Achieving a good work-life balance is hard at the best of times – and the Covid-19 pandemic has made it even harder. As a result, our physical and mental health have taken a hit: only 15% of people rated their overall wellbeing as very good during the pandemic.
This has prompted more employees to take advantage of health and wellbeing services in the workplace. According to BUPA’s Workplace Wellbeing Census, 64% of UK employees made greater use of their company’s health and wellbeing services in the last 12 months than previously.
Prioritise self-care to improve work-life balance
For people with long-term health conditions, maintaining a good work-life balance has always been a major challenge. “The stresses of work, including meeting quality and performance expectations, creates additional mental and physical strain for people with chronic illnesses and disabilities,” said Catherine Hale, Founder, and Director of Chronic Illness Inclusion. “As a result, employees often feel obliged to work even when they should be resting, which has a detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing.”
It’s therefore hardly surprising that 66% of people with a long-term illness or disability report having a poor work-life balance, according to research by Astriid, a charity that helps people with long-term illnesses find flexible employment opportunities.
“Although the pandemic has increased everyone’s focus on self-care, work can still become all-consuming – especially for employees based at home for most of the time,” said Naomi Buneman, a mindfulness teacher with an energy-limiting condition. “Taking time out to get some fresh air and to connect with nature can help to improve wellbeing and work-life balance.”
Naomi also recommends using a timer or an app to encourage regular breaks and movement and to focus on completing tasks mindfully to help reduce stress and anxiety.
Workplace attitudes have a negative impact on employee wellbeing
For employees with long-term health conditions, the need for self-care is even more important – but this is not always understood by colleagues and managers: 90% of people with an energy-limiting chronic illness say their impairment is invisible to others.
“One of the most challenging aspects of work is often the attitudes of colleagues and managers,” commented Catherine. “The impact of invisible, fluctuating and energy limiting conditions is often poorly understood and even disbelieved. This can make it harder for people to request and negotiate the reasonable adjustments they need to manage their health and deliver their best.”
According to research by the Business Disability Forum, nearly a third of people do not request adjustments as they are worried about being treated differently in the workplace.
Greater workplace flexibility promotes greater wellbeing
Although individual employees can take some steps to improve their own wellbeing and work-life balance, employers also need to up their game. And the Covid-19 pandemic has prompted many to do just that. Nearly half of employees say that the wellbeing services offered in the workplace have improved in the last 12 months, but 73% still want more action and more services.
Greater flexibility is seen as a key contributor to wellbeing, with nearly half of employees wanting increased working from home options; a third also want more flexibility around working patterns and hours.
“People need to be empowered to make choices about how, when, and where they work so they can achieve a balance that suits their own personal circumstances,” said Naomi. “Greater empathy and flexibility in the workplace will help promote greater wellbeing.”
This article was written by Helen Guyatt, a journalist, and storyteller. She has been writing about business and IT trends for more than 20 years for a range of publications and corporate clients. Helen often trades her keyboard for a baking bowl and enjoys making (and eating) copious amounts of cake. She is passionate about highlighting social and sustainability issues to help make the world a better place to live in.