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Andrea Fern

Flexibility

By Facts and Figures, Guidance

We have really enjoyed sharing our blogs throughout 2021 and focusing on specific areas of our physical and mental health for both our professional and personal lives. This month, we are focusing specifically on flexibility. It’s a great area to delve into, flexibility, as it’s something we are all aware of within our own bodies. Its also something we see as inevitably deteriorating as our lives go on. We are in awe of how the young are incredibly flexible and think nothing of the acrobatics they perform through play, and yet we consider aging and decreasing flexibility to go hand in hand and just accept it. However, that really doesn’t have to be the case, and with a focus on flexibility, we can use it to improve so many aspects of our physical health…

Having good flexibility doesn’t have to mean you can do the splits with ease or back bend into a flip as soon as you get up in a morning! Good flexibility is about having ease of movement, reduced stiffness and a general appreciation for the flexibility you need for daily life and exercising. When you have this focus (and you can begin to see improvements in flexibility very quickly with practise), you can benefit from positive effects beyond just being able to touch your toes; such as improved posture and muscle coordination plus reduced risk of injury, stiffness and soreness.

Like most areas of our physical and mental health, improving it requires daily practise. This doesn’t have to be a huge amount of time, it’s the regularity that sounds. However, if you do stick with it, you’re patience and perseverance will be rewarded. An easy way to do just that is to incorporate yoga into your exercise routine. There are thousands of Yoga courses or even free you tube tutorials out there, some of which are just 10 minutes long, that can help your flexibility. However, yoga goes beyond that with a more deep-rooted focus on the mental and physical connection, making it a brilliant exercise to do first thing in the morning as you wake up those muscles and prepare your mind and body for the day ahead. In fact, with such a focus on your mental state and breathing during yoga, your flexibility will often improve without even realising you were focusing on it! Yoga is a great activity to do alone, as it enables you to focus deeply on your current state, breathing and inner emotions. However, it’s also a really enjoyable activity to partake in as a team! Particularly if you find yourself in a busy period of time at work, or you see the staff within the workplace are becoming negative or sluggish. So, get the gang to roll out those mats, join together on Zoom or MS Teams and take part in a short yoga session to start their working day. You’ll be amazed at what this does to morale!

It’s also important to maintain good flexibility if you are hoping to improve your overall physical health in other ways too. Maybe you’re taking up running this year, joining the gym or you’ve invested in a bike. Whatever it may be, you need to ensure you’re allowing yourself to dedicate time to flexibility to help decrease the risk of muscular and skeletal issues along the way. Without flexibility, your muscles shorten, become tighter and make your exercise more difficult to undertake and enjoy.

So, as we can see, focusing on flexibility is not only important for our everyday lives and exercise plans, but essential. But what else can you do?

Pilates: Slightly more physical than yoga, Pilates is a brilliant exercise that will help improve flexibility and more specifically, posture. Try an online Zoom class! You’ll be amazed at what appears on the face of it to be a very simple, slow and easy routine is actually quite demanding and tests your ability, working up a sweat!

Warm up: Whenever you partake in exercise, be sure to keep your warm up dynamic. Include stretches and movements from different muscle groups such as a lunge with an arm extension. Never miss your warm up! It’s just as important as the rest of the work out!

Deskercise: Yep, it’s a real thing! Incorporating simply exercise movements into your day whilst not even leaving your desk! Try a seated spinal twist or hamstring stretch. Or, try one of these great stretches for desk workers. Chest/Heart opening exercises are great for desk workers, being hunched over a computer all day you can begin to feel those shoulders creeping forward. So many of us suffer with poor posture and sore mid backs after a long day in the office, so set little reminders to make sure you take 5 minutes here and there for simple movements to reduce that pain and increase that flexibility.

Take stock of your body right now as you read this, are there areas you feel are stiff, tired and sore with poor flexibility? Now is the time to rectify that! It’s never too late and with a little practise, patience and time you’ll be amazed at the improvements you see. This is not about just accepting the flexibility you have, it’s about aiming for the flexibility you want and need for a better, healthier life.

Josh at Locomotion

By Uncategorized

Earlier this month, we wrote about the importance of core strength for everyday life and the small steps we can all take to help improve our core. And so, to further this discussion, we caught up with Josh at Locomotion. Josh has a wealth of experience in sport and exercise science and is truly passionate about how we can make big changes and differences to our health with even just a small effort…

Josh, can you tell me about your background and what you do at Locomotion?

I studied sport and exercise science at Loughborough University. During my time at Loughborough, I was fortunate enough to secure a placement year role at Tottenham Hotspur FC as a strength & conditioning coach. After graduating, I was offered a place on the MSc Physiotherapy course at MMU but chose to defer my entry in order to take a year out to travel around Australia. I landed a visa sponsored position at a prestigious boxing gym in Melbourne but was forced to step down when the pandemic hit. I fell into a depression for the ~3 months until I had a eureka moment. That eureka moment was Locomotion. I realised that postural pain and discomfort affected almost every person I knew, so I created Locomotion to address the issue. 

