6 Examples of Positive Workplace Health Practices
By Megan Ruesink on 05/02/2016
When it comes to our health, we know to take our vitamins, hit the gym now and again and maybe even spend a little time in meditation. Often, though, we don’t consider how our workplace is anything but healthy for our bodies and minds.
Many professionals spend eight or more hours a day consecutively working. But these work environments don’t have to be as rigid and demanding as they often are. There are ways to make these spaces more conducive to creating healthy bodies and minds.
Whether you’re interested in workplace health for yourself, your employees or as a future health and wellness professional, this resource is for you. Familiarize yourself with what’s working for other companies and learn how you can help foster a healthy workplace.
6 Ways companies are making workplace health a priority
Workplace health takes work! These ideas won’t solve your workplace woes over-night, but from what these employers and professionals are saying, the effort it takes to build a healthy work environment is more than worth it.
1. Sit-to-stand workstations
The days of sitting for eight hours a day in a cramped little cubical are decreasing as more and more evidence emerges about the negative effects of sitting for long periods of time. On the flip side, ask anyone who’s on their feet all day and you’ll probably hear complaints about sore feet and an aching back. So why not have workstations that accommodate both?
“One of the most urgent initiatives is the ability for employees to sit and stand at their workstations,” says Carol Keogh, president and CEO of ESI Ergonomic Solutions. This offers employees the option of sitting or standing, encouraging them to switch it up throughout the workday. Keogh even recommends outfitting an office with sit-to-stand conference rooms to allow for standing meetings as well.
2. Central break rooms & workrooms
Anything that gets people up and moving, as well as interacting with their fellow employees, is a workplace health victory and overall win for the company. One way to encourage this behavior is to have a centrally located area for copiers, printers and office supplies. This requires people to get up and remain active throughout the day, Keogh explains.
“We find that when we allow our employees to make their own responsible decisions about when, where and how they work, they deliver back to the company in a more productive way.”
“Movement during the workday leads to good health, which leads to happy employees,” she says. “Happy employees are productive employees and productive employees equal profits for the company.” It’s a win-win scenario!
3. Flexible working hours
Most workplaces employ a combination of early birds, night owls and traditional 9-to-5 folks. And no matter which category you fall in, you’re bound to have a few personal conflicts that interrupt your typical shift now and again.
This is why an increasing number of companies are adopting more flexible working hours to help accommodate their employees’ busy lives. This work-life balance has several benefits, including improved mental health and increased productivity.
“As long as everyone can manage their workload and responsibilities, they can leave for a yoga class or go play racquetball when it works in their schedules,” says Alex Larsen, COO of Roomi. He has noticed the boost in overall morale and happiness among his employees.
Avi Steinlauf, CEO of Edmunds.com, is another advocate of flexible work hours. He says everyone has personal responsibilities pulling at them, which can end up being a distraction in the workplace.
“We find that when we allow our employees to make their own responsible decisions about when, where and how they work, they deliver back to the company in a more productive way,” Steinlauf says.
4. Office fitness opportunities & challenges
If you’ve ever participated in a team sport or a big race, you know that doing something with a group can be much more rewarding and enjoyable. Many companies have started hosting fitness challenges to encourage healthy living by incorporating a little healthy competition for their workers!
Steinlauf says his company gave employees the option to participate in a “Race to Detroit,” in which employees received FitBits to track their steps and compete against other teams racing to cover the walking distance between their Detroit office and Santa Monica headquarters.
5. Healthy vending machines or snack options
Both Larsen and Steinlauf speak of their companies’ nutritious food offerings to help satisfy any mid-day cravings that come along. This could mean stocking fresh fruit in the breakroom, hosting a healthy potluck or investing in a vending machine with wholesome snacks.
Providing nutritious options is one easy way to combat obesity and encourage a well-balanced, mind-stimulating diet. Not to mention the positive impact it has on cognitive performance!
6. Investing in exercise
Whether it’s a company-wide investment in FitBits, group fitness classes or offering an insurance plan that subsidizes gym time, there are several ways to invest in exercise as a company culture. The physical health benefits of exercise are no secret. But it works wonders for your mental health as well, reducing stress, lowering depression rates, fighting fatigue and boosting energy levels.
Steinlauf believes it’s time for more business leaders to start thinking outside the box and prioritizing these types of workplace health initiatives to keep their employees productive and happy. “In those situations, everyone wins,” he says.
How can you advocate for health in the workplace?
The practical benefits of workplace health are hard to ignore. This why more and more companies are jumping on the bandwagon and reaping the rewards.
“Sometimes it just takes a little change to make a huge, positive impact,” Larsen says.
Now that you’ve gotten a taste of some great ways to promote workplace health, you may be looking for other ways to help improve the health and wellness of the people in your community. Did you know there’s an entire field devoted to just that?
Learn more about careers in health and wellness in our article: What Can You Do With a Health & Wellness Degree?