Being an employer means people’s lives are, in very important ways, in your hands. Your employees rely on their jobs to pay their bills, eat, raise their children, pay their mortgages and even for a sense of purpose and satisfaction. Certainly not a responsibility to be taken lightly.
Seeing as how people will spend a third or more of their lives engaged in work, it should be incumbent upon those providing jobs and places of work to make sure they are mentally and physically healthy places to be. Below are some tips and considerations for building a healthy work environment for your employees.
Promote Healthy Communication
Organizational environments, work or otherwise, are often defined by their communication norms. If people communicate openly, civilly and productively with one another, there is a good chance those people would describe the said environment as pleasant or at the very least non-stressful.
Part of good communication in an office or any place includes employees who are able to accurately and articulately transmit and receive the necessary information to do their jobs. One suggestion for improving your employees’ communication ability is to provide them with tools to constantly increase their knowledge and understanding of language.
Invest in Ergonomically Designed Equipment
If we are talking about 9-5 office work, then we are talking about spending the vast majority of your day seated at a computer. Remaining seated for extended periods of time is not only bad for your overall health but, depending on what you are sitting on or in, is also bad for your posture and your back. If your wrists and hands are wrested on an uncomfortably designed keyboard, add in wrist and hand problems as well.
Luckily, there is a wide variety of affordable ergonomically-designed chairs and PC keyboards on the market. These are designed to provide better lumbar and lower back support and to keep your wrists and hands in more natural positions, decreasing the risks of chronic back pain and things like carpal tunnel syndrome.
Another downside of working in an office all day is that the kitchen, and therefore the water, depending on where you are, can be a hassle to get to. Poor hydration is the root of daily malaise for so many people. You get to work, finish your coffee, dive into the day’s to-do list and don’t drink water again until lunch (maybe).
Poor hydration is also highly linked to poor cognitive function, mood swings, and fatigue. Employers should encourage employees to stay healthy, and proper hydration is not only important for good physical and mental health, but it is also a factor in lost productivity. Even at rest, the average adult needs around a third of a gallon (1.2 Litres) of water per day. Employees can be encouraged to drink more water by providing free refillable bottles and placing stations in various locations around the office.
Encourage Employees to Take Breaks When Possible
Clearly, people need to be attending to their jobs during working hours; that’s what they are paid for. But it is likely a safe bet that there is almost no work environment anywhere in the world where there are no lulls, and perhaps even long ones, throughout the day. If your employees are getting their work done, don’t begrudge them their breaks.
Employees should be getting up, stretching their legs and walking around periodically throughout the day as part of good health at work. The only way to counteract the effects of extended periods of sitting is to get up and move. Whether that is to the kitchen for another cup of coffee, down to the lobby for a muffin, or even for a quick stroll to the park across the street, letting people take regular breaks from their desk (workload permitting) is part of creating a healthy work environment.
Green Your Office
Too many offices are sterile, austere, unwelcoming places that contain the bare minimum required for employees to do their jobs and little else. Very few people really enjoy coming into rows of cubicles, halogen lights and white walls every morning. One of the best things you can do to immediately make your employees’ workspace a more attractive and comforting place to be is to invest in greenery.
In fact, people need and crave green space, outdoors and indoors. Studies have shown that having live plants scattered throughout a work area has the dual effect of increasing both happiness and, by correlation, productivity. Having plants in an office is also a great way to help improve air quality.
People have to work, and if they work for you, they are forced to work in whatever environment you create for them. Building a mentally and physically healthy workplace is not only the ethical thing to do, but there are real, proven productivity and job satisfaction benefits to be had from it. If you are looking for ways to improve the working lives of your employees, keep the above suggestions in mind and give your people everything they need to do their jobs happily and healthily.