I now direct Locomotion’s operations in Australia and the UK and hope to expand our operations to Europe and America within the next 3 years.

Let’s take it back to basics. What is the ‘core’ and what does it do for our bodies?

People often mistakenly think the core refers only to the abdominal muscles. While the abdominals are included, many other muscles contribute to form the core. The core refers to the superficial and deep muscles around the mid-section of the body that connect the pelvis, ribs and spine to one another. So not just the abdominal muscles but also muscles in the lower back region, around the rib cage, and deep pelvic muscles.

What function does the ‘core’ perform?

The underlying function of the core is to maintain the structural integrity of the spine. In a simple day-to-day sense, this translates into keeping our spine upright while we walk, sit, run etc. Without the core muscles, we would simply flop over under the force of gravity.

Why do you feel it’s so important to focus on core strength?

The core connects the upper and lower body and as such, it is implicated in practically every movement we make. A stronger core connects and aligns the upper and lower body, whereas a weak core does not. Imagine a rod divided into three sections, with the top and bottom sections made of iron and the middle section made of rubber. Despite the strength of the top and bottom sections, the pliable centre compromises the integrity of the entire structure. 

This example is analogous for having a strong upper and lower body but a weak core. If the core is weak, the integrity of the entire body is compromised. Conversely, if the core is strong, the body is supported and able to produce or resist movements at its discretion.

Those with a weak core are more likely to suffer from back pain or hip pain, as their core muscles are unable to maintain healthy alignment between the spine and hips.

How would I know if I have a strong or weak core?

Pain – Those with a weak core will likely suffer from constant dull aches and pains in their back, whereas those with a stronger core will have less severe and less frequent symptoms, as the stronger core can maintain better spinal alignment. If you notice that your lower back gets tight very easily, that’s a strong indicator that your core is weak, as the lower back muscles are doing the lion’s share of the work.

Posture – Those with a weak core are far more likely to present with poor posture (lordosis or kyphosis), whereas a stronger core preserves healthy posture. As well as the obvious cosmetic effects, poor posture can lead to severe and debilitating diseases further down the line. Those with a weak core will also be more prone to falling off balance and lack athleticism, as the core is the stabiliser for our movements.

What are the dangers or risks to our physical health if we don’t have a strong core?

Remembering that the core serves to maintain the structural integrity of the spine helps us understand the implications of a weak core. 

In the very short-term, postural issues, such as neck or lower back pain, may be negligible and something a person can persevere through. Pain or discomfort may be dull and persistent, but bearable to begin with.

Yet, over time these postural pains can transform into severe postural dysfunctions, as the spine adapts to the weak core not keeping it properly aligned.

Most severely, a weak core and consequential poor posture can lead to degenerative disc disease or spinal stenosis. Both of which are severe and debilitating conditions.

Can you give us some ideas and tips on ways we can strengthen our core (in depth exercises and easy ideas to do at a desk or at home)?

A comprehensive core workout should expose the spine to the full spectrum of unstable motions: extension, rotation and lateral flexion

This can be simply achieved through plank variations!

Traditional Plank (anti-extension)

Traditional Plank

The plank is perhaps the simplest and most effective core exercises there is. 

When in a plank position, gravity is acting to pull our spine down to the ground, e.g. pull our spine into extension. The core musculature must therefore contract in order to stop the spine from extending and remain stable. 

Shoulder Taps (anti-rotation)

Shoulder Taps

In a high plank position, we have 4 points of contact with the ground (2 hands, 2 feet). This rectangular base is a stable position, much like how a 4-legged chair finds stability.

Yet, if you swung a hammer and broke off one of the chair’s legs, it would become unbalanced and topple over, as one of its corners of support has gone. 

This same imbalance occurs in the shoulder tap exercise. We remove one corner of support from the ground (our hand) and become unbalanced. However, unlike the chair, we have core muscles that contract to resist this unbalancing rotational force and keep our body straight.

Side Plank (anti-lateral flexion)

Side Plank

Planking on our side causes the force of gravity to travel from side to side through our body. 

Rather than our gravity pulling our spine down, from back to front, as in a traditional plank, it now pulls our spine to one side – lateral flexion.

In this scenario, the core muscles contract to resist this force and keep the spine straight.

Are there things we can do every day to enhance our core strength and postural health?

First and foremost, being aware of our posture and actively trying to sit/stand correctly can have a huge impact on our postural health and symptoms. 

Actively trying to sit upright, with our chin down, shoulders back and core muscles lightly engaged will keep the spine properly aligned and work the core muscles.

Sitting with this perfect posture isn’t realistic for an entire day. However, accumulating lots of 5-10 minute periods of perfect posture throughout the day will have a cumulative effect and strengthen the core muscles overtime.

 Pursuing a more active lifestyle through simple measures, like a morning walk or jog, can also have a profound impact on our postural health.

Any exercise engages the core muscles, so daily exercise will, over time, make the core muscles stronger more robust, meaning healthier posture will become a more natural occurrence.

Bird Dog
Dead Bug

So there you have it! We really shouldn’t underestimate the importance of core health and appreciate how easy it is to improve it simply over time. If you want to learn more, have further questions for Josh, or have feedback after trying some of the ideas above, get in touch! We’d love to hear how you get on.

