As we head into the summer holiday season, we could perhaps learn something from America’s “National Simplicity Day” this month about properly switching off from work, including the health and wellbeing benefits of mindfulness, slowing down and “taking a moment”.
Employee health and wellbeing – switch off and tune into “simplicity”
12 July is National Simplicity Day! Never heard of it? That’s probably because it is an American invention, and a day that in part celebrates the author, environmentalist, abolitionist and American icon Henry David Thoreau.
But, even if is something from “across the pond”, we in Britain could do worse than learn to embrace its health and wellbeing message around the importance of taking time out, switching off, digital detoxing and mindfulness, especially in the run-up to the summer holiday season.
National Simplicity Day is celebrated in the US as a day dedicated to stepping away from the “bonds” of technology and unnecessary stresses.
Between the bulging email inbox, the pressure to be “always on” at or for work, and generally corrosive effect of long hours and time pressure, especially on activities such as, say, driving for work, it is perhaps no wonder that work and being at work can all sometimes become too much.
Switching off on holiday
That, of course, is what holidays are supposed to be for. But, increasingly even properly getting away from work while on holiday can nowadays be a challenge, what with smartphones and remote messaging.
To that end, employers can do a number of important things from a health and wellbeing perspective.
First, when it comes to holidays, it is imperative managers set an example and give employees “permission” properly to switch off on holiday.
That means making sure proper cover is in place, that people know not to email or call (or even cc them in) while they are away, and to make it clear things will be managed properly in their absence.
Second, this needs to extend to day-to-day working practices. This includes, for example, recognising that it is not good practice to be sending emails in the evenings or over weekends, even if you think you are just being efficient.
As Optima Health Chief Medical Officer Dr Lucy Wright highlights: “Encouraging workers to talk to each other rather than email – perhaps even implementing ‘email free’ days or part days – can have an additional benefit of encouraging employees to get up and engage with each other and become less sedentary.
“This can extend to encouraging and promoting tips and techniques to help people relax and ‘take a moment’, perhaps breathing exercises or mindfulness activities. This will not only help with managing day-to-day pressures but may also be valuable in terms of managing stress and anxiety generally and encourage time for reflection and creative thinking,” Lucy says.
Time and work-flow management
Within this, it is important to recognise you may need to be passing on tips, training and advice around effective time and work-flow management so that people are not getting stressed about the fact they are being encouraged to take time out.
More widely, it is also important to be looking at whether time and work pressures and demands are an underlying issue within your organisation that needs to be addressed generally.
“It is important to be making this change part of the day-to-day – not just for one day on 12 July – and looking at how you are helping to make your organisation more mentally and emotionally ‘healthy’,” says Lucy.
“This can include encouraging an organisational climate and management culture where people feel able and confident to speak up if they are not coping mentally.
“Offering access to confidential counselling and support through an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can also be helpful in this context, both for employees and in terms of offering managers best practice advice and support,” she adds.