Creating a Healthier Workplace

John Krautzel
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A healthier workplace benefits both your company and your employees. When your culture promotes wellness and healthy practices, it can reduce stress, improve morale and cut down on sick leave, resulting in a happier and more productive team.

Encourage Sick Days

One of the best ways to create a healthier workplace is to offer sick days and ensure that workers feel comfortable using them. If your employees — or worse, your management — view it as a badge of honor to push through the pain, reversing the trend can take time. Start by discussing the effects of contagious illnesses on productivity, and consider bringing in a health care professional to educate employees about when to stay home. Then, require company leaders to set the standard and call in sick when necessary. If you must, send workers home when they're ill, and implement a work-from-home policy for mild but contagious conditions.

Reduce Stress

According to the American Psychological Association, stress can weaken your immune system and make it more difficult to fight off illness. To promote a healthier workplace, do what you can to keep employees from burning out. Bring in temporary help during busy periods, avoid scheduling deadlines close together and establish open communication channels. Since some stress is unavoidable, try injecting fun and relaxation into the workday with a company softball league or an occasional afternoon social activity. Let workers know about the mental health benefits in their insurance coverage, and provide flex time to encourage them to take advantage of daytime counseling or other services.

Encourage Activity

It's no secret that extended periods of sitting can have detrimental health effects. As you move toward a healthier workplace, find ways to get your employees moving during the day. Outfit offices with desks that convert from sitting to standing, or go all out with treadmill or exercise bike desks. Hold meetings on another floor to work in stair-climbing, do team exercises once an hour or host lunchtime workouts. Encourage frequent movement by challenging everyone in the office to meet a specific steps goal and offering prizes for each milestone.

Prioritize Safety

Your company's equipment and physical spaces play a key role in building a healthier workplace. In many cases, it's easy to ignore a potential hazard when it's expensive to fix. Prioritize safety by investing in replacements for old or temperamental factory equipment, poor lighting and floors in need of repair. If you work in an office, ensure that the HVAC system is up to code, and invest in plants or an air purifier. If your employees have developed hazardous workarounds for certain tasks, insist on a safer procedure and upgrade systems as necessary to make that possible. When workers have the tools they need to stay safe, they are more likely to follow policy.

Improvements to facilities and practices come at a price, but the benefits pay off long after the initial investment. By prioritizing wellness and leading by example, you can build a stronger team and a healthier workplace.

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