NXIETY: COUNTING THE COST
I’m sure you’ve seen or heard of Japanese Knotweed, a fast-spreading weed that takes over wherever it’s allowed to flourish, preventing any other flowers from growing and potentially becoming difficult to remove. I’m also sure that those of us who’ve ever suffered from anxiety will recognise the analogy.
Anxiety and its related conditions can sometimes feel like an insidious weed that takes over our minds and sometimes even spread out into our lives, affecting our connection with the world around us and our ability to function within it, leading to a negative feedback loop.
One of the most obvious areas that anxiety might affect is our working life. It could be caused by any number of things in any part of our lives, but we might soon find it difficult to concentrate, dread going in, or even have to take some time off.
If you recognise that situation, then believe me (and the facts), you’re not alone. According to the Mental Health Foundation, time off due to mental health issues costs the UK economy an incredible 70 million days a year, meaning a financial cost of £2.4 billion. This suggests that anxiety is a weed that needs tackling.
To their credit, companies have been slowly realising that they have an active role to play in the health and well-being of their employees. There appears to be a growing admission that the pace and demands of our ever-faster, everything-available-everywhere-all-the-time, constantly scrolling society might have got out of hand — the treadmill has been set too fast.
In fact, mindfulness (of the kind pioneered by the likes of Jon Kabat-Zinn) and wellbeing have almost become buzzwords in business. But that shouldn’t diminish their importance or their value to the people who will benefit from them.
As much as employers have an ethical duty to keep an eye on their employees’ welfare — and do what they can to help it — the cold fact of the matter in business terms is that doing so will help their bottom line. Studies have shown that a happier workforce is a more motivated workforce, and therefore, a more productive workforce.
Authentic wellbeing initiatives in work help everyone involved — and they must be authentic and committed to promoting sustainable changes; “wellness-washing” won’t work. For a start, staff will feel valued, less stigmatised, and appreciate having somewhere to turn if something is troubling them.
If your company doesn’t have any such provisions, then perhaps you could suggest one and, if you really want to challenge yourself, look to organise it? If the number of sick days taken per year isn’t too far behind the number of people living in the UK, then it’s clearly a suggestion that many people want. If you’re self-employed or working from home, is there a local group you could join, or even start?
If you like the idea but don’t know where to start, or if you’re feeling anxious/stressed and unsure where to turn, then I’m here as ever for a friendly, judgement-free chat. Feel free to reach out.
As ever, stay safe and well!