Comprehensive Health & Wellness Strategies for the Workplace

Creating a healthy work environment requires more than addressing physical health factors. While workplace benefits such as an onsite exercise facility, ergonomic office furniture, or a cafeteria offering nutritious meals and snacks are always welcome and appreciated by employees, mental wellbeing should also be considered. 

 

A stressful or contentious work environment can lead to employee burnout, lower productivity, and a higher rate of turnover. Creating an environment that promotes mental and physical wellbeing can increase teamwork and cooperation among staff, improving your company’s chances of long-term success. 

 

Consider the following concepts and how they can be applied in your workplace:

More Stress Leads to More Sick Days

It’s widely accepted that prolonged stress can cause illness. A stress-filled work environment promotes a general sense of unease and dissatisfaction that could lead to illnesses such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and asthma. 

 

A study found that 93% of business leaders reported that employee health has a significant impact on productivity. Chronic stress in the workplace affects productivity as employees take sick days to seek treatment and recover from their medical ailments. The same study shared that wellness programs reduce employee sick leaves by 25%. 

 

There are many actions your company can take to reduce stress for better health and workplace productivity. As mentioned, employees respond well to health and wellness benefits like healthier food choices in the cafeteria or an on-site gym. If your company doesn’t have space or resources to provide those, consider implementing one or more of the following smaller-scale wellness offerings to improve mental (and physical) health:

 

  • Workplace counseling for employees under pressure.
  • Weekly yoga classes in a conference room or break area.
  • Seasonal flu shots.
  • Gym membership discounts.
  • Group weight loss programs.
  • Break room alternatives to black coffee such as green tea and juices.
  • Stress-management education.

Reduce Conflict by Setting and Enforcing Boundaries

Most employees nowadays use computers to work online. Computers simplify many tasks to save employees time, but they can be a double-edged sword. Employees are at risk of having their personal privacy boundaries violated, leading to anxiety and stress. Some examples could include harassment of their professional presence on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Or their identity or personal details are stolen because of computer viruses or phishing scams.

 

Although we’re talking about the workplace environment, employees often blur the line between personal internet use and work internet use. Employees may log in from work to their online banking page to confirm they’ve been paid. Or use their own email address to send and receive work-related emails. Therefore cybersecurity in the workplace is not only critical to safeguarding your company’s data but the privacy details of your employees as well.

 

Besides viruses and malware that spy on your staff’s computer activities and could compromise your network, social engineering attacks are on the rise. Phishing is the most common, where a fraudster impersonates a well-known company to build trust and steal information from an individual. An example of phishing involves an email from your bank warning you of a security breach and asking you to click on the link to verify your identity. The webpage looks like your bank’s website but asks for personal information such as your account number, login, home address, and other information. Upon closer inspection, you may notice the email and website were fake copies of an authentic company.

 

To protect your company and employees from cyber privacy issues and attacks, make sure all computers and email programs are running comprehensive, up-to-date antivirus software. Consider implementing an online fraud awareness program to train all staff on online dangers and how they can protect their private information, as well as the company’s.

Improving Employee Relations and Teamwork Enhances Wellbeing

Any conflict between management and/or coworkers can create palpable tension. Implementing activities that improve employee relations and encourage collaboration could enhance the overall sense of workplace wellbeing while boosting productivity. When staff feel united and working towards a common goal, problem-solving, and finding creative solutions and methods towards goals is much easier. The following three ideas may help bring your team closer together:

1. Organize Regular Informal Social Events Where Staff can Get to Know Each Other

Mixers, dinner nights, or team-building activities such as a weekend sport can break the ice between employees and allow them the opportunity to get to know each other away from the workplace. They may better connect as they discuss their shared challenges at work, leading to more understanding.

2. Train Leadership to not Micromanage

One of the biggest company challenges to solve is a culture of micro-management. Some people naturally feel the need to control. But the behavior can be detrimental in a work environment. The issue is complex and may require outside help from a consultant so that executives and support staff can better work together.

3. Use Project Management Tools

To enhance collaboration, consider implementing a project management tool. They can provide transparency so that the whole team is up to date on what’s happening in a project. Deadlines and tasks can be assigned between members. Idea sharing and polls are a natural part of the process as members can tag each other or leave ideas open for comments and suggestions. Popular project management tools include Basecamp, Asana, and Trello.

