Prolonged time spent sitting in an office environment has proven to have serious negative side effects on workers. Permanently bent backs from hunching over a computer all day, swollen eyes, poor blood flow, and weak muscles are just a few of the health concerns from being exposed to an office environment for many years. Even more concerning is the increased risk for musculoskeletal disorders, cancer, heart disease, and more. Author and futurist William Higham says, “Unless we make radical changes to our working lives, such as moving more, addressing our posture at our desks, taking regular walking breaks or considering improving our work station set up, our offices are going to make us very sick.” Thankfully, many employers are starting to take the initiative and make those radical changes.
What is Wellbeing?Many workers are becoming more conscious of what working in an office can do to their health. As a result, companies that make employee health and wellbeing a priority are more attractive to applicants and have better employee retention. Employee wellbeing is linked to employee engagement and productivity, and an organization only becomes stronger with better engagement. So what is employee wellbeing? Employee wellbeing is about how your job, which includes responsibilities, expectations, stress level, and environment, affects your overall health and happiness. While wellbeing is certainly about exercise and nutrition, it’s also about mood and cognition. It’s about understanding your employees from a holistic perspective, taking into account the totality of their lives, and considering their overall quality of life.
Implementing a Workplace Wellbeing ProgramThe first step to successfully implementing a workplace wellbeing program is to nominate a leader. If too many people try to run the show the program might never see the light of day. Choose one or two people from the HR department to spearhead the program and ensure that other employees know that they’re the points of contact. Once there is a team to lead the program, they should begin surveying staff members to learn what it is they want. Some important topics to cover include:
- Current health habits, including general information about diet and exercise
- If the workplace set up can support either of these things
- Knowledge about healthy lifestyles and barriers to change
- Which activities they’d like to participate in at work
- How can these be put in place at work?
- Discussion around the mental demands of the job, and any perceived problems
- Working relationships
- General levels of support and preparation offered to staff members
A Few Simple ChangesWhile a more robust wellbeing program may take some time to develop, there are some simple changes that can be implemented in just a few weeks.
- Offer Yoga classes during lunch
- Establish a walking group
- Encourage people to have meetings outside or go for a walk during the meeting
- Supply healthier snacks
- Provide standing desks so people can take a break from sitting
- Urge sick employees to stay home
- Decorate with plants – they’ve been proven to boost people’s mood