Covid-19 testing for travel – all you need to know

By Coronavirus

Travelling to England?

Are you are travelling abroad for work? You can now shorten your quarantine time on arrival back to England.

Currently (March 2021), there are no Travel Corridors. This means that anyone returning to England from any destination outside of the Common Travel Area (Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man) must do the following:

  • Quarantine for 10 days
  • Take a Government Coronavirus (Covid-19) test on Day 2 and Day 8 of quarantining
  • Follow Lockdown rules

How to quarantine when you arrive in England – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Destinations: If traveling from a Red List Travel Ban country, you must quarantine in a Quarantine Hotel. You must take a government test on Day 2 and Day 8 of quarantining. These tests must be purchased as part of the Travel Test Package. You are not allowed to enter the Test to Release Scheme if traveling from a Red List Travel Ban Country.

Booking and staying in a quarantine hotel when you arrive in England – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Destinations: If traveling from any country not on the Red List Travel Ban list, you must quarantine at home. You must take a government test on Day 2 and Day 8 of quarantining. These tests must be purchased as part of the Travel Test Package. However, you are allowed to enter the Test to Release Scheme.

The Test to Release scheme allows you to be released from quarantine after a full 5 days of quarantine, only if you have been tested negative to Coronavirus (Covid-19). The government day 8 test will still need to be completed.

Acorn can provide the Test to Release service for you.

NOTE: Test to release does not replace the mandatory government Covid19 Travel Testing Package. For information on this, please see HERE

PCR Testing before travel (commonly known as Fit to Fly)

Acorn are a government approved private provider of Covid-19 PCR testing. We have been through an extensive process to ensure that we meet all of the UK government standards to provide Covid-19 testing to industry and the general public.

We work with an accredited laboratory that are registered and government approved.

You can come to our clinic in Congleton for your Covid-19 PCR swab test where we will book you in with our fully trained professionals. Once the swab is completed, you will receive your result within 24 – 48 hours. The laboratory do offer an option for the same result with an extra fee.

Please contact us for more information and pricing of Covid-19 Swab Tests before you travel on 01260 277797.

Be prepared before you travel

Are you dreaming about that summer get away abroad? When lockdowns are lifted, you may be allowed to enter the Test to Release Scheme in order to shorten your quarantine time on arrival back to England.

Hopefully, travel corridors will open up again, where no test is required upon arrival to England. These are likely to be reviewed in the coming months as restrictions are lifted come summer 2021.

Currently (March 2021), traveling abroad for holidays is not permitted due to National Lockdown.

If you eventually leave England and travel to Red List Travel Ban country, upon arrival back to England you will need to quarantine in a Quarantine Hotel. You will need to take a government test on Day 2 and Day 8 of quarantining. These tests must be purchased as part of the Government Travel Test Package. You are not allowed to enter the Test to Release Scheme.

You can find out more information about the governments Travel Testing Package here.

If you take a trip abroad, be that personal or for work related purposes, which is not listed on a Travel Corridor list or on the Red List Travel Ban list, you must quarantine at home. You must take a government test on Day 2 and Day 8 of quarantining. These tests must be purchased as part of the Travel Testing Package. However, you are allowed to enter the Test to Release Scheme.

The Test to Release Scheme means that you can get tested to release you from quarantine early. It allows you to be released from quarantine after a full 5 days of quarantine, if you have been tested negative to Covid-19.

Acorn can provide the Test to Release service for you. Please get in touch to book yours.

The self-isolation period will only be shortened if your test result is negative.

NOTE: Test to release does not replace the mandatory government Covid-19 Travel Testing Package. For information on this, please see HERE

RED LIST (TRAVEL BAN AREA) – Isolate for 10 days in Government approved hotel and take the Government Day 2 and Day 8 Covid-19 tests

NO Travel Corridor – Isolate for 10 days at home. Government Covid-19 test on Day 2 and Day 8. Private test to release from Acorn on full Day 5

Travel Corridor – No isolation required

Core Strength

By Uncategorized

Well, Spring is finally here! We are definitely ready to welcome in the lighter nights and warmer temperatures. There’s something rather motivating about the first signs of Spring isn’t there? And with that, we are all getting more motivated for work and play, setting plans for the summer and staying positive for the months ahead.

One area that we all see a big difference in as we say goodbye to winter is our energy to move more. Whether that’s starting a new sport as a hobby, having an evening stroll or just getting that big Spring clean done around the house, moving more has so any benefits and really does make us feel good. However, have you ever really focused in on a particular area of your body to work out what you can do to improve the strength and flexibility there? Whole body movement and workouts are great, but if you take the time to focus on one area of the body, you’ll be amazed how quickly you see improvements, and it can have a profound affect on the body and mind with lasting results.

So, with that in mind, we are focusing on core strength this month… Whenever we say ‘core strength’ so many of us immediately think of sit ups and it puts us straight off! But core strength focus doesn’t have to just be aimed at getting rock hard abs and an insta-worthy six pack. It’s about appreciating what strong core muscles can do for the whole of your body and making small changes in the every day moments of life to improve that strength.