Conclusion

Employees are a company’s greatest asset. Providing a healthy work environment and the tools to manage their mental health is worth the investment. The returns are greater than what you invest and include years of commitment to your company and productivity from their efforts. 

Ways You Can Develop a Healthy Work Environment for Your Employees

Almost all business leaders realize that the happier and healthier your team is, the better they will perform. And of course, great performance by employees means that your company grows and succeeds more easily.

However, too many leaders don’t put a lot of thought or planning into their work environment. They let it be whatever it is – which is often something not conducive to high productivity and engaged work. 

The good news is that you can create a work environment where your employees are healthy and happy. Here’s what you need to know. 

Provide a Sense of Mission For Everyone

Too many company mission statements are a mish-mash of corporate-speak that doesn’t really mean anything to anyone. It goes on the wall, but it isn’t lived out day-to-day. But your business can be different.

People’s lives at work are greatly enriched if they feel that they are doing something meaningful. It gives them a sense of ownership and encourages them to do their best work. Pay alone doesn’t encourage creativity and engagement. Mission-driven workers are 54% more likely to stay for five years at a company and 30% more likely to become high performers. 

Making your mission the front and center of every day isn’t just good for employees, either – it’s essential to a successful organization. The mission makes your team cohesive.

Patagonia is a great example of this. They have an explicit mission to be a steward of the planet and among other initiatives, don’t make metal pitons that are hammered into rock. Their clothing is made from organic cotton. And it doesn’t stop there. Their headquarters welcomes employees’ children and the company allows surfing breaks, flexible schedules, and volunteering sabbaticals. 

The result? A successful company, 4% turnover, and 9,000 applicants for new openings. 

Pretty impressive!

Offer Health and Wellness Resources

A company that wants a truly healthy and happy environment will offer the resources to make it happen. 

A big part of this is allowing workers time off when they’re ill, and encouraging them to treat their illness rather than being a “hero” and coming to work sick. Using a natural treatment method such as CBD can help employees battle a number of cold and flu symptoms at once, such as aches and pains, fatigue, and even nausea.

You can also offer workplace wellness programs. Wellness programs encourage healthy behaviors, give options for treating problems, and encourage employees to be consistent in their health efforts. 

As a result, your company will save a significant amount of money. The average financial return on these programs is $3.27 in health savings for every dollar spent, along with $5.82 for every dollar spent in lower absenteeism. 

Employees appreciate these programs, both for the impact on health and on the overall culture of the company. In fact, 87% consider these options when choosing an employer.

If you want a happier, healthier workforce, consider offering a variety of health-related programs employees can take advantage of. This may include health educators, counselors, and even massage therapists. Health educators and counselors can provide in-depth education on preventive care employees can engage in to keep themselves in tip-top shape. These educational programs often teach lifestyle changes and choices such as diet or exercise programs or meditation techniques.

Don’t Overlook Mental Health

Americans are among the most stressed populations in the world, and nearly half feel worried on a regular basis. Helping your employees handle these pressures is important. Some of the cause is work stress, but many Americans also feel stressed about finances, their health, and their families. 

Offering access to confidential mental health programs like an Employee Assistance Program can also make a big difference. You can also encourage the use of technology, like mobile apps, to monitor and improve mental health.

Be sure you don’t stigmatize or punish employees — officially or unofficially — who take advantage of these programs. Otherwise, you’re working against the health and happiness you’re spending money to provide.

When you prioritize physical and mental health in the workplace, you’re sending a message that your employees matter and aren’t just a worker to you. You see them as people, and that’s important for a healthy work environment.

Give Consistent Praise and Recognition

Not receiving praise and recognition for good work is a consistent complaint among employees. Too many workplaces focus on correcting mistakes and overlook when people do a good job. It’s simply expected.

Unfortunately, not giving praise and recognition puts your employees on the fast track to leaving the company. Being unappreciated is the number one reason employees look for other jobs. 

