Tag Archives: #worklife

Let’s breathe better this Clean Air Day 2022

The World Health Organisation has identified air pollution as the biggest environmental threat we face today. Every day, air pollution results in 36,000 deaths per year in the UK alone. These deaths would be preventable if we did more to care for the air we breathe. Clean Air Day, which is tomorrow, was conceived to raise awareness of this issue.

The theme of this year’s campaign is “air pollution dirties every organ in your body”. This was chosen to highlight how poor air quality affects organs beyond your lungs. When we breathe polluted air, it inflames the lining of the lungs. This allows harmful particles to enter the bloodstream and affect every organ.

Poor air quality can shorten lives and make us more susceptible to heart disease, lung disease, dementia and strokes. However, when most people think of air pollution, they think of outdoor air pollution, like smog and car emissions. In fact, some of the most harmful air is inside our homes and workplaces.

Where does indoor air pollution come from?

A study in the United States estimated that the average person spends about 90% of their time indoors. This is compared to an average of 40 hours a week of exposure to industrial pollutants. Therefore, the air we breathe indoors makes up the vast majority of our intake.

The main problem is, that in cold climates like the UK, doors and windows are often tightly closed. This allows pollutants to build up. These particles can cause respiratory disease and even certain types of cancer. But where are these particles coming from?

Many of them are biological pollutants like mildew, mould and pollen. Some of these particles can trigger allergies or cause serious illness. Black mould, for example, can cause headaches and fatigue. Equally, poor air quality allows viruses and bacteria to spread more easily. As we know all too well, the spread of COVID-19 has been linked to enclosed spaces.

However, poor indoor air quality can come from some sources that you may not expect. Varnishes and paints can emit dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) long after they’re dry. Seemingly innocuous products like air fresheners and deodorisers also use volatile and semi-volatile ingredients that are largely unregulated. Copiers, laser printers and glues also give off VOCs that can penetrate lung tissue.

How can you reduce indoor air pollution?

One simple measure you can take to reduce indoor air pollution is to open a window. Often, even in the busiest areas, allowing some outdoor air to circulate will improve air quality not make it worse. However, in the dead of winter, this isn’t an attractive option. Air quality is important, but so is comfort.

A fail-safe strategy to improve indoor air quality is to install an air purifier. Air purifiers use filtration to remove harmful particles like mould, mildew, dust, and VOCs from the air. The most advanced models will also include a UVC light filter to virtually eliminate all pathogens. We recommend this system by Rejuvenair, which combines HEPA-13 filters with UVC to eliminate 99.9% of all pathogens.

Clean air is vital to the health of every organ in the body. This Clean Air Day, make a resolution to improve the quality of the air you breathe 90% of the time.

Why knowledge of mental health is the new essential skill

Mental health was an important topic during the pandemic, second only to the crisis itself. In fact, many analysts suggested that the coronavirus crisis triggered a parallel mental health pandemic, with the Agency for National Statistics reporting that depression rates had almost doubled during the crisis.

For many, one of the most significant upheavals was in the workplace. Thrust from the office to the kitchen table, couch, or home office (if you’re lucky), many people felt the mental strain of being isolated from their colleagues or juggling work and homeschooling.

This has certainly led to greater concern amongst business leaders about mental health, especially as they try to sustain morale as the crisis wears on. However, this is part of a broader trend. As we return to the office after World Mental Health Day, new research indicates that the most desirable professional skills since 2016 have involved well-being.

What the results show

The Skills Network, an independent learning provider, found that since 2016, there has been a 230% uptick in the demand for mental health-related professional skills, such as counselling, personal care, and guidance. At the beginning of 2016, these skills appeared in just 19,200 unique job postings. By June 2021, that figure had increased to 63,492.

This study was carried out to highlight the skills gap in this crucial area. Although generally thought of as part of a soft skills set, knowledge of mental health issues was found to be the 9th-most sought after hard skill, after more hands-on occupations like nursing and warehousing.

