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Wellbeing in your Workplace – Is it Worth It?

Businesses keen to attract and retain top talent are investing in once woo woo wellbeing practices.

It took fainting from exhaustion at her desk for Ariana Huffington, CEO of the eponymous Huffington Post to reach her ‘aha’ moment. As one of Time’s 100 most influential people she was the epitome of success. But, she asked, was a fractured cheekbone what it looked like?

In her book, Thrive, Huffington speaks of a need for a revolution in our culture, lives and of course workplace. A revolution she calls ‘the third metric’. Success, she says, is like a three-legged stool, one leg stands for money, the other power, and the third our wellbeing.

The importance of wellbeing in the workplace has been gaining momentum for some time. And according to the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) 2013 report, Absence in the Workplace, staff absence at its lowest levels since the 1980s. So, should wellbeing still be a business priority?

Well, with staff absenteeism costing the economy £14bn in 2012; and costing companies nearly £1000 a year per employee it’s still a concern. And stress, whether caused by long working hours or external factors is cited by the Health and Safety Executive as the biggest single cause of sickness in the UK.

In fact managing stress and other related conditions has created a kind of Judy Garland pill popping culture. With anti-depressant prescriptions up a staggering 495% since 1991 and sleeping pills costing the NHS £50 million a year.

The fact that Thrive’s UK launch took place at No11 Downing Street and was hosted by chancellor George Osborne clearly states that not only is wellbeing a national concern, but also an economic one.

Ironically it is the City with its legendary working hours and tales of dramatic burn out who are, according to the Daily Mail embracing mindfulness and meditation. With everyone from the Bank of England to KPMG and Goldman Sachs instituting wellbeing programmes.

Indeed a comprehensive wellbeing policy is now seen as essential for attracting and retaining top talent. In order to become certified by the Top Employers Institute businesses are expected to fulfil a variety of criteria including: wellbeing policies, leave allowance and flexible working.

The importance of nurturing talent is seen in the popularity of places like Covent Garden’s Inner Space which provides work-focused wellbeing packages. There meditation courses are complimented by work-enhancing lessons, like: self esteem coaching, time management, and developing resilience.

But there is a far simpler tool at our disposal and that is that tried and tested cure all sleep. The Huffington Post office have even gone so far as to install “nap pods”. Where sleep is concerned it isn’t all about quantity and the magical 8 hours, but quality.

And one way to sleep better? Switch off. 24/7 connectivity is causing havoc with our ability to turn off and tune out. Which in turn effects the quality of our sleep and our ability to function. Maintaining wellbeing it turns out might be as simple as encouraging staff to take time to really disconnect.