Make a plan and include recognition as a regular part of the workday. Whether it’s encouraging employees to brag on each other or getting a thank you from a manager, your staff needs to feel appreciated. Be sure to solicit feedback from your employees on a variety of things — did your team deploy a new product?  How did it go? Have you implemented that new recognition program? What’s working and what isn’t? Great bosses ask for feedback and put it into practice. It’s yet another way to recognize your employees’ contributions.

Healthy and Happy Workers Matter

Why should you bother with employee health and happiness? Because it matters to your business and your bottom line. Companies with happy employees outperform competitors by 20%. Plus, when your employees are happier it impacts how they do their job.

Unhappy employees telegraph their attitude to customers. So do happy ones. So if you want excellent customer service, you want to have a happy, healthy staff.

You’ll also save significant money on health costs, turnover, and absenteeism when your team is healthier and happier. 

Most of all, you’ll be treating employees as what they are – real people who really matter. That, alone, is plenty of reason to invest in a healthy work environment.

How Promoting Health in the Workplace Helps Your Employees Productivity

A recent study conducted by the Social Market Foundation links the happiness experienced by workers to heightened productivity in the workplace. There was a 12% to 20% increase in work productivity in another study, which has prompted the claim that a happier worker is a more prolific worker in his or her workplace. With that said, there are countless implications of benefits to companies that can raise production by evoking authentic happiness in their employees.

On the other side of the coin, unhealthy employees will have a harder time being happy if they are struggling to achieve wellness in the workplace. If the focus were to shift to more investments in their employees’ wellness, businesses would see not only see the benefits of increased productivity, but workplace health promotion would lessen the employee absenteeism and presenteeism. By promoting workplace health, employers can encourage morale among workers and keep the retention rate of its valuable employees high.

Across the country, an increasing number of companies, particularly workplaces with 50 or more employees, offer a minimum of one perk to their workers that promote health and wellness. More attention by employers has also shifted to programs that deal with stress tolerance and stress management, physical fitness, controlling blood pressure, weight control and nutrition, cholesterol reduction, and even addresses chronic back pain. But what else can companies do to improve their workplace environments?

Benefits of Workplace Health Promotion

Encouraging things as simple as hydrating and sleeping will help your employees show up to work as their best selves. Your employees benefit from such programs and ultimately gain more happiness on the job, which carries over into the lifestyle choices at home with their families.

The positive effects of workplace health and well-being programs are also shown to increase engagement among team members, cultivate a cohesive company culture, and elevate the production rate of workers. Research suggests that healthier and happier staff are 12% more productive. Related to this, when in place, it makes sense that wellness objectives and initiatives lead to fewer days of disability leaves or callouts for sickness.

When your workers are healthier, they tend to be happier, and the occurrence of absenteeism is not so frequent. Employees in good health have an intrinsic motivation to remain at work. As research continues to reveal the link between the mind and body when it comes to healing, employees who are less stressed can also heal faster when they have a positive disposition. Also, practicing gratitude has shown to have tremendous impacts on a person’s risk of long term illness.

When it comes to your organization’s bottom line, consider that for the flu alone, in the U.S., 17 million workdays are missed at an estimated $7 billion loss in productivity and sick days. Also, take into account the rise in workers’ compensation rates and health insurance premiums. The health of businesses depends on seeing to it that measures get made to help employees remain well, with an estimated 25% reduction in those costs when employee wellness practices and programs are instituted.

The Significance of Inhibiting Presenteeism

Across from absenteeism is presenteeism, which is when employees come into work despite feeling sick. It’s terrible for business when employees work while under the weather because it can decrease productivity since workers aren’t able to perform at their best.

By working when sick, employees also deprive themselves of much needed rest which could help them to recover in less time. During cold and flu season, for example, those seemingly dedicated staffers who come into the workplace ill spread germs that could make others sick and further lessen productivity.

With well-being initiatives and workplace health promotion strategies in place, employees will make their health more of priority and take preventative measures to remain healthy and not inadvertently cause a productivity decline by not taking of themselves. Take, for example, U.S. food service workers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in their 2014 study that there is a high prevalence of presenteeism among employees in the industry, with 12% of flu-infected workers showing up for work despite diarrhea and vomiting.