Looking closer at the findings

However, even within these hands-on skill sets there was an increased emphasis on mental health. For nursing in particular, mental health competencies were the second most requested skill on job postings, especially after the pandemic.

Turning to the business world, leaders have been urged to be more sensitive to the impact of recent events. This means that it’s more important than ever to demonstrate to employees that they’re valued and that they play an integral role in the company’s growth. This could come from a variety of actions, whether it be consistent positive feedback or more flexible working hours.

Resisting a false sense of security

Now, many businesses are reopening and getting their employees back into the office or on the shop floor. In this context, it’s easy to assume that we’re getting ‘back to normal’ and everyone is eager to get back to work. But research has found that not everyone feels the same way.

The reality is that when it comes to mental health, many will be suffering in silence and hiding the challenges they face going back to work. In turn, they’ll be met with a lack of understanding and support from management and colleagues alike. The reality is that the pandemic pushed many people to new levels of stress and anxiety. Employers must remember that some have been affected more than others.

Compassion is key

As a result, some people will need more time than others to adjust to the ‘new normal’ – and a mental health-oriented skill set will be key. Leaders and managers have to be empathetic, compassionate and understanding of people’s individual challenges. Continuing an open-door policy and offering access to mental health resources will be essential.

As winter sets in, this is more important than ever. Even though we may be through the worst of the pandemic, it’s crucial that we learn from the lessons of the lockdowns and the years prior. The conversation about mental health in the workplace has been active for some time, and in context, we need to sustain momentum.



Starting a new job in the post-pandemic landscape

Recently, it’s been all about change for DJHC. We’ve moved to our new premises and we’re starting some exciting new projects, plus there are new members of the leadership team. Emerging from the lockdown has been a big shift for many, and for others (like us), it’s been a time for a change. The lockdown prompted many people to reappraise their careers and lifestyle choices and some have taken the plunge.

But as many of us continue to work from home – which, considering the infection rates going into winter, may continue – starting a new job has completely changed. Now, there’s no anxious first day meeting your colleagues face-to-face. Instead, there’s merely a switch of email address that’ll happen from your home office or kitchen table. Under these conditions, how can people acclimatise and feel part of a team? We’d argue it’s down to managers, which we’ll delve a bit deeper into here.

It’s down to management

Remote team building has been a conundrum for business leaders since the beginning of the pandemic. As the crisis wears on, new challenges are emerging; this is especially the case as it becomes increasingly clear that we have to live with the virus. Therefore, life is continuing to a certain extent and people are changing jobs. So managing a remote team was one thing – but how do we integrate new members into a remote team?

We would argue that it’s key to maintain the lessons we’ve learnt during the lockdowns. During the pandemic, there was a much greater emphasis on pastoral care and mental health, and looking to the future, this should be maintained. Leadership should ensure there is a digital open-door policy so that new recruits feel that they can come and have a chat should they need to. Equally, managers should take a proactive approach and have regular check-ins with their team.

Could greater flexibility lead to greater productivity?

There’s also the question of on what terms you hire new recruits. Remote working has shown that perhaps the 9–5 is dead. During the pandemic, some managers feared that going fully remote would lead to a dramatic slump in productivity. In fact, many found the exact opposite. According to an ONS report, output per job (excluding furloughed workers) was 9.2% higher on average in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period the year before.

Experts suggest that this could be as a result of employees feeling more empowered to organise their own schedules. Potentially, this strategy could address the very modern issue of burnout and excessive stress. Therefore, when taking on new team members, there’s certainly something to be said for discussing more flexible hours to maintain this productivity boost.

Now’s the time to experiment

Undoubtedly, we’re entering into a new phase of the coronavirus era. Progress is happening but it looks like we’re in it for the long haul. As people carry on with their lives and switch jobs, we need to make sure that we apply the lessons from the pandemic. With an increased emphasis on mental health in the workplace, there’s potential to make the best of a bad situation – it’ll just take a bit of flexibility.