Posture: This is a big one for us, particularly when we work with clients that spend a lot of time hunched over a desk! We like to put a great focus on posture as it has such a big impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. However, if you improve your core strength, you are more likely to have improved posture and reduce the risks of issues like neck and back pain, digestion problems and rounded shoulders. Once you have bad posture and weak core muscles, a vicious cycle can be begin where injury can occur very easily and all the muscles at the front AND back can become less efficient and prone to problems.

Back Pain and Injury: Many of us suffer with back pain at some point in our lives. When our core muscles are weak, the muscles in our back have to work harder on even the simplest tasks, causing them to get overworked, sore and prone to injury. Let’s say you needed to help move some boxes or transport good at work… without realising you could do serious damage to your back because your core muscles are unable to support you.

So, what can you do to improve your core strength and feel the benefits right away? After all, this is all about FEELING the benefits, not necessarily seeing those abs bursting through!

First of all, make it fun! Exercise can sometimes feel like such a chore and it’s easy to back out in favour of more enjoyable tasks. So, by making it fun, you can ensure you actually look forward to doing it and have a bit of a laugh along the way. So, how about a cheeky little challenge in the workplace? Planking is easy to do in a small space and is very low impact so most of the team should be able to join in! Simply go down onto your hands and knees, then extend your legs so they are straight and your toes are on the ground. You should now be straight, so either keep your arms straight and hands on the ground or bring your elbows down to a forearm plank. The trick here is to be as straight as possible, so don’t let your bottom drop low to the ground or push up too high. You’ll instantly see how difficult it is to stay straight for a long time. Once you’re in position, start a timer and see how long you can plank for! This may only be a few seconds, but the stronger your core and the more often you do it, the longer this will become. So, challenge your work friends, see who can be the plank King or Queen and work together to see improvements. 

Or, you can even do some core strength exercises without even leaving your chair! Firstly, if you are on a wheeled seat, be sure to lock it in place, or sit on a normal chair or stool… Now, sit on the front of your chair with your legs together, knees bent at a 90-degree angle, feet flat on the ground, arms up and bent at the elbows with fingers interlaced behind your head. Engage your core and lean back until your back grazes your chair back. Keep your back straight and your abs engaged. In one fluid motion, sit back up while lowering your right elbow to the left knee, lifting your left leg so the knee meets the elbow, keeping your abs engaged and fingers interlaced behind your head the entire time. Return to your starting position and repeat, this time lowering the left elbow to the right knee before returning to your starting position again. That’s one full repetition. Repeat each repetition 20 times.

However, if you don’t quite feel confident to show your skills in front of your colleagues just yet, you can do simple exercises at home, with no equipment and just a few minutes to spare. Check out these 5 exercises from Runners Worlds which take just 15 minutes to do!

We will certainly be trying some of these out this month, and look forward to reporting back our findings on what we found useful and successful. Don’t forget to get in touch on our socials too to let us know how you get on!

Yes, Spring is here, so keep that body and mind feeling fresh and ready for better and brighter days ahead. You’ve got this! And don’t forget to check back with us later this month when we will be speaking with Josh Adams of Locomotion Australia to dive deeper into the key elements of improving core strength.

Food for Thought

By Uncategorized

How is it February already? Well, at least it means we are starting our new 2021 journey through the body and mind to help both our staff and yours to boost their wellbeing for their work and personal lives! We can’t wait to get stuck in (Check out last month’s post to learn all about our mission for this year). For February, we are focusing on health and digestion…

Now, the whole digestion topic is everywhere at the start of every year. It seems every company out there wants you to make a new YOU for the new year. And whilst positive changes to our diet and lifestyle are always good, we feel this direct and intense focus on it for such a short period of time can actually have a negative impact in the long run. At Acorn, we don’t believe in fad diets and quick fixes. We believe in long term solutions, positive lifestyle changes and an overall shift in attitudes to change our way of thinking when it comes to our digestion and diet for the long haul. 

We all know that eating healthy foods is good for us. Drinking more water, boosting our fruit and vegetable intake and creating a varied and balanced diet are all things we know we should be doing, but how do we really go about it? And are we really doing it? Right now, it can be easy to fall back on those comfort foods and calorific treats to make us feel better in the moment. But those quick and short-lived treats may feel good at consumption, but they can actually have a negative impact on our energy and wellbeing over a long period. 

So, this month, we want to make actionable choices and trackable changes to our daily habits to take stock of how healthy we really are being, and what we can do to improve it.

Count those calories: Of course, to maintain a healthy weight, we need to ensure we don’t exceed our recommended calorie intake (2000 for women, 2500 for men). But do you know how many calories are in your dinner, snacks and drinks? It really can be quite surprising! One way to track your calories is by downloading an app onto your smartphone like MyFitnessPal. This allows you to track your calories with everything you eat or drink throughout the day. It’s easy to search for the foods you’re eating, or even scan the barcode to find the specific brand or product you have in your hand! You can then add it to your intake. It will also show you how much protein, sugar, fat and more you’ve taken in during the day so you can see areas which you are falling short, and areas which you may need to cut back on. This is a great way to take stock of where you are at right now, before deciding what changes to make for the better.

