Discussions around stress in the workplace were once a taboo. If you couldn’t handle the heat you were told to get out of the fire.
That was before it was really understood just how much stress could affect someone’s mental and physical health.
Today it is said that 40 million working days per year are lost in the UK directly from stress-related illnesses.
With costs to the economy of around £1.5 billion per year and health statistics which claim that around 80 per cent of all diseases having their origins in stress, it’s no wonder The Health & Wellbeing Company are focusing their attention on businesses and the wellbeing of their employees.
Set up by Jimmy Smyth, Liz Elliott and Mary Jane Burns the company combines a range of traditional and alternative therapies in order to meet the health and wellbeing needs of individuals, groups and companies.
With a background in psychiatric nursing, social work and a mental health worker Mr Smyth’s expertise is combined with that of Ms Elliott who is a a body talk practitioner, manual lympthatic drainage practitioner, Indian head masseuse and metamorphic practitioner as well as Ms Burns who specialises in dissolve & resolve emotions technique aromatherapy and emotional freedom techniques.
“The statistics around stress are staggering” said Ms Burns, adding: “75 per cent to 80 per cent of patients visiting their GP have an illness either caused by stress or where stress is a large factor.
“Through our work we realised that this was having a profound effect on people’s ability to do their jobs effectively and the statistics backed this up.
“In the UK it is believed that 62 per cent of employees say work has a significant impact on their work stress levels with 45 per cent citing job insecurity as another impacter.
“We set The Health & Wellbeing Company up to tackle the problems associated with stress. Stress in the workplace can destroy the lives of employees by affecting their health, relationships, social life and their finances and have a devastating effect on their families.
“Stress in the workplace can ruin companies and create a nightmare for Employers.”
According to Ms Burns each year in Northern Ireland hundreds of millions of pounds are lost to businesses as a result of absenteeism, presenteeism, low productivity and low moral.
She said: “We can help companies deal with workplace stress-related problems creating a healthier and happier workplace environment that has numerous benefits for the company and the employee.”
Despite a wealth of research which hails the financial and commercial benefits of looking after employees and their wellbeing, Mr Smyth said it can still be difficult to convince companies to take the leap.
He added: “As well as meeting their legal responsibilities employers have a moral obligation to be a caring employer and to do everything in their power to promote the health and wellbeing of the people who work for them. Healthy and happy employees will have motivation and be dedicated and loyal to their company. One huge issue is convincing employers to realise how important it is to have employee wellbeing high up their list of priorities. There is an attitude in companies: ‘If it’s not broke don’t fix it.’ Another issue is cost.
“With so much pressure on finances, staff wellbeing can easily be forgotten about, with companies not realising that ill health costs more financially than tackling the problem.”
Ms Elliott explained that stress may be something which is often talked about but not as often understood.
“Many companies are skeptical of the benefits mainly because they are not fully aware of the health dangers that stress inflicts upon us” she said, adding: “For example, our GP’s will advise us to stop smoking, improve our diets and exercise and rightly so. They don’t concern themselves advising us as to how to deal with a relationship, financial or work problem that is stressing us out and the truth is that these problems are leading to our stress response kicking in on a regular basis. And this level of stress is as damaging to our health as smoking.
“Stress comes in differing levels, there is mild, moderate and severe stress, then you have burnout which can lead to chronic mental illness. There are times when small amounts of stress can be a positive thing. There are times when the stress hormone can helps to keep us motivated and competitive.
“However, the problem is controlling our stress responses. When we get stress hormones being released into our bodies regularly our immune system slows down and disease in our bodies can flourish.
“Stress is best prevented or identified at a very early stage when it is easy to treat. We also must remember that individuals have different stress thresholds and this is why it is important to have individual stress assessments.”
The Health & Wellbeing Company will be attending the forthcoming TONIC Health & Wellness Festival which takes place at T-13 in Belfast on Sunday November 8. Ms Burns said it will be a good opportunity for employers to see what services they offer.
She added: “Stress is an epidemic, a plague of our generation that is claiming increasing numbers of lives each year, prematurely and dragging tens of thousands of us into the nightmare of mental illness and chronic physical illness. Stress doesn’t discriminate - employee or employer - it makes no odds to stress.” www.thehealthandwellbeingcompany.org