Striking a balance between work and personal life

Irish workers spend less than the price of a cup of coffee per day on their personal health and wellbeing, according to a report published by the Mater Private Healthcare Group.

‘Healthy Working’, a report that analysed how diet, exercise, and work-life balance affected Irish workers’ physical and mental health, showed that the Irish workforce were slow to spend on their personal health and wellbeing, and even slower to heed medical guidance, with almost three in ten (27%) continuing to work while sick, against the advice of their GP.

The report found that In general, the majority (85%) of Irish workers had a relatively healthy lifestyle.

However, the findings suggested that workers were not as healthy as they believed. Fifty per cent of workers said that their job impeded their ability to take exercise, and one in every four workers skipped breakfast every day.

Of the 15% who admitted to having an unhealthy lifestyle, 68% considered themselves unfit, 54% ate unhealthily, 18% claimed to drink heavily, and 35% smoked.

When it came to keeping an eye on their personal health, just 45% of workers went to their GP for a yearly or more frequent check-up. Over half (55%) only went to the GP when they had a specific health complaint.

The report said research showed a distinct disconnect between employers’ expectations and their workers when they attempted to strike a balance between work and a personal life.

Eighteen per cent of workers claimed to have a poor work-life balance. Of those with a poor work-life balance, almost half (46%) worked outside normal hours, over half (57%) said that they were constantly thinking about work, even on days off, and 21% said that they were‘always on’ and available to their employer.

Despite being offered a minimum of 20 days annual leave per year, almost 20% of employees did not take their full allocation. Of those who don’t, over one third (34%) said they were afraid their workload would increase and another third (34%) claimed that there was no one to manage their workload while they were away.

However, some employers recognises that worker wellbeing was important: three in four invested in health and wellness perks for their teams.

These includes benefits like flexible working (34%) and on-site exercise classes (7%), with some employers (7%) even providing access to massage or other holistic treatments.

When it came to lunch, 81% of employers provided eating facilities on-site, with 53% offering an in-house catering option for workers.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Ms. Mary Morrogh, Consultant General Surgeon, Breast Surgeon & 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.”

The research was carried out among 500 adults. on behalf of Mater Private Healthcare Group by Core Research.