Healthy and successful at work and at home
The coronavirus is pushing us toward change in the world of work. The pandemic is also accelerating and intensifying some processes which have been going on for years. The changes go beyond the obvious examples, such as working from home or changing demands on managers. Taking a holistic view of one’s career and private life is also gaining increased importance. Because when the spatial (and temporal) separation of work and leisure get blurred, it becomes more important to handle one's personal resources with care. And there is a changing attitude towards work. Many young talents don’t want to get quickly worn out on the job. Instead, they strive for sustainable professional success. At the same time, there is a growing understanding that modern-day success comes from the combination of personal skills with excellent academic and practical training. The willingness to invest in studies and training is increasing noticeably. Personal development is also important, however, and should by no means be neglected.
Excessive stress on the rise
More and more employees are starting to feel overstrained. A survey conducted by health insurer pronova BKK in 2018 shows that every second person feels the threat of burnout, and nine out of ten find their work stressful. In many cases, stress and work overloads have become the norm. This causes symptoms such as persistent exhaustion, tension, headaches and backaches, as well as difficulty concentrating. The problem is that many employees basically enjoy their job and want to get more involved. In my part-time job as a holistic nutrition and health consultant and systemic coach, I see time and again that people lack strategies for dealing with the growing burden of an increasingly dense everyday life. And the energy to perform well is often lacking. Many young professionals, in particular, have not yet found their own ideal, healthy approach to work and life. They may be tempted by fast food while travelling, or the desire for a fast and steep career with long working hours. Neither of those will benefit the body or mind in the long run. In my opinion, sustainable success can only be achieved through thinking about and designing one’s work and lifestyle holistically. That includes setting sensible priorities, drawing boundaries and not ignoring health considerations. Learning to feel good about your body is just as important as establishing strategies for dealing with your own resources.
How can I prevent my job from becoming a stress factor?
The foundation is already laid when choosing one’s career, when there are many questions to be answered. How important is prestige to my choice of career path? How much effort do I have to invest to be really good at a job chosen because of external pressure? Which profession really fulfills me? Where do my strengths and abilities lie? As a mentor, I always advise people not to settle for hasty answers. Far too often, professions are chosen according to superficial interests or for secondary reasons – rather than according to one's own abilities and wishes.
Fight, flight, freeze
If my daily tasks do not harmonize with my actual abilities and interests, every working day can become a stressful situation in the long run. While short-term stress per se is nothing bad at first, permanent stress and above all dissatisfaction at work can become a major and dangerous burden. It is one of the most common causes of illness and sickness-related absenteeism in companies in the western world. People who are happy in their jobs tend to be healthier and can perform better. I like to draw attention to the acronym of the well-known sports brand ASICS, which comes from Latin: Anima Sana In Corpore Sano! A healthy mind lives in a healthy body and both are mutually dependent.
A healthy lifestyle is important
The recommendation not to settle for hasty answers also applies to private life. I recommend going into silent self-reflection regularly. Take time and ask yourself what is really important to you beyond your work, what fulfills you and does you good, what can provide exciting answers for many situations. Far too often, I see that people cultivate a lifestyle that does not help to replenish their own energy reserves. On the contrary, smartphone dependency, coupled with unhealthy nutrition and leisure-time stress, constantly drain the batteries. I know this from my own experience. At the beginning of my career, I wasn’t capable of introspection. I was too distracted by external circumstances, like a great career start and, in addition to this full-time job, a distance learning course in economics. I simply did not give enough consideration to my body. And I paid for that at the end of my 20s with considerable health problems resulting from ten years of non-stop intensity on the job. Today, I know that my career is not a sprint, but more like a marathon. And as we all know, you should prepare for a marathon with interval training instead of only running. A healthy diet, for example, has a strong positive influence on our psyche and on our body, and it can help us cope with stress and stay fit. Adequate exercise and sports are also extremely important, especially for people who spend a lot of time at the office and want to stay fit. In addition, we should not ignore our body's need for sleep.
How can companies help?
Modern employers know about the advantages of a mindful and healthy working environment as well as private lifestyle, and they support their employees as much as possible. At ING, we consistently pursue this holistic approach. For example, in addition to a canteen that offers healthy food, we launched a company health management system, and in 2017 we set up a health budget for employees. They can spend this budget individually on eligible things, which can include a gym membership, a season ticket for the swimming pool, anti-stress seminars or external exercise courses. Employees can thereby use the budget according to their personal needs, allowing them to better integrate healthy practices into their lives.
In conclusion, professional success is important, but not at any price. To have a career without burning out, employees should be careful with themselves and their bodies, and they should develop a holistic view of their professional and private lives. Modern, responsible employers should support their employees as much as possible.
About the author
Sabrina Priester has been in the financial industry for over twenty years. She has built up departments, developed country strategies and led teams. Today, she is responsible for the working capital business for Germany and Austria at ING Germany. In addition to her work in the banking world, she is a nutrition and health consultant, systemic coach and enthusiastic athlete. She lives with her family near Frankfurt.