Quick Acorn Tip – If you love a quick snack to see you through the afternoon, check out these surprising and delicious snacks, all less than 100 calories! https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/surprising-100-calorie-snacks/

Foodie Focus: Now you know your current situation and where you’re at right now with the kinds of foods you love, it’s time to get focused! Firstly, take a look at your mental and physical health. Do you struggle with low energy? Do you regularly get sugar cravings? Are you feeling low and down? It may sound strange, but there are certain foods that can really help with whatever you’re feeling right now. For example, if you’re slightly overweight, it’s all about making simple switches in your diet so you don’t have to feel like you’re losing out. Choose sugar-free drinks, fat-free yoghurt, lean meats, explore new fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water. There are so many options out there that mean you don’t have to compromise on taste, texture or quality and you can still enjoy the foods you love. If you find yourself in a slump at your desk, with no energy to see you through the day, make sure to pack a banana in your bag! They are one of the best foods for energy, alongside foods like eggs, fatty fish, sweet potatoes, apples and brown rice. Craving sugar? Then switch out that chocolate indulgence for berries, chia seeds, yoghurts, or even dark chocolate which is a better option than the standard milk chocolate we often reach for. And, if you’re feeling low, try mood-boosting foods like bananas, oats, berries, fatty fish, fermented foods and dark chocolate. 

With a little bit of research, you’ll be surprised how different foods can help you feel so much better about life, thus making you happier and more productive for work and play!

Action for Employers: Broaching the subject of food can feel like a strange one for employers, as you don’t want to feel like you are dictating something which is so personal to each individual. However, there has never been a better time to offer support, guidance and information to employees to help them make positive and proactive changes to their lifestyle. A better diet means better physical health, better immune systems, better productivity, better mental health… the list goes on and these positive results are great for you and for them. How about setting up a cookery club? Give employees a space where they can share recipes they love for everyone to try. This will help promote the conversation around healthy eating, make staff feel like they are part of something even when they are working remotely and create the discussion around the foods we eat and love.

Quick Acorn Tip: How about creating a team-building evening on video chat where everyone cooks and devours a delicious healthy meal with a prize for the most successful plate of food created!  Ready, steady, cook!

Right now, a huge focus is being put on our mental health, and quite rightly so. So many of us are feeling isolated and struggling to find our way through this pandemic and keeping our mental health in tip top shape is really important. However, one way to really help our mental health is by boosting our physical health too. They work in harmony. And by taking stock of what we are putting into our bodies can really help us to enable positive change and boost both the physical AND mental areas of our health for the better.

Now, we’re off to make a healthy low calorie snack, what about you?

Don’t forget to check back nest month when we will be focusing on core-strength. No, you don’t need abs of steel! We will take a look at the importance of core strength and how improvements can really help all areas of your physical health and simple ways to do so.

Our 2021 journey with you

By Uncategorized

Welcome to a brand-new year with Acorn Occupational Health! Whilst this year has certainly started in an unusual and difficult way for many of us, we are spending this month focusing on the future and what we can do to make positive change.

It can be very easy (and totally understandable) to feel overwhelmed by everything going on in the world right now. Scrolling through our news feed, watching the TV, chatting to loved ones over video call, it’s hard to avoid the nerve-wracking reports, gossip and opinions. However, the more we can disconnect from the details and focus on the future ahead of us, the more we can improve our positive energy and change our daily habits to feel happier about what lies ahead.

And with that, we are turning our attention to the months ahead, and the brilliant, bright and bold changes we can make, both big and small to our daily lives that really can make a big difference to how we feel in our personal and professional lives. We want to help everyone to get focused on particular areas of your life, body and mind to improve habits and feelings towards them. Sound good? Then let’s go for it!

Over the coming months, we are going to help you, as employers to take stock of your employees and how they are coping, dealing with and working through whatever the world is bringing to them right now, and how, as their employer you can help and encourage them to make positive changes. To do this, we will be focusing on particular parts of the body or specific areas of mental health. Each month, we will offer a specific focus, and provide guidance and information on this area concerned and how it’s affected in your day-to-day life. We’ll then dig deeper into how employers can make it fun, engaging and informative for employees to manage it, work on it and track their progress. This isn’t about adding to their workload or their efforts at work, it’s about educating and informing them about areas they may not have even thought of or realised may affect their work and personal life.

So, as we go through the year, we will move through the body and mind, offering information and ideas to help boost health and promote positive attitudes to that specific area, and by the end of the year we will all have adopted great ideas and changes into our life to help all areas of our physical and mental health.  And we really mean that. We aren’t just going to be offering this information and providing goals, tasks and fun ideas for you to be adopting in your own business, we are going to be taking part too! Over the months, you’ll hear from our own staff on how they are working on that specific area that month, providing feedback and helping all of us to feel part of something bigger. After all, many of us may be working from home and feel like we are fighting this fight alone, but we really aren’t. Acorn are here to work WITH you, bring the whole team together and make 2021 a positive year for physical and mental health at work.

