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National Work Life Week 2022


This week is National Work Life Week — an annual campaign run by the UK charity Working Families to get both employers and employees talking openly about wellbeing at work, as well as managing a work-life balance.

Unum’s own research this year into ‘boomerang’ employees found work/life balance was the top reason employees returned to their previous employer. 34% of boomerang workers said this was the case[1] — indicating the importance workers now put on better managing their personal and professional lives since the pandemic forced so many to adapt to home working.

In light of this, Jane Hulme, Unum UK’s HR Director, has provided some helpful tips for employees to assist with workplace wellbeing:  

  1. Prepare for the working day in 2022

With remote and hybrid working still very much the norm in the UK workforce,[2] it’s important to properly prepare yourself both physically and mentally for the day ahead. Some home workers may want to consider a “fake commute”,[3] where you walk, jog or cycle for the time it would normally take you to get to and from your office in pre-pandemic times. Separately, you may want to use this time to warm-up your body and mind by having a warm drink and putting on some music or an insightful podcast.

This means you aren’t hitting the work-day cold and you’re able to wind-up and then wind-down your brain on both sides of the working day. This could help you avoid burnout and help put a mental and physical barrier between your work and personal life.

2.Keep on moving

Avoiding a sedentary lifestyle by moving is extremely important to keeping healthy and productive[4]. For the more ambitious, this could include setting specific fitness goals. A good example would be the Couch to 5K initiative, which helps people gradually progress to a regular 5km run. Others, meanwhile, may want to try the 40:20 rule: For every 40 minutes you sit, make sure you spend 10 minutes standing or moving followed by 10 minutes of stretching to help reduce the pressure and strain on your joints.[5] The added privacy of working from home allows you the chance to try out some exercises at your desk too.   

If you’re tight for time, microbreaks away from your workstation can also be beneficial. These can range from 30 seconds to two minutes and can be filled with whatever you see fit, whether that is walking up and down the stairs, a few leg stretches or some shoulder and neck rolls.

3.Practice mindfulness

The essence of mindfulness is being able to be fully present in the moment, free from outside thoughts and distractions.[6] Being in this state allows you to be aware of your thoughts and feelings without feeling overwhelmed. Try to take the time out to escape the digital world and find a few moments of peace in your hectic schedule each day. Step back and just concentrate on the present, rather than focusing on what has happened or what will happen. There are now several high-profile mindfulness apps and information available on the internet about the practices involved, so it couldn’t be easier to find tutorials and resources that work for you.

There are many benefits to this, including helping with depression, anxiety, addictive behaviour and chronic pain. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence even recommends it as a method to prevent bouts of depression recurring.[7]

4.Stick to your working hours

More people are working longer from home as they find it harder to create divides between their work and personal lives.[8] Working significantly longer or later each day is not beneficial on your physical or mental health and can lead to extra stress, or burnout.  If you do find yourself in this situation, the best thing to do would be to speak to your line manager about your workload.

5.Use your EAP for emotional and practical support

An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), such as Unum’s LifeWorks*, can provide you with emotional and practical support to tackle concerns about your own or someone else’s emotional wellbeing at work.

In addition, employees covered by a Unum Group Income Protection policy can either make a self-referral or speak to their line manager to get a referral to a Wellbeing Check. This is a personalised session with one of Unum’s rehabilitation and wellbeing experts aimed at helping employees struggling with their wellbeing. Support is available in areas such as difficulty managing workloads, motivation, self-care, time management or personal stressors.

*The Employee Assistance Programme is provided by LifeWorks. Access to the service is facilitated by Unum at no cost to the Unum customer. Unum is not the provider of the service, but can withdraw or change the service at any time. The service is entirely separate from any insurance policy provided by Unum and is subject to the terms and conditions of the relevant third party specialists. There is no additional cost or increase in premium as a result of Unum making this benefit available.