- 8 in 10 wouldn’t consider brushing their teeth at work for fear of appearing unprofessional
70% say they wouldn’t take a moment to do some breathing exercises or to get some quiet time in view of colleagues
Two thirds (62%) wouldn’t remove uncomfortable shoes at their desk
Only 16% would feel comfortable doing some light stretches at their desk to relieve stiffness
Employees are more comfortable having parcels delivered to work than they are leaving the building for regular fresh air
The study, coordinated by a team of dental specialists on behalf of Sapphire Braces – an orthodontic practice in London who want to promote dental well-being at work – asked people to disclose which non-work related activities they routinely perform and which activities they felt made them look unprofessional.
The results suggest that while there’s a degree of overspill of personal life into work life, most of us avoid doing obvious activities that could draw attention, despite them being good for our general well-being.
84% of respondents said they’d feel unprofessional stretching at their desk, despite the health risks associated with lengthy periods sitting in the same position.
81% said they wouldn’t brush their teeth at work, despite the majority of us having at least one meal during work hours and increasing numbers of us getting breakfast at work.
More than two thirds (70%) said they’d feel unprofessional taking a few minutes quiet time or to perform some sort of breathing exercise.
However, self-care tasks that can be done discreetly, such as getting up to stretch our legs, made people feel less self-conscious.
The same study revealed that almost two thirds of us have used the cover of a bathroom break to perform a well-being task. 62% admitted using a bathroom cubicle for de-stressing, either for a moment of quiet or to do some sort of breathing exercise.
Despite our apparent reluctance to perform obvious self-care tasks in view of colleagues, the majority of respondents said they were comfortable touching up their appearance (81%) and walking around the office to stretch their legs (71%).
Well-being and personal tasks at work
Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, believes employees can take the lead in normalising wellness routines at work:
“Workplaces are certainly more comfortable than they used to be and employers should be applauded for putting greater focus on the wellbeing of their teams. But people are still reluctant to do some quite normal and important self care tasks for fear of looking unprofessional to their colleagues.
“It’s not surprising how many people see brushing one’s teeth or stretching for five minutes as something you simply don’t do at work. It hasn’t been normalised. We typically do these things in private.
“But small logistical challenges are often the only barrier to making these helpful practices part of an employee’s everyday routine and where businesses and their people cooperate, these are easily overcome.
“15 years ago, an employee walking through the work lobby in a cycling helmet and lycra, on their way to take a shower, would have seemed unusual, but now it’s the norm for people to cycle to work and the benefits are well understood, both to health, productivity and the environment.”
“Hopefully soon, seeing someone stretching next to their desk after a tense meeting or brushing their teeth after lunch in a dedicated washroom will be just as normal. But the dialogue between businesses and their people should be starting now.”