When we talk about work-life balance, we tend to focus on factors like spending time with our families, feeling comfortable taking a vacation, having hobbies, and other similar issues. One element that’s often overlooked, though, is health: maintaining good health, as well as caring for major medical issues when they arise. This latter element can be hard, since employers often control employees’ health insurance choices, but as an individual worker, you can take back some control and improve all aspects of your life.
Sit Less, Move More
One of the most common work-related health issues today is back pain associated with sitting at a desk all day. And while this may not seem like a serious problem at first, chronic low back pain – any type of chronic pain, really – can lead to a negative impact on mental health, leading to anxiety and depression. It’s also distracting, which can cut into your professional productivity and prevent you from participating in your favorite leisure activities.
The good news is that there are several steps you can take to address chronic back pain. First, talk to your supervisor about changing your work setup. You may be able to make a case for an alternative desk setup and ergonomic chair under OSHA regulations. Are you working from home? Depending on your employment circumstances, you still may be able to get accommodations from your employer; alternatively, if you’re self-employed, you can write off your office supplies on your taxes.
Another step you can take to minimize the impact of back pain is to take advantage of some of the lesser used benefits covered by your health insurance. For example, most health insurance plans cover chiropractic care, but a lot of people don’t realize this. Find out if your plan covers seeing a chiropractor or acupuncturist, and then go see one! You’re paying for health insurance, so you might as well get the most out of it.
Reproductive Health Rights
Reproductive health coverage is a hot topic in recent years, with the Supreme Court recently ruling that employers can opt out of providing birth control coverage if they have a religious or ethical objection. This, of course, is only a major issue at a few companies – few modern startups, for example, will refuse such coverage – but that doesn’t mean savvy women don’t have this issue on their radar. Women know that, if they’re going to take control over both their careers and their health, they need control over their reproductive futures.
If you’re concerned that your reproductive health coverage could be compromised, one option is to seek out an alternative source of birth control. If you can get your birth control directly from a safe, affordable source online, that will offer you a greater degree of freedom, regardless of what health insurance decisions your employer makes.
Managing Mental Health
Discussing mental health in the office can be a source of serious stigma, and many people avoid bringing up the topic, even if that means missing out on therapy sessions or other important treatment pathways. This is an even more serious issue when work is the source of those mental health issues. From issues like overwork, which may cause anxiety and panic attacks, to normal fits of depression, we need to recognize that mental illness is a normal part of human experience, and that it may require special attention at times. There’s no shame in that – but we have to learn how to talk about it.
Work-life balance may be treated as a buzzword rather than a major concern for employers and employees alike, but when your health is on the line, it’s vital that you put the different aspects of your life into perspective. Your health needs to come first. Only once any such issues are taken care of can you bring the fullness of your talents to your professional life.