When we are constantly all working and playing at full pelt, as many of us do these days, it is hard to keep track of our own health and wellbeing, let alone that of our employees.
However, with an increasingly litiginous society, it pays dividends to take a few moments to consider our responsibilities as employers. Failure to do so can have damaging effects, not only on the individuals concerned, but also on your business. Claims against companies relating to stress are all set to increase in the coming years and changes in employment law mean you have to be aware of your exposure. And just as importantly, you need to understand what help is available to maintain a healthy and productive workforce.
Breathing Space Therapies was set up by Annie Lawler earlier this year. Having worked in advertising for over 20 years, she has a great understanding not only of the commercial world but also of the stresses and strains that can result. She therefore trained as a stress therapist & life coach so that she could help others avoid falling into some of the traps set for us by 21st century living.
Whilst a lot of the techniques and therapies involved are termed as 'alternative' or 'complementary' health, stress management is far from being airy fairy or far out. In some cases, thousands of years of experience and proven benefits have been built into the treatments and those more recent additions often have their roots in older traditions.
Breathing Space Therapies therefore offers real 'feet on the ground', practical advice to people which will help them work and live more effectively.
And if you have motivated, healthy people who feel valued, they are more likely to have a positive influence on your balance sheet than those feeling downtrodden and unloved.
So what does this mean to companies in the UK in this day and age?
Well, let's take a look at some pointers :
First of all - what is stress?
We all need some pressure in our lives in order to get up and get going in the morning. However, too much stress and we start to reduce our efficiency and well-being. It's a bit like blood pressure really. We need some pressure to circulate the blood around our bodies, but too much pressure and the whole system starts to malfunction.
Too much stress therefore, starts to manifest itself first in small ways and, if left unchecked, it can lead to breakdown on a physical and/or mental basis.
What are the signs of too much stress?
Keep a watchful eye on yourself and your employees for signs such as :
* Constant headaches
* Sudden dips in performance
* Creeping errors
* Increased absences from work
* Back and neck pain
* Palpitations, anxiety and panic attacks
* Feelings of 'unworthness' and 'I'm not good enough'
* Mood swings
* Anti-social behaviour
All these can be symptoms of too much stress.
It's important to note at this stage, that an overdose of stress does not only stem from negative situations. House moves, weddings, holidays and job promotions are amongst the top most stressful events in life.
It is also important to know that a build up of stress is not a weakness - it starts as a physical reaction in what we perceive as life-threatening situations (not only our physical life, but our work life).
So, what is stress?
When we are faced with a 'fight or flight' situation we have to choose which way to go. At these times hormones are released into the body which make it possible for us to fight effectively. This means certain functions are also shut down, so that energy can be concentrated in the right places. For example energy is channeled to limbs so that we can run or fight, whereas digestive systems are shut down as these are not necessary to deal with the situation at hand.
In an ideal situation, once the emergency is over and we take time to relax and revive, the body's systems return to normal.
Unfortunately, most of us these days, deal with one 'crisis' after another. Will we get the promotion we are seeking? Will we get home on time to pick the kids up from school or see them before they go to bed? Will the boss notice that mistake I just made? How will I find the time to take the family on holiday? Where do I find the money to pay the mortgage? Can I squeeze in a trip to see an ageing relative? Can I finish this report before I have to leave for my next appointment?
I'm sure you recognise the sequence. It's not that all these things are bad. For most of us, they're just a fact of life. But if left unchecked, we do not give the body time to recover and our wellbeing can only be adversely affected - sooner or later.
It simple isn't a case of just battling through - you could be putting yourself and others at risk if you don't take notice and manage your stress levels effectively.
If you are highly stressed or you believe one of your employees is in the same position, this is the time to take the opportunity to ask for help and to consider what you might be able to do to alleviate or release some of that stress.
Breathing Space Therapies can arrange a 2-hour assessment with you so that we can recommend an approach. If you do not feel this session is helpful, then we will be happy to refund your money.
What will Breathing Space Therapies Recommend?
Each individual has different circumstances and tolerance levels and there is no one method of relieving stress. The good news is, there are lots of different techniques which means that one of them will be right for you or your employee.
In general however, our initial assessment will explore :
* Your general health & medical history, including medication, supplements etc being taken
* Your current occupation and leisure time
* The events that are currently affecting your life
* What you eat and drink on a typical day
* Your physical activity
* Your emotional well-being
* What you want out of life and your progress to date
* Any concerns you wish to discuss with us
From this starting point, we will suggest what changes can be made to ensure you either retrain to a healthier lifestyle for you or at least maintain the balance you have achieved so far. Some of our suggestions may be simple and some less so, but we will guide you through each step in a helpful and friendly way - one step at a time.
What if I'm OK but someone else is suffering?
As an employer you have a responsibility to ensure your employees remain healthy and well. There are various ways that you can help.
* Training sessions which explain what stress is, how to use it positively and knowing when to give in and take time out.
* Follow up sessions can cover topics such as team dynamics (to reduce stress through relationships at work), introductions to yoga or tai chi which are good stress relievers, Feng Shui introductions which can help make your environment less stressful, relaxation techniques which can help make you more effective at work etc etc
* Individual stress management sessions for employees who would benefit from life coaching and stress reducing techniques
* Mentoring sessions to help employees through times of change and development
* On-site massage services which can be subsidised or paid for wholly by the employees
* Off-site massage and counselling
* Retreats for staff to help them develop healthy working strategies and restore balance
Whatever the solution, Breathing Space Therapies will tailor a solution to your specific needs or those of your organisation.
What happens if I ignore my symptoms or those of my employees?
Naturally, every individual has their breaking point and they vary considerably. If stress does go unchecked however, there is a range of illnesses and conditions which can result, including :
* Phobias and panic attacks
* Breathing & eating disorders
* Heart disease
* Rheumatism & arthritis
Ultimately, in some cases, we simply reach 'breaking point' and suffer mental and physical breakdown. And even if you do not consider stress to be the main cause of these health problems, they certainly contribute significantly both to the original condition and your ability to recover from them.
From a work point of view, if one of your employees suffers a condition such as those described above or another stress related illness, they may be looking to you, as their employer, to compensate them for their problem.
The stress caused on other members of your team, due to someone else's incapacity can also be considerable.
What is the best course of action to avoid these situations?
The Health & Safety Executive are currently undergoing a pilot project to set criteria to which employers must adhere in order to demonstrate that they have done all in their power to avoid illness to their employees through their work.
This includes elements such as :
* Workload and methods of working
* Employees' understanding of their roles and their ability to 'have their say'
* Communication in the workplace
* Relationships in the workplace
* The work environment and so on
This therefore puts the onus on the employer to ensure they have taken necessary steps to create an environment for their employees which is supportive and healthy.
Breathing Space Therapies has a network of therapists, trainers, HR specialists and professionals who can assist you in maintaining a healthy organisation which gets the best out of people by respecting them and making them feel valued.
Creating a positive environment for employees not only makes for more enjoyable and healthier working, it can also have a beneficial effect on your bottom line.
For an exploratory meeting to develop a maintenance programme for your company, please contact Annie Lawler on 0772 581 8884 or by e-mail on email@example.com