Most think of it as progress, but the advances that see people working less hard physically is a large part of our undoing when it comes to health. Not only that, but our time away from the job more so mirrors what we do at work, meaning a whole lot less activity than was typical generations ago.
A recent survey from Sun Life Financial found 24 per cent of Canadian employers consider work-related stress and sedentary lifestyles the most serious health risks affecting their employees.
That won’t come as a surprise to most people, certainly not the sedentary aspect, since computers and more automated workplaces have cut down drastically on the grunt aspect of the daily grind. And unfortunately, a similar non-active routine continues on the home front for too many people in a wired-up world.
That electronic web also catches a lot of people up in the trend of not being able to leave work in the workplace. Too often it follows them home – little wonder of a creeping in of work-related stress.
The same story from The Canadian Press that reported this survey also said 500,000 Canadians are absent from work every week due to mental health issues, something that costs the national economy $50 billion a year. That figure comes from Sapna Mahajan, director of prevention and promotion with the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
That comes across as a vicious cycle: stress contributing to time taken off work, alongside the pressure to be on the job performing.
Is it time to look into ways to ease the strain?
The study also found that of companies that offer wellness initiatives – incentives to join a gym or recreational group perhaps – the flipside is 51 per cent reporting an increase in employee morale and a 40 per cent drop in absenteeism as a result of such programs.
That’s a significant improvement that should serve as a model for corporations. They can play a role in the health and happiness of their employees – and it pays off for both.