More and more UK businesses are offering their staff activities that will help to reduce their stress levels and so improve efficiency.

And breathe. How many times in an average working day do you have to remind yourself of this basic existential necessity? And how many office kitchens have "humorous" signs with slogans such as "Keep Calm and Carry On"?

It needn’t be this way, as many of Britain’s healthiest companies are discovering. By introducing activities that attend to employees’ emotional well-being as much as their physical fitness, businesses are discovering the benefits of a holistic approach to wellness.

"At adidas (UK), we pay attention to the whole person," says Tricia Kalloo, CEO of Wellness International, which runs the sportswear manufacturer’s on-site wellness centre.

"We provide counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) where necessary, as well as softer activities such as massage, pilates and yoga."

By highlighting the connection between emotional health and physical well-being, companies can encourage workers to look after every aspect of their lives. This is good for employees, but it’s also good for the businesses themselves.

Neville Koopowitz, the chief executive of VitalityHealth, says: "The Britain’s Healthiest Company survey data reveals a clear correlation between poor mental health and musculoskeletal complaints. There is also a connection between clinical depression and a high body mass index (BMI)."

Helping employees to manage stress, whether at home or work, is therefore a smart move on the part of employers. It makes for a happier workplace, improves productivity and reduces absenteeism.

As well as offering counselling or treatment when times are tough, there’s an array of preventative measures that can be put in place to make workplaces more laid-back and relaxed in the first place.

Flexible working is a good area to start, as Britain’s Healthiest Company award winners such as Sweaty Betty and Sanofi Pasteur MSD have discovered.

The latter lets staff work longer hours on the first four days of the week in the summer, and leave at lunchtime on the fifth day.

"We look at employee well-being holistically," says HR manager Sarah Hardman. "For example, we have plans to instigate on-site lunchtime yoga and pilates classes, to provide staff with a way of looking after their physical and mental health at the same time."

A similar approach is adopted at Johnson & Johnson, where an "Energy for Performance in Life" programme helps employees attend to their spiritual, mental, emotional and physical needs.

"If any of these dimensions is out of line then it will increase stress levels, reduce energy and affect our ability to perform well," HR director Clare Sicklen says. "That’s something we obviously want to avoid for the well-being of our employees."

Alongside a concern to manage stress and energy levels, the ‘Britain’s Healthiest Company’ award winners share a commitment to including meditative activities such as tai chi sessions and massage in their staff wellness offer.

As a result, you can see why they score so well in their employee surveys. After all, when staff know that keeping calm isn’t a matter of holding their nerve, but rather the default setting in the workplace, the benefits speak for themselves.

By Tim Gibson, as published in The Telegraph on 8th September 2015

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