We can’t wait to start sharing our ideas with you and look forward to joining you on this journey! First up in February, we are going to be looking at health and digestion! Let’s go!

Alcohol Awareness

Alcohol Awareness Week – Change your Mindset

By Uncategorized

This week is Alcohol Awareness Week, and it provides us all a chance to stop, reflect and make changes with our understanding and consciousness of our drinking habits.

Now more than ever, we may be taking to enjoying a glass of wine, or more at home. With the closure of pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants yet again upon us in another national lockdown, sales of alcohol are set to spike once again. AlcoholChange.Org conducted a short survey during the first lockdown which had some incredibly interesting results:

  • 28% of people had drunk more alcohol during lockdown, with those that are working more likely to drink than those that are not. 
  • Perhaps more concerning, heavier drinkers were found to also be drinking more too.
  • One in five of the people surveyed have drunk alcohol as a way to handle stress and anxiety, with parents more likely doing so than non-parents.
  • One in five expected to head straight to the pub within 2 weeks of lockdown easing

For the full report and information on the findings, click here

The theme for this year’s Alcohol Awareness Week is “Alcohol and Mental Health”. With a focus on the link between alcohol and mental health, it’s a time to look after ourselves, and those around us during a year of great change and uncertainty. And, with one in four people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year, and drinking too much or too often increasing our risk, there’s never been a better time to apply this focus.

So many of us are applying a flexible working pattern these days with the encouragement from the government to work from home. Being at home more, the lines between professional and personal time can become blurred, which makes it tricky to focus and the temptation to grab a glass of wine here and there so much easier. But, how and when do you know if your alcohol consumption is cause for concern or action?

You are safest not to drink more than 14 units per week, spreading those units over the week, not binging and having ‘alcohol free’ days too. If you don’t stick to this as a maximum, and find yourself drinking so much more, it can have a huge affect on your personal and professional life. It increases the possibility of injuries and accidents at work plus a reduction in concentration and coordination in performance. Your productivity will also be reduced meaning goals and objectives fail to be met which can lead to great issues and concern for an employer. But, surprisingly, many issues within the workplace are not caused by heavy drinkers, but more moderate drinkers. 

Lost productivity due to alcohol consumption costs the UK economy more than £7 billion annually with 40% of employers seeing alcohol consumption as a significant cause of low productivity. But, not only that, workplaces can not only feel the effects of alcohol, but they can exacerbate them with 27% of people saying that workplace stress makes them drink more. Those that do shift work, have poor working conditions, have a lack of control, or a drinking culture being seen as normal at work all further these risks.

So, let’s talk about action! What can YOU do to take control and make positive steps this Alcohol Awareness Week?

For You:

  • Drink no more than 14 units a week, spread over a few days with a few ‘alcohol free’ days
  • Consider going ‘dry’ for a number of weeks or months and begin to see instant improvements in your alertness, finances, energy and wellbeing
  • Avoid drinking at all, or drinking too many units the night before work to help reduce the risk of low-productivity and energy during your working day

For your Employees:

You may notice in your employees a few signs that they’re struggling with a large alcohol consumption as their productivity and attention to detail will reduce. Maybe they’ll have bloodshot eyes or be on the edge of falling asleep at work. They may forget or miss meetings and deadlines, and they may become irritable towards other members of staff. What can you do to help them and those around them?

  • Introduce an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to ensure your staff can access support
  • Create awareness raising activities to promote a healthier relationship with alcohol and support a healthy team goal. 
  • Reduce social events that are entirely geared around alcohol. Less trips to the pub after work!
  • Offer your staff regular health checks. Alcohol consumption has a massive effect on a range of health conditions, so with regular management and check-ups you can ensure you’re looking out for their overall health and wellbeing.
  • Be patient. If you feel you need to take further action and discuss the level of drinking with your employee, be sure to avoid accusatory language, know your employee’s rights and create a concrete action you can both take to improve the situation.

So, this alcohol Awareness Week, it’s time to reflect and react. Particularly this year with so many of us experiencing tough changes in the workplace, we can use this time to take a look at our own relationship with alcohol and be considerate towards others and how they may be dealing with everything this pandemic has thrown their way. Alcohol doesn’t just affect the person who’s drinking it. It can affect their loved ones, family, friends, workplace and wider community. And so, the steps we can take, big or small can have a brilliant, positive impact on everyone, for the long term.

Take Action this Stress Awareness Week

By Awareness, News

During International Stress Awareness Week, it’s our job as employers to appreciate what may be causing our employees stress and how that can affect their personal wellbeing and professional performance. And more importantly, do we understand how to eliminate it for the good of the employees and our business?

Stress Awareness Week is all about putting health, happiness and wellbeing into the heart of business. But what does stress awareness mean to you, as an employer?

Causes:

Stress can come from various aspects of our lives but quite often, it actually comes from a number of places at one time and things get overwhelming. It can become an unhealthy state of body and mind and understanding the triggers which cause stress is the first step to eliminating it.