Ways to Promote Health at the Workplace

These are a few ways some companies promote wellness throughout their organization:

Access to nurse advice lines

You may want to consider having a yearlong nurse advice line that is available 24/7 to staff. Nurses either via phone or the Internet can answer health questions and offer non-emergency assistance to help workers identify illness and know how to manage symptoms and diseases.

Even if you don’t want to extend personnel in this way, still your organization can be a resource of health information for your employees. For example, you could publish a monthly newsletter dedicated to health, new medical research and other health news. Or you could ask medical professionals in your area or your insurance company to host wellness fairs that introduce holistic approaches, mental health and other health services.

Manage air quality

Ensuring there is proper ventilation for indoor spaces is another way to keep your workers healthy. Poorly ventilated indoor spaces, in particular, with all the volatile organic compounds released from office furniture and equipment, could contribute to what is known as sick building syndrome, which could be counterintuitive to any wellness promotion by making employees ill and less productive.

Mindfulness Training

According to reports, 40% of workers say their jobs are “very or extremely stressful.” Workplace stress can manifest as emotional or physical harm in response to inadequate resources or unbalanced capabilities with an employee’s needs. An excellent tool for managing stress and encouraging relaxation is mindfulness training.

Mindfulness practices can help workers reclaim balance, which could have immediate effects on increasing their productivity. Employees will be more engaged and focused on completing day-to-day tasks. Mindfulness is a type of meditation that staff could use every day along with breathing techniques or yoga, which would bring the practitioners to the present moment while working for greater efficiency.

Fitness Amenities

To promote health and wellness in the workplace is a benefit in itself, but could go hand-in-hand with incentives and benefits like paid memberships to a gym or spa. Just as monetary rewards boost motivation and cultivate employer appreciation, offering these types of fitness associations will encourage employees to remain active, which is key to good health.

An on-site gym, when it’s feasible, will let workers workout together and regularly. One of the reasons many employees don’t take time to exercise is because they are too busy. However, by allowing flexibility in employees’ schedule for a half hour to go to an on-site gym or join an exercise class, it will be convenient and motivate them to keep physically active and boost anti-sedentary attitudes and productivity.

Have a discussion with your employees about workplace wellness. Allow for feedback, questions, and discover what issues concern or interest your staff. If you don’t have any programs in place or looking for ways to get started, you can contact your company’s health insurance provider to see if your group plan offers wellness training. Some providers may have educational materials that you could distribute to get the workplace wellness conversation started among your employees. Promoting health on the job and developing a well-being program for your workers doesn’t have to be complicated. Still, there are many resources available to take advantage of so your workers can be healthier, happier and more productive, which is a win-win for your business.

Image Source: Pixabay

Providing Support to Employees With Serious Health Conditions

When an employee has a serious health condition, a certain level of accommodation is legally required. However, an employer’s obligation doesn’t stop there. Every person with health issues has their own needs, which may change over time.

Building and supporting employee wellness in the workplace means using effective communication tools, supporting employees by helping them access information, providing flexible work opportunities, and staying attuned to their changing needs.

Confidentiality, Empathy, Openness, and Support (CEOS)

Fostering a positive workplace culture is essential. CEOs, as well as management, needs to embrace the importance of CEOS. This acronym stands for confidentiality, empathy, openness, and support — the necessary foundation to build trusting relationships on. These tools can help you communicate with your employees about health challenges and support them:

  • Confidentiality: The last thing you want is a distrustful employee who ghosts you and fails to communicate, and the last thing an employee wants is to lose their job due to health issues or needing time off for appointments at the doctor’s office. By ensuring confidentiality when discussing healthcare concerns, you provide a foundation for better communication.
  • Empathy: When an employee faces a healthcare crisis, they may feel conflicted. They want to feel heard and understood, but they also need to remain professional and carry out work obligations. Many employees simply quit or find themselves laid off after facing a health crisis, so they may feel that it’s a risk to have a conversation with you about health-related topics. You can retain an employee’s trust by showing empathy. Listen actively and ensure you understand their needs and concerns by summarizing and confirming. A little empathy can go a long way.
  • Openness: Openness means you’re ready to support your sick employees when they come to you. This involves preparation. It’s also about how open the employee wishes to be about their illness. Some may find help in sharing details about their struggle, while others will wish to remain extremely private about it.
  • Support: Confidentiality, empathy, and openness are paths to support. If you’ve managed to implement these objectives, you can offer support to the employee. The best thing you can do here involves asking the employee what they need and helping them find a solution you can employ.

