UK workers are more stressed than ever so employers are increasingly looking for new ways to support the mental health of their staff. Could workplace book clubs be the answer?
More than half of UK adults experience work-related stress. That’s a staggering statistic.
The 2018 UK Workplace Stress Survey, carried out by Perkbox, found that work is the most common cause of stress for 59% of adults, with long hours, concerns about performance, office politics, and pressures from customers and clients driving workplace anxiety.
Stress isn’t good for business
This has a direct impact on employees’ performance – 32% said they are less productive and 22% became disengaged with their work when experiencing stress. Stress also has a wider impact; 65% of those experiencing stress had trouble sleeping, 47% had anxiety, 37% had disrupted concentration and 35% saw an increase in comfort eating.
This is not good for our mental health – or the bottom line of our businesses.
Employers are trying to tackle this stress epidemic but most aren’t doing enough or the right things to make a long-term difference. The Perkbox report found that 45% of UK workplaces do not have anything in place to help reduce employees’ stress levels or improve their wellbeing. Of those that do, flexi time, home working and social events are the main methods of managing stress. Only 8% offer formal counselling support and just 6% provide stress management and/or resilience training.
It’s clearly time to start looking for alternative solutions to managing our mental health and wellbeing at work.
Reading to reduce stress
The benefits of reading have been long documented. It increases vocabulary, empathy and creativity – but could also be the key to maintaining a healthy mind.
Research by the University of Sussex found that reading is the best way to relax; more than a walk, cup of tea, listening to music or playing a video game. Just six minutes of reading alone each day reduced stress levels by 68%.
“Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation.”
Dr Lewis, University of Sussex
Reading in a group provides a host of extra benefits. Research by The Reading Agency found that book club members received support and friendship from their group, with 95% saying being a member made them feel happy. The charity’s Reading Well programme also demonstrated how reading groups could have a positive impact on treating mental health conditions such as depression.
So, could something as simple as a book club help to tackle the soaring stress levels in our workplaces? I think so.
Bringing colleagues together outside of their day-to-day duties is a great way to get to know each other, create stronger bonds and increase teamwork. But it’s often done as a one-off team-building day that costs a lot of money with the positive benefits lost as soon as everyone returns to the office.
A monthly book club, however, provides regular interaction at no cost to the employer.
Participating colleagues will read their book over the course of the month, benefiting from the relaxing influence those peaceful reading moments bring. They get an hour away from their desk once a month to talk about the book with colleagues who they get to know better and with whom they build friendships. They go back to work calmer, more engaged and less stressed.
Workplace book clubs won’t solve all of our corporate stresses but they are an easy, low-cost place to start.
Want to set up your own workplace book club? I’ve been leading a book club for more than four years and can help you get started or facilitate the sessions for you. Get in touch for a chat about how I could help you.