Mater Private report reveals need to boost wellbeing in workplace

Promoting good diet and exercise habits in the workplace can go a long way to boosting well-being among Irish adults, according to a new report conducted by Mater Private.

Mater Private report reveals need to boost wellbeing in workplace

Promoting good diet and exercise habits in the workplace can go a long way to boosting well-being among Irish adults, according to a new report conducted by Mater Private.

The private hospital group’s ‘Healthy Working’ survey of 500 workers found that the overwhelming majority of people put their job before their own health. Almost nine in 10 workers have worked while sick, three in 10 against the advice of their GP.

“While it is admirable that people in Ireland do have a good work ethic, but you shouldn’t let that be at the cost of your own health,” said Dr James Ryan, consultant endocrinologist, Mater Private Cork.

“Less than half of people surveyed regularly attend their GP. Every adult should visit their doctor at least once a year.

The report shows that people are slow to take sick days, which may be seen as a positive in one sense, but it’s not good to see that 88% of people have worked while sick.”

The downside of the dedicated work ethic was very evident in the report’s findings, notably work-related stress. Some 57% of workers with a poor work-life balance say they are ‘constantly’ thinking about work, even on days off.

Almost seven in 10 workers are currently experiencing some form of stress at work, with four in 10 claiming to have suffered from ‘burnout’. One in four spends more than six hours a day sitting, and over half don’t have the energy to take exercise after work.

Meanwhile, workers in Ireland do not invest in their own health. The vast majority spend less than the price of a cup of coffee per day on their personal health and well-being, an estimate based on average annual health and wellbeing spend of €690.

“Around 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercise a day, like walking or cycling, is essential for good health,” said Dr Ryan.

In talking to people, many of them tell us that they can’t find the time for exercise between work and getting the kids to bed.

“I was also surprised to see that more than one in three people are still smoking. In this day and age, with the smoking ban and despite all of the education on the subject, there are still clearly an awful lot of smokers out there. We will have to do more to encourage people to give up smoking.”

In terms of giving workers the opportunity to exercise, Mater Private does encourage its staff to take a walk during lunch break. Where possible, staff are encouraged to walk or cycle to work.

Anecdotally, Dr Ryan also notes that staff in Mater Private Cork have become more inclined to cycle since Blackrock has gained new cycle ways. He encourages people to develop a good work-life balance, and to build time for exercise into their daily routines, both at work and at home.

Dr James Ryan, Mater Private consultant endocrinologist.
Dr James Ryan, Mater Private consultant endocrinologist.

Some sports people will know Dr Ryan through his involvement as doctor to the Limerick hurling teams. Mater Private’s consultant endocrinologist, he also holds a Masters in Sports Medicine.

The report found that the majority (85%) of Irish workers do have a relatively healthy lifestyle.

However, the report’s findings suggest that workers are not as healthy as they believe.

Some 50% of workers say that their job impedes their ability to take exercise, and one in every four workers skips breakfast every day.

Of the 15% who admitted to having an unhealthy lifestyle, 68% considered themselves unfit, 54% eat unhealthily, 18% claim to drink heavily, and 35% smoke. When it comes to keeping an eye on their personal health, just 45% of workers go to their GP for a yearly or more frequent check-up. Over half (55%) only go to the GP when they have a specific health complaint.

Employer/worker disconnect

Research shows a distinct disconnect between an employer’s expectations and their workers when they attempt to strike a balance between work and a personal life.

Some 18% of workers claim to have a poor work-life balance. Of those with a poor work-life balance, almost half (46%) work outside normal hours, over half (57%) say that they are constantly thinking about work, even on days off, and 21% say that they are ‘always on’ and available to their employer.

Despite being offered a minimum of 20 days annual leave per year, almost 20% of employees do not take their full allocation. Of those who don’t, over one third (34%) say they are afraid their workload will increase and another third (34%) claim that there is no one to manage their workload while away.

Ms Mary Morrogh, consultant general surgeon, breast surgeon and medical director of the Mater Private Wellness Programme, said:

We sometimes forget that we are responsible for managing our own health and that how healthy we are depends on the actions, both big and small, that we take every day.

“People tend to assume that their health only requires attention when they have a new or longstanding medical complaint. Even then, a significant proportion of the workforce will compromise their health by making poor choices, such as delaying presentation to their doctor, or not heeding the advice given by the GP. This must change.

“Employers have a significant role to play in helping their workers to maintain optimal health by introducing workplace benefits like healthy lunches, on-site employee health checks or perhaps even subsidised health insurance. By doing so, they are ensuring their workforce remains healthy, motivated, and performing well.”

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