According to ISMA, 602,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2018/2019. Fast forward to 2020 and all the challenges we’ve all had to face this year, this is set to increase. Struggling to cope with the workload, changes at work and a lack of support rank high in the reasons for workplace stress. Those working in public administration and defence, human health and social work activities and education are said to be some of the industries with the highest rates of stress, depression or anxiety.

Effects:

We often think of stress as being a mental health issue, but it may be surprising to learn that stress can also have a huge effect on our physical health too! Here’s some examples of how stress affects your body. If you notice any of these signs in your employees, it’s time to talk, take action and help them on a road to a happier, healthier life.

Physical effects:

  • Aches, pains and muscle tension
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Extreme weight loss or gain
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Menstrual changes or loss of libido
  • High blood pressure

Emotional and Psychological effects:

  • Tearful
  • Mood swings
  • Angry and frustrated
  • Lack of confidence or self esteem
  • Memory lapses
  • Easily distracted and unable to keep up with work
  • Undue worrying
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Insomnia

You may notice one of these effects, or many of the above. However, if you notice any of these signs in your employees there is action you can take. If there is anything you can do, you’ll be able to help them perform better and work more efficiently in their job.

Action:

Stress doesn’t always come from work that’s for sure but work can definitely have an impact, and being compassionate and understanding to our employees’ personal situations is a brilliant attribute to have as an employer.

It can sometimes be difficult for employees to admit they’re struggling to cope and so it can sometimes take you, as their employer to reach out first. Give your employees the confidence to know that admitting they need help, reaching out and being honest shows true strength. The more you open up discussions and offer a listening ear, the more you can help make changes and make a more effective, efficient and healthy place to work.

  • Make time to talk: It can be difficult, particularly if employees are working from home, to make time to have a proper conversation. However, this is more important than ever! Having a phone call or video chat can help reduce the feeling of loneliness and isolation, giving them a safe place to get things of their chest and keep you up to date with how they’re coping. Once you’re in the know, you can offer assistance, advice and solutions.
  • Accept and Appreciate: It can be easy as an employer to avoid approaching the subject of stress. If business is running smoothly and employees are working well, it can be easy to assume everything is ok. However, this assumption may make it even harder for employees to reach out. The more we can appreciate how our employees are feeling and accept what the causes are, the more we can focus on how to solve it.
  • Courses: Offering courses to your clients shows a true commitment to their wellbeing. Our Stress Awareness Courses, Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) service, Management Referral support (telephone, face to face or video), Mental Health Triages and Know Your Numbers services all take solid action in approaching the issues associated with workplace stress. We can tailor your service to suit your industry, your business and your employees so you can really get the most out of your time and create an effective solution to stress for you and your team. It’s quite common for us to just accept that stress is part of our lives, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If we can take small steps to reduce our stress, it can lead to a much more fulfilling, healthy, happy life.

Stress Awareness Week is just one week in the year with a focus on what causes, effects and actions we need to be aware of when it comes to stress. However, if this week can shed a light on how we can all improve our focus on stress for the good of our own and our teams’ mental and physical wellbeing, it will have a profound and positive effect on all aspects of work and play.

Get in touch with Acorn today to learn more about how we can help you take action now.

Be Stress Aware!

By Awareness, Mental Health, News

Right now, it’s International Stress Awareness Week! Yes, we all say we’re stressed from time to time, but do we really appreciate what that can mean for our personal and professional lives? Do we recognise truly what makes us stressed? And more importantly, do we understand how to eliminate it for the good of our health and happiness?

Stress Awareness Week is all about putting health, happiness and wellbeing into the heart of business. But what does stress awareness mean to you, as an employee?

Causes:

Stress can come from various aspects of our lives but quite often, it actually comes from a number of places at one time and things get overwhelming. It can become an unhealthy state of body and mind and understanding the triggers which cause stress is the first step to eliminating it.

According to ISMA, 602,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2018/2019. Fast forward to 2020 and all the challenges we’ve all had to face this year with workplace changes, working from home, furlough and more, this is set to increase. Struggling to cope with the workload and a lack of support rank high in the reasons for workplace stress. 

Stress doesn’t always come from work, though. Maybe you’re moving house, maybe you’ve recently had a baby and you’re struggling with a lack of sleep, maybe you have financial concerns or health worries. All of these are natural, normal and understandable concerns for anyone to have in 2020, and realising where your stress is coming from, helps you to digest what needs to be done.

Effects:

We often think of stress as being a mental health issue, but it may be surprising to learn that stress can also have a huge effect on our physical health too! Here’s some examples of how stress affects your body…

Physical effects:

  • Aches, pains and muscle tension
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Extreme weight loss or gain
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Menstrual changes or loss of libido
  • High blood pressure

Emotional and Psychological effects:

  • Tearful
  • Mood swings
  • Angry and frustrated
  • Lack of confidence or self esteem
  • Memory lapses
  • Easily distracted
  • Undue worrying
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Insomnia

You may experience one of these effects, or many of the above. However, if you notice any of these signs and feel you know the cause, there is action you can take. And taking action right now will have a positive effect on your physical and mental health for both your personal and your professional life. If you can take action, you’ll be able to perform better and work more efficiently in your job AND you’ll enjoy your down time and be able to relax even more.

