Imagine the ideal workplace. Employees are excited to show up in the morning and love their coworkers. They feel invested in their work and take personal pride in doing it well. Instead of a 3 p.m. slump, employees enjoy a 15-minute break. The lower floor of their building has been converted into a gym and vending machines are full of healthy snacks.
In 1940, the Fair Labor Standards Act made the 40-hour workweek the norm for Americans. Although this is considerably shorter than the historical work week, many people still struggle to attain a healthy work/life balance. All businesses can benefit from investing in the physical wellness of their employees. Here are nine easy ways to start.
1. Ask Employees Questions
Not everyone struggles with the same health issues. For example, young parents are getting plenty of exercise chasing their kids around at home. However, they may be missing a quiet space to meditate and reflect on their day. The first step toward improving employee health is to ask questions about their personal needs.
Companies can do this by sending out a survey that offers several options to employees. Examples of changes could be building an office gym, adding more breaks to the day or starting a company health challenge. Find out what’s important to employees and then empower them to reach their personal health goals.
2. Reduce Work Stress
According to the American Institute of Stress, 83% of American workers report being stressed over their job. These high numbers are likely also connected to the stress people feel over their finances. High levels of stress affect businesses as well as employees because they reduce engagement and increase symptoms of depression.
Clear communication and good management help to reduce work stress. When employees know what’s expected and are properly supported, they can meet goals with minimal anxiety. Investing in employees encourages them to succeed and creates a healthy work environment that fosters excitement instead of anxiety.
3. Create a Nutritious Environment
Unfortunately, many people respond to stress by reaching for sugary or caffeinated foods. Another way businesses can support employee health is by removing these temptations and making nutritious foods available instead. Good nutrition reduces inflammation and increases the body’s resilience to illness and anxiety.
If there’s a restaurant inside the office building, it should serve fresh foods with minimal preservatives and few processed ingredients. Vending machines should be stocked with healthy snack options and there should be access to purified water rather than soft or energy drinks. Businesses can help their employees by making healthy food more convenient.
4. Have Employee Events
Another way to invest in employee health is by planning group events. For example, each department can do a group event once every quarter. These events could include things like playing kickball, going on a hike or running a 5K together. Events should be fun and promote physical activity.
Employee events are also a great way to boost morale within a business. They allow people to get to know each other and build relationships through shared positive experiences. This is an investment that pays companies back in increased productivity, improved communication and reduced stress levels at work.
5. Provide Gym Memberships
Some companies pay for their employees to have gym memberships. Research has shown that exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve both mental and physical health. Employees should try to get in 30 minutes of physical activity a day, especially if they’re doing deskwork.
Cardio workouts are good for improving blood flow and brain function. Employees who weight-lift will improve their posture, make their bones stronger and burn more fat throughout the day. All forms of exercise release natural hormones called endorphins that help people feel happy and excited about life.
6. Incorporate Daily Movement
Another way to improve employee health is to enable them to move more throughout the day. It’s not good for workers to sit at a desk for eight hours straight – inactivity has been linked to health problems, exhaustion and increased risk for depression. More movement means more productivity during focused work periods.
Some offices allow employees to work while walking on a treadmill or biking under their desks. Standing desks are another great option – many can be raised and lowered depending on an employee’s energy level. For maximum productivity, it’s essential that workers step away from work for a few minutes each hour.
7. Address Psychological Needs
Just like the physical need for water, air, food and rest, people also have essential psychological needs. These include a sense of belonging, seeing that their daily actions have meaning and knowing that they’re valued simply for who they are. When these needs aren’t met, employees will feel depressed, burned out and unsatisfied with life.
By supporting employees’ mental health, businesses can improve their level of happiness, productivity and engagement at work. This benefits the company’s bottom line while continuing to draw new motivated workers. It’s a positive feedback loop that just keeps on giving.
8. Help Employees Give Back
Studies show that giving can improve physical wellness. It lowers high blood pressure and symptoms of depression. Conversely, contributing to others’ well-being improves self-esteem and increases satisfaction in life. Giving to others activates feel-good chemicals like serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine in the human brain.
Businesses can support employee giving with matching programs. They can offer workers paid volunteer days and organize group events to help the local community. The more opportunities businesses give employees, the more likely they are to take advantage of them and benefit from giving to others.
9. Pay Them to Learn
Many people are too busy to learn more about health. Businesses can support their employees by bringing in speakers and workshops to teach them about healthy habits. Some good topics include proper nutrition, the benefits of exercise and how to practice mindfulness and meditation.
Most employees will appreciate this investment in their health, especially if they’re being paid to learn. After each event, managers can go over practical steps workers can take to improve their personal health. Those in authority should also consider how they can incorporate new ideas into the physical and cultural structure of the workplace.
Healthy Employees Make for a Thriving Business
What are businesses without their employees? Every investment that companies make into their workers is an investment in the future success of their business. Workers who are physically and mentally thriving are more productive, engaged and excited about reaching daily goals.
Americans who work 40 hours a week are giving 35% of their waking hours to work. However, the physical and mental stress they experience while on the job affects them 24/7. Businesses can improve employee health by following these nine tips to promote physical well-being in the workplace.
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