Congress can spend all the time they want arguing about healthcare, but at the end of the day, the people who should be most concerned about the nation’s health are employers. Why? Because at a very simple level, sick employees cost a lot of money. Even employees who aren’t sick but aren’t at their peak health could be a cost to employers money in terms of productivity levels. At the rate Congress is going our healthcare system might be broken for years, but it’s easier than you think to make little fixes in the workplace that lead to healthier, happier and more productive employees.
1. Fight Germs
This has been one of the worst year’s in history for the flu virus, causing a lot of sick days for those who are infected, and also some missed work for those avoiding the office for fear that it’s a breeding ground for germs. While the flu is highly contagious, there are steps employers can take to make sure that no one gets sick unnecessarily. Start by encouraging all employees to get flu shots, and making it clear that it’s acceptable to take 30 minutes or an hour off work to visit the doctor or drugstore to get one. Offer a generous work-from-home policy, so that employees who are feeling under the weather don’t pressure themselves to come into work and risk infecting others. Also, remind employees that stress and lack of sleep erode the immune system, while eating healthy and exercising can boost it. Showing your employees that you don’t just think of them as work horses and care about their health is a good way to remind them to take care of themselves.
2. Ergonomic Work Spaces
The research is out, and the verdict isn’t good for office employees. According to new research, sitting for eight hours a day is one of the most dangerous things a person can do. While not every office can offer standing desks or full customizable workstations, you can encourage your employees to make their workspaces as comfortable as possible. Supply exercise balls instead of chairs for employees who want to tone their core for a few hours a day. Most importantly, remind employees that getting up to get a glass of water or stretch once an hour dramatically improves their health. Even better, employees who do this are actually more productive.
Employee recognition is one of the biggest, most important trends in human resources today. Why? Because it turns out that more than anything else (and that includes cash bonuses) recognition makes employees more engaged, productive and excited to come to work than simply saying, “thank you” for a job well done. It’s even better if you recognize your employees publicly so that they can shine in front of their coworkers. Strategies range from social recognition software to calling out a great week at team meetings to urging managers to highlight quality work on the spot.
In our workaholic culture, not taking vacation can be seen as a badge of honor. In reality, not taking vacation is a surefire way to burn out, be less productive and run the risk of disease later in life. As an employer, you can’t make vacation mandatory, but you can strongly encourage it. More importantly, make it possible for employees to truly unplug while they’re on vacation. Suggest they turn off their email and work them to make sure they know their work will be covered by others when they’re away.
5. Encourage Physical Activity
Exercise is critical to health in ways that extend far beyond simple weight loss and maintenance. Exercise prevents disease, decreases stress and even improves brain performance. Encourage employees to exercise by offering a discount at a local gym, enrolling in team sports or signing up for events like short races and walkathons for charity. However, exercise doesn’t have to take place outside the office. Get creative – even during the work day. Meetings between two or three people can be switched to “walking meetings.”
6. Provide Healthy Snacks
It’s easy to make everyone in the office happy by bringing in a super-sized bag of M&Ms or providing donuts on Friday mornings. However, a few hours after the sugar rush comes the crash. And after a few years of eating junk food, your employees’ health will start to decline, and their productivity won’t be far behind it. On the other hand, making sure there’s an ample supply of healthy snacks like local, organic fresh fruits and vegetables will make for healthier, happier workers today and in the future. The behavior that you cultivate at the office may very well translate into their home lives as well, inspiring them to make more nutritious choices every day.
7. Create a Sense of Community
On any survey evaluating happiness in the workplace, you’ll notice questions asking whether employees feel that they have friends and/or confidants in the workplace. Gone are the days of clocking in at 9am, leaving at 5pm and heading home to a nuclear family. Your employees probably spend the majority of their time at work, so it’s important that they’re happy not just with the work they do but also with the people they work with. One way to make that happen is obvious: Do your best to hire good people. When conducting interviews and evaluating prospective candidates, look not just for job skills but also character traits. Then once you’ve hired good people, create scenarios in which they can bond and get to know each other. Instead of going the usual happy hour route, try team bowling, scavenger hunts or other unique team building activities. On a day to basis, implement a mentor or buddy program that encourages employees to eat lunch or grab coffee one-on-one. Taking a step away from their desks will not only foster friendship but also improve productivity and lead to idea sharing!
Kill a few birds with one stone and start a Farmigo community at your office. Employees who bond, relax and eat healthy together do great work together! Sign up to learn more here.