Understanding Invisible Illnesses

Invisible illnesses are especially important for managers and HR professionals to understand. Especially when it comes to chronic health pain and related conditions, you can’t always see that someone is in pain or understand their pain level.

When individuals suffer from chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia, they may experience periods of remission (when there is little to no pain), as well as flare-ups when symptoms are at their worst. For some, this status can change in a matter of hours, and factors like the weather or office temperature are not-so-obvious contributors to pain for some patients.

Regular treatments for some conditions can create more pain in the short-term to improve health overall. Examples include physical therapy and chemotherapy.

Many employees facing invisible illnesses, including digestive illnesses like GERD, also need to make significant lifestyle changes, including new medications. Further, new diets and exercise routines can impact how employees relate to family and friends — and they may entail a real adjustment period for the employee.

Overall, managing chronic health conditions is different than curing them. Accepting major life changes after being diagnosed with a chronic health condition can be traumatizing, and finding specific solutions for pain management is often a challenging road.

Mental Health Considerations

One in five people have mental health issues, and these are not immediately obvious. Does your company have a policy allowing for mental health days? What do you do to take mental wellness as seriously as physical health? Thinking ahead can help you support employees in this regard.

Mental health conditions often accompany serious physical health conditions. Dramatically changing pain levels, various medications, and the strain of being sick is very taxing on the mental health of people with physical illnesses. Plus, it’s not always obvious: Many car accident survivors develop PTSD, so even the act commuting into work can be extremely stressful for them.

Three out of four PTSD patients respond well to medical marijuana, but many businesses are a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to marijuana use. Does your company policy on drug testing accommodate employees suffering from mental health issues or chronic pain?

The Insurance Problem

If you’ve ever been sick while covered by employer-sponsored health insurance, you likely understand how defeating and demoralizing it can be to deal with the insurance company. This problem magnifies when you have a serious condition like cancer.

To help employees access their insurance, make sure you have the insurance company’s contact information on your employee portal and in your welcome materials. Ensure this information is clear when you provide employees with any information about benefits packages as well.

While you aren’t customer service for the insurance company, survey your employees routinely. Stay aware of recurring gripes about the health insurance coverage and attempts to communicate with the insurer.

Human Resource Technology

Especially for larger organizations, human resource technology is crucial to supporting employees with health conditions. Provide a centralized location that harbors documentation and contact information for employer-sponsored insurance. Include contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — not only to provide the resource, but to show that your organization values conversations around mental health.

Software tools like Zenefits and Bamboo HR allow you to provide digital resource centers to your employees. Additionally, many employees struggling with serious health conditions have a more challenging time with professional development. Your digital resource center can provide a framework for employees to learn about and express interest in new positions, participate in self-training, and provide feedback on whether they feel you’re using their skills fully, which is crucial for neurodiverse employees who require direct feedback.

Managing Remote Employees

The most common accommodation for employees with serious health conditions is work-at-home flexibility. In the United States, 36 million people miss work due to pain at least once per year. Most of these workers lose between four and five hours per week due to pain issues, and most chronic pain sufferers feel like they are not effectively managing their pain alone or with the help of a doctor.

For a chronic pain patient, working at home can mean the difference between missing work and showing up. For the person having a panic attack every time they get in the car due to a recent car accident, a temporary work-at-home solution not only enables them to work but shows you have empathy for their experience.

Off-site employees can interface with on-site teams easily by leveraging tools like:

  • Skype for Business: This provides face-to-face and text-based communication instantly.
  • Time-tracking tools: Time-tracking software allows all employees to log in and out electronically, preventing the need for micromanagement, especially for at-home workers.
  • Project management tools: Programs like Trello and Asana allow employees in various locations to work with one another to complete pieces of projects.

With communication, compassion, and reliance on technological resources, you can support employees facing serious health conditions and enable continued productivity through flexibility. Only then will you reap the benefits on employee engagement.