Ergonomics setting the tone for wellness success

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The first thing that comes to mind for most advisers and employers when thinking about wellness programs is starting a walking challenge or initiating a nutrition plan throughout the office.

While those may work for some offices, some advisers are approaching wellness from an ergonomic point of view and addressing how employees utilize the workspace and how it can lead to positive progression in the physical and mental departments of wellness.

At least 89% of the workforce is not provided the latest technology in the workplace and 22% of employees change jobs due to work-life balance issues, according to Staples Business Advantage’s 2016 Workplace Index report.

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Jeff Smith, workplace possibilities program practice consultant at The Standard, says offering adjustments such as part-time telecommuting and offer sit-stand locations in the office help employees feel more comfortable in their position and increase their retention at the business.

“This is helping them become more comfortable at the position, it’s helping them become more engaged in what they are doing and it is helping them become, overall, more productive as well,” Smith says. “What we have found after being able to make these accommodations to specific employees, the employer is finding that they can utilize these accommodations to help their other employees.”

Jenya Adler, director of workspace strategy at Staples Business Advantage, says the workspace needs to be looked as more than just the four walls employers and employees surround themselves with on a daily basis, but understanding how the environment affects them every week.

Sending a message
“[Employers] need to not just look at the physical space, but also what type of message are they sending to employees,” Adler says. “We are seeing an increase in wellness rooms; places that have been reserved for nursing mothers are being expanded to those who may have a headache and need to shut their eyes for a few minutes rather than taking that day off and losing a whole day of work.”

While many employers are offering the option for their employees to work from home, Adler says employers are realizing that the size of their real estate could be downsized to accommodate a smaller staff that fluctuates throughout the week when they come to the office.

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“[Working from home] is not just a recruitment and retention strategy, it is also an opportunity to say they have an office that accommodates 100 cubicles and now operates at a 30% or 40% capacity,” Adler says. “Maybe they don’t need a permanent location, maybe they just need a touchdown location or just a place to come in and work that doesn’t even need to be an official desk.”

Craig Schmidt, senior wellness consultant at EPIC, says one of his clients has opted to investigate the workspace layout before attempting to answer the question of how to make their employees healthier through some sort of exercise or nutrition program.

“We decided to go the ergonomics route first to enhance and change the workspace individuals are working in to help them be more comfortable and to help set the environment in the workspace up to then allow individuals to have the resources to make the adjustment and changes going further,” Schmidt says. “One of the things I find interesting is that companies are always willing to say, ‘Hey we’re going to go tobacco-free,’ and they have their employees sign tobacco cessation forms, yet you walk out the front door and there are ash trays and smoking sections while asking their employees to quit.”

Schmidt says altering a workspace from a wellness perspective can be more then offering nursing rooms and open floor workspaces but also doing away with locations such as designated smoking areas and changing the options in the breakroom vending machine to be healthier choices.

“When it comes to the health and wellness aspect, making adjustments to the working environment is what is needed for a wellness program to succeed,” Schmidt says. “It’s giving that support, giving the resources and giving the tools needed to make it happen.”

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