A wellness-focused work environment is the most important management tool for keeping your clients employees happy and healthy. Having an energized workforce has been proven to increase company performance and productivity. Today, the challenge to create a healthy workplace takes more than offering simple benefits. Encouragement and modeling are imperative. Here are five tips to optimizing employee health:
1. Institute walking meetings
Last year, Harvard Business Review proclaimed that "sitting is the smoking of our generation," and pointed out that many Americans sit for more than nine hours a day. That inactivity is drastically affecting our health. A study from Harvard Medical School showed that physical inactivity is responsible for 9% of premature deaths, 6% of heart disease and 7% of type 2 diabetes. Help employees increase their activity by instituting walking meetings when possible. For meetings that involve a small number of people and don't require presentations, encourage employees to get out and walk. Recent research also suggests that they'll be more creative if they're moving, which is why more offices are installing treadmill and standing desks.
2. Encourage occasional web surfing
While chronic web surfing gets in the way of productivity, research actually shows that an occasional visit to Facebook will actually make employees more productive. A study published in Behaviour & Information Technology indicates that passive web browsing not responding to emails or making personal calls boosts employees moods. It also shows that those positive emotions result in increased productivity and a better attitude toward their jobs. It turns out that blocking specific websites to increase productivity might have the opposite effect on productivity.
3. Pay attention to ergonomics
It's estimated that carpal tunnel syndrome affects as many as 6 million people every year. Many instances could be prevented or lessened by paying attention to ergonomics and offering ergonomically designed devices and chairs. Consider having an ergonomic specialist visit your office to help employees arrange their desks and properly adjust chairs. Encourage employees to follow these tricks recommended by the International Ergonomics Association:
- Adjust your chair so your feet are flat on the ground and your desk is at or just below elbow level.
- Adjust computer monitors so the top of the monitor is at eye level and the monitor is angled slightly upward.
- Adjust light sources to reduce glare on computer monitors. Use task lighting if necessary.
- Rearrange workspace to keep frequently used items within arm's reach.
- Add a backrest or pillow to provide lumbar support.
4. Provide healthier snacks
Most wellness experts agree that everyone should aim to eat three meals and two snacks each day. This is challenging, especially in a work setting, where many snacks end up being unhealthy and can result in sluggish, unproductive afternoons. Provide healthy snacks that are a combination of produce and protein and average around 150 calories, says Amy Margulies, lead registered dietitian at Retrofit Weight Loss. Evaluating the options available in the office vending machine or signing up for a local community-supported agriculture program, a subscription service that provides in-season produce from local farmers, can help employees stay healthier by eating healthier.
5. Escape the busy trap
Take a cue from the French, who recently limited after-hour work emails, and change your office culture to focus on performance instead of time in the office. The always-on, always-connected atmosphere lauded in many modern workplaces increases stress for all employees and leads to serious health repercussions. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 75% of people have experienced physical symptoms of stress including headaches, fatigue, stomach problem, and more. Encourage company leadership to set a good example in each department by leaving at a reasonable time and limiting communications outside of business hours.
These five tips will help promote a healthy work environment for employees. When combined with existing benefits programs, enhanced workplace culture initiatives can help change a workforce from tired to tireless.
Hyman is CEO at Retrofit, a weight loss wellness vendor. Reach him at Jeff@RetrofitMe.com.
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