Action:

It can sometimes be difficult to admit you’re struggling to cope and you may fear it show weakness. However, let’s be clear, it really isn’t! Admitting you need help, reaching out and being honest shows true strength in your ability to perform well. The more transparent you can be about how you’re doing, the more those around you can help.

  • Take time for you. Commit to spending even just a few minutes a day to yourself. Whether that’s meditating, yoga, reading, walking or anything else that lets you switch off is great. No technology! Move away from your computer and your phone and be present in the moment, breathe and focus on how you feel right now.
  • Talk to loved ones. Yes, talk, talk, talk! This is sometimes the most difficult but is easily the most effective action to take when you’re suffering with stress. Tell those closest to you how you’re feeling, why you’re feeling that way and open discussions as to what you think may help. Even just having that conversation can be a great relief.
  • Talk to your employer. It’s difficult for an employer to take action to help your work situation if you don’t tell them. If you’re good at getting the job done they may not even realise the stress you’re under. Request a meeting, grab a coffee and explain how you’re feeling. There are so many brilliant resources and solutions an employer can offer to help you out. After all, they want a happy, healthy workforce to keep business moving, so it’s for the good of everyone!
  • List your actions: Making a physical list is always a great way to tidy your mind. List your concerns. List your causes and then make notes of ideal ways you can reduce those causes. You may not be able to tackle everything in one go, but just focusing on one area at a time will begin to make a real difference.

It’s quite common for us to just accept that stress is part of our lives, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If we can take small steps to reduce our stress, it can lead to a much more fulfilling, healthy, happy life.

Learn more about how Acorn can help you and your colleagues with our Stress Awareness Courses, Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) service, Management Referral support (telephone, face to face or video), Mental Health Triages and more, on our website now.

Balance or Burn Out

By Awareness, Guidance, Mental Health, News

The world of the workplace is changing. This year has seen a monumental shift in where, how and why we work the way we do. And, as increasing pressures and demands at work can be one of the biggest worries to the mental health of people nationwide, this is becoming even more of a concern during the pandemic. The effect of increased working hours and high pressure jobs are having a huge impact on lifestyle, which can be detrimental to the sustainability of good mental health. 

There is no set system on how to create a healthy work life balance, mainly as it is susceptible to change with the varying demands of life, like having children or changing career paths. What is important though, is understanding what works for you, at a certain time and having the knowledge to control the balance between work and life. 

The Mental Health Foundation have researched that more than 40% of employees have neglected parts of their home life due to workplace stress. In turn, this can increase a person’s vulnerability to mental health problems. 

Juggling Pressure and Wellbeing

Whether you are a CEO of your own business or working part time, it can be overwhelming trying to juggle the daily pressures of life and keeping up to speed at work. Having a successful career is more significant to some people and raising a family is the most important job to others – that is why there is no right or wrong answer. But what you can do is try to prioritise for where you are currently at. 

“As a person’s weekly hours increase, so can their feelings of unhappiness” – Mental Health Foundation.

Preventing Burnouts and having a healthy wellbeing, no matter how you manage it, will help all other aspects of your life fall into place. Having time to relax and unwind will re-charge your body and mind ready for the next day, no matter what it has to bring. 

How Employers Can Help

A happy workforce is a productive workforce. Employees that have a positive work-life balance do a better job at work and promoting this can be beneficial to employers and employees alike. Far too often companies are pushing their staff to work harder and for longer hours, which tends to be for the benefit of themselves. By driving the balance of work and life into your company’s core values, you are instantly setting a standard that you have the wellbeing of your employees at the heart of the business. 

Openly having discussions with employees at work and assessing what is and isn’t working within the company is a great start and will instantly show areas that can be worked on as a team. From encouraging annual leave, the odd early finish on a Friday and discussing personal life with staff is a sure way to start open conversations and hopefully spot burn out before it’s too late.

Maintaining Work-life Balance

Work life balance is not intended to be equal on both parts. Thinking about the current demands of your professional life and personal life can be the first step into analysing what fits where.

You may find that sometimes work priorities are 70% and life is reduced to 30%, but when a family event is on the horizon it switches to 20% work and 80% life. The right balance for you today might be different from yesterday and will change again tomorrow. But that is Ok. What is important is that you are in control and being realistic to your own needs. 

Stress is often linked to a lack of work-life balance.

Stress is one of the most common causes of short-term and long-term absence (CIPD, 2012). The HSE estimate that 2,000,000 people in the UK are currently suffering from an illness caused by, or made worse by, their work environment and if allowed to pile up, can lead to deeper mental health problems and personal distress. 

At Acorn Occupational Health we can provide an anonymous Stress/Wellbeing Audits which help provide an insight to any stress issues that your company may have, alongside management referral appointments with a nurse to help employees open up about any stresses at home or work. For more information regarding services that may be of benefit to your workplace, please contact us on 01260 277797 or info@acornoh.co.uk.