Work-Life Balance

Why focusing on your health is invaluable for optimal workplace performance

Written by Guest Contributor

Over the years, numerous studies have looked at the ways in which our jobs and health are connected. Generally speaking, data indicates that there is a direct link between workplace stress and overall wellbeing. The more you work and the less you take care of yourself to balance that stress, the greater the chance that you will experience a deterioration in your mental and physical health.

Further, poor worker health can have a negative effect on a company’s bottom line. Think about it: Lost productivity due to worker absence, impaired performance as a result of chronic conditions, and workers’ compensation settlements are costly on their own, and much more so when compounded. The Integrated Benefits Institute reports that poor health costs U.S. employers about $530 billion annually.

In an effort to offset employee healthcare costs and lost productivity, employers may end up discontinuing their relationship with those in poor health who are underperforming. Thus, to ensure job security and keep your managers happy with your performance, it’s imperative that you take care of yourself physically, while also seeking out ways to reduce the amount of stress you carry from work. Self-care starts with getting the proper amount of sleep and eating a balanced diet, but staying strong and focused at work also means prioritizing your mental health while reducing stress.

Workplace healthcare costs

As mentioned above, the lost productivity caused by workers with poor health is just a small piece of the big picture when it comes to job-related healthcare costs. Employers typically also have to pay out of pocket in the event of a workplace injury, which is more likely if their employees are not functioning at 100%.

Certain occupations are riskier than others, of course, and legal experts claim that “millions of workplace injuries and illnesses are reported every year.” Among the most common injuries resulting in workers’ compensation payouts are overexertion, and trips and falls. Overexertion accounts for more than 23% of workplace injuries and can result in muscle sprains, tears, and strains.

In most states, companies of all sizes are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance for injuries just like these. The premium that an employer is required to pay for this type of insurance will vary drastically depending on the nature of the work and the amount of payroll an employer has. In some cases, your employer will pay a significant amount for workers’ compensation coverage, which may act as an incentive to cultivate a healthy workforce — but it also means that if you feel like you’re treading dangerous waters, you have rights to ensure you’re taken care of.

Fighting back against sedentary office jobs

The truth is that employers can only do so much to keep their workers healthy. The bulk of self-care and healthy lifestyle choices are dependent on individual employees. Unfortunately, many full-time workers, especially those who must also juggle family obligations on top of work, are so busy that preventative healthcare falls to the wayside.

Of course, some work environments are more conducive to staying healthy than others. For instance, those who work in an office setting may be unaware of how unhealthy it is to sit around all day. In fact, studies show that inactive lifestyles are one of the biggest preventable public health risks in the modern era, ultimately leading to a number of chronic conditions.

A lack of regular exercise can cause obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and more. Therefore, if you spend the bulk of your workday sitting at your desk, you should take steps to add more movement to your daily routine. Try to take walks throughout the day, for example, and invite your co-workers for additional support.

Keeping your mental health strong

As you know, your overall health isn’t only comprised of the physical aspects. The importance of mental health care has been increasingly emphasized in recent years, which is a step in the right direction on a societal level. Where your job is concerned, feeling mentally stable and positive is crucial to your performance.

That’s because poor mental health may lead to depression and/or anxiety. Those conditions can manifest in myriad ways, from the inability to concentrate to headaches and insomnia. What’s more, the CDC reports that mental illness is associated with high rates of unemployment. In this way, poor mental health can jeopardize your livelihood as well as negatively affect your work performance.

Taking charge of your mental health involves identifying warning signs and potentially toxic environments. You may even find that your workplace is negatively impacting your mental health — and if that’s the case, consider making a change for the sake of your health and happiness.

Side effects of the overworked

As you begin to focus more strongly on your health, keep in mind that stress can come from seemingly mundane sources. For a large chunk of the U.S. workforce, a daily commute comes with the territory. In addition to your job itself, lengthy commutes may have a negative impact on your health, especially if you drive more than 10 miles to get to work.

Exhaustion is another common symptom of stressful commutes and overworked employees. Especially when you’re exhausted and behind the wheel, your brain is effectively impaired on a cognitive level, and you’re putting both yourself and your fellow commuters at risk. And drowsy driving is more common than you might think: 21% of fatal crashes involve a drowsy driver, with commercial truck drivers and night shift workers ranking among the highest risk groups.

In order to stay focused at work as well as during your daily commute, getting an adequate amount of sleep is essential. Adults between the ages of 26 and 64 should get 7-9 hours of sleep every night for optimal functioning. If you’re among the estimated 1 in 3 adults that don’t get enough sleep, there are several tricks you can use to cultivate better sleeping habits. Start by going to sleep at the same time every night to help get your body into a rhythm.

It sounds simple, but getting enough sleep on a regular basis is a key factor towards a healthier life, and can also help you stay focused at work. You can’t rely on sleep alone to optimize your workplace performance, however. In addition, make sure to prioritize your mental health, and exercise regularly.

About the Author:
Jori Hamilton is a writer from the Pacific Northwest who has a particular interest in social justice, politics, education, healthcare, technology, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @ HamiltonJori.

About the author

Guest Contributor