Promoting a Healthy Workplace
GEMMA COLLINS DOYLE
More than ever before, society has become very aware of the impact our work environment has on us. From general health and safety to the specifics of how we set up our workstation, we have come a long way since the time of the industrial revolution. In saying that, we have totally different types of stressors now and a different approach is needed. This whole area can be overwhelming for an individual to manage, so it can be twice as challenging for an employer to tackle. The workplace is somewhere that we spend eight hours a day (or more!) and now the lines have become blurred, because the “workplace” has extended into the home and outside hours. With the use of mobile phones and the option of working from home, we are constantly switched on. Employee wellbeing has never been so important; this includes managing workplace stress, which should be a priority in a company’s workplace wellness campaign. “Health is more than the absence of a disease. It is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing” WHO (World Health Organisation)
Stress and mental ill health is now the leading cause of sickness absence. In fact, it is now estimated that 90% of illness may be stress-related. It is time to tackle mental health on a daily basis, especially in the workplace.
So, as a company, what are you doing to help your employees manage: workplace wellness, wellbeing and stress levels? There are lots of ways, so here is a few to get you thinking and maybe some that are a bit different to what you are doing now!
You have probably heard about this before, it has become quite the buzz word around the area of wellbeing. What is it though? Does it mean you have to grow your hair and wear sandals? Absolutely not! But feel free to buy the next pair of Birkenstocks you see and miss your next hair appointment!
On a more serious note, mindfulness is a solution to stress; it soothes the nervous system, is good for the immune system and the heart, reduces blood pressure and helps the heart rhythms.
Mindfulness is all about being in the here and now, not what happened yesterday or even ten minutes ago, not what may happen tomorrow on later on today. Bringing yourself back to centre and being aware of yourself and your thoughts at that very moment in time is all it takes. It doesn’t happen overnight as your brain needs to be re-trained! Most people start out by doing a simple meditation, close your eyes and focus just on your breath. They say if you can even do this for ten minutes a day, this will have a positive effect on your mental and emotional well-being and who can argue with a mere ten minutes?
Consider promoting this practice in the workplace, there are many companies who specialise in this area and could provide employees with a short course on how to get started.
Adults can spend up to 60% of their waking hours in the workplace, and may eat one or more meals and snacks at work. This gives the employer an opportunity to positively influence eating habits by increasing the accessibility of healthy foods in work canteens, and also by increasing awareness of healthy eating and its role in determining health.
Working together with your food service provider (if you have one), it is definitely possible to come up with a healthy and fun ideas to ensure heathy options are the norm on the daily menu. If you don’t have a service provider, you can still promote healthy eating. Ensure you have a pleasant kitchen and seating area for employees to eat. Provide a fridge and somewhere to heat up meals that employees bring in with them. Provide fresh drinking water to everyone, dehydration is the number one cause of headaches!
So much of our work is done sitting down now; it is a real cause for concern. The human body was not built to be sedentary for such long periods of time. However, as a company, you can encourage your employees to improve general employee wellbeing by promoting lunch time activities. How about lunchtime Yoga?
The great thing about Yoga is that you don’t need much space and it can be done almost anywhere, even outside. An added benefit to Yoga is that it can really help with managing workplace stress. Breathing is an important part of Yoga – did you know, we only use one third of our lungs? Deeper breathing leads to better health in both mind and body. Breathe!
The design and layout of a work space can have a major impact on an employee’s physical and mental wellbeing. This goes for office space and the factory floor too. First things first, make sure all employees have a VDU assessment / Ergonomic assessment.
Look at things like:
- Lighting – the more natural light, the better!
- Seating – is it ergonomic and comfortable?
- Colours – it’s a proven fact that colours have an effect on our mood!
- Temperature – between 20 – 23 degrees
- Air Quality – are heating and ventilation systems adequately maintained?
- Housekeeping – A place for everything and everything in its place. Working in a cluttered environment definitely doesn’t encourage productivity or employee wellbeing!
- A relaxation/chill out room – Treat your employees with a zen space by creating a comfortable and quiet area where they will be able to unwind for a few moments during their busy day.
There are many ways that an employer can improve workplace wellness, employee wellbeing and manage workplace stress – too many to go into here. The most important thing is that a company commits to a health and wellbeing program that will benefit all employees, which in turn will benefit the company.
By creating a positive, safe and healthy environment for employees, you can increase morale, improve your employees’ work-life balance and, in turn, positively impact your business.
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