Keys to a Healthy Work Environment

Group of workers people.

by Matt Edwards

Considering how long industry has been around, having a healthy work environment is still a relatively new concept.

In some places around the world – a non-existent concept. The fact remains that healthy workers will be better equipped to handle their jobs and get more satisfaction out of it. A healthy worker misses less time, feels more appreciated and can perform the job at a higher level of skill than someone who is less healthy.

When the word health gets thrown around, it may conjure up images such as only physical health. While physical health is an important aspect and should be looked at in-depth, the other component is mental health. Put them both together, you’re set for win.

According to British Columbia’s Ministry of Health, a healthy work environment has the potential to lower absenteeism, improve morale, reduce health benefit claims, attract qualified candidates, reduce the risk of injury and improve job performance.

The Core Goal

Having a healthy work environment should be one of your top goals, but how do you kick off a program like that?

A study conducted by Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program(PDF) in 2010 states that “Sixty-nine percent of employees report that work is a significant source of stress and 41% say they typically feel tense or stressed out during the workday.”’

Stress has got us all by the short and curlies, and it’s irrational to get that number down to zero. However, if you ask your own employees you may get some of the same answers. It may seem like the right answer is just to deal with it. That’s how things are, and that’s how they’ll always be. Trash that thought.

creating a healthy work environment - stress

That same study cited that “Fifty-one percent of employees said they were less productive at work as a result of stress.”

It’s not surprising that when your employees’ minds are focused on stress, they’re not focused on the task at hand. This is not only unproductive; it can be dangerous.

These facts all point to a single thing: employees can feel very dissatisfied with their work for various reasons, but if these issues are addressed at work you can notice a huge difference.

Get a Dialogue Going: It’s funny, and sometimes counter-intuitive, but much of the time, employees just want to be heard. A person who understands that their opinion is of value will stick around longer than at a place where they are not encouraged to come forth with thoughts and ideas. Some of the best ideas for your business will come from the people who do all the jobs at your business.

Be Flexible: Business is business and it’s got its own pace. Even so, there’s something to be said for flexibility with employees. The study states that “Eighty three percent of employees report going to work even while sick, citing heavy workload, need to conserve time off to meet family needs, and a work environment where taking time off is “risky” as their rationale.” Speaking to the final rationale, a flexible work environment where supervisors or managers were easy to approach when emergency sickness hit an employee would mean that they could take the time off without fear for their job.

Encourage Healthy Living: Imagine every single one of your employees were built like Superman. What kind of result would that have on your operations? Nothing but positive, that’s what. Of course, expecting Superman is an exaggeration, but you might think about encouraging exercise, eating properly and drinking lots of water. Consider holding events where the first prize is a few memberships to a gym. Healthy fruits and vegetables can be bought at a nominal cost and made available.

For another great write up on workplace improvements, check out 9 Tactics to Build a Best in Class Manufacturing Safety Program to Impact Your Bottom Line.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. What are some of the ideas that you’ve implemented to create a healthier work environment?

Sources: APA Center for Organizational Excellence