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How to create a healthy work environment: Essential guide

5 min read
healthy work environment

Creating a healthy work environment is currently a #1 concern for many HR managers and recruiters.  As many companies are reopening their offices, human resources are dealing with a post-pandemic resignation boom and a hiring crisis.  Why?

Prospective candidates and existing employees are placing family, health, and safety as top priorities.

As an HR manager, you want to make sure that you have a happy and productive workforce. One way to achieve this is by fostering a healthy work environment that promotes flexibility and compassion.

Improving the well-being of your employees not only prevents a high turnover rate and absenteeism, but also boosts motivation and employee morale. You don’t have to do a complete overhaul of your system to improve your work environment. Just by implementing some small changes, you can start creating a healthy workspace.

How does your company go about providing employees with a safe and healthy work environment?  This article will help you decide where there is room for improvement.healthy-workplace

What is a healthy work environment?

A healthy work environment is one in which healthy patterns are cultivated and integrated into the company’s work culture.  Unlike toxic work environments, healthy workplaces have positive, open, and honest internal communication.  

According to the World Health Organization, four elements constitute a healthy work environment.

  • Health and safety in the physical work environment
  • Health and safety in the psychosocial work environment
  • Personal health resources in the workplace
  • Community participation and consideration

As stated in the WHO’s outline, healthy work environments are much more than a nutrition campaign or employee gym membership.   Although these initiatives are helpful, psychosocial health, safety, and community participation should not be overlooked.

Ways to establish a healthy workspace

Human resources should strive to encourage behavior patterns that reduce stress and protect the well-being of all employees.  In order to do this, and to establish an employee wellness program, they must consider the physical, mental, and social health of their workforce.  Here are some small improvements that can make a big difference.

Physically healthy work environment

Encourage healthy screen time

Although it seems small, computer screens and uncomfortable office furniture can take their toll on your workforce. Take measures to improve these problems by using screen filters or applications that prevent eye strain.  Here at Factorial HR, we help our remote workers with glasses that block out damaging blue light waves.

Another option is to use apps to block out light.  Excessive screen time can disrupt sleeping patterns, cause ocular damage and create migraine headaches.  This is especially true for post-pandemic hybrid working models.  Screen applications and small eye breaks can make a big difference!

Prevent Aches and Pains

Many employees experience back and neck pain due to desks and chairs with incongruous heights.  Standing desks are a possible solution to this unique problem, as well as adjustable laptop stands. Make sure that your team does everything possible to avoid work-related injury.

The effects that the workplace environment has on employee satisfaction should not be overestimated. Fluorescent lighting and poor ventilation can cause headaches among other health issues. 

To provide your staff with the best working conditions, you have to ensure the right air circulation and lighting system. Consider adding plants to your office. These do not only function as decoration but also help to improve air quality.

Offer healthy snacks

A simple way to promote a healthy lifestyle is by providing healthy alternatives to processed foods.

The afternoon dip often causes employees to resort to unhealthy snacks that are easily available.  Perhaps the nearby vending machine only contains soda, chocolate bars, and bags of chips.  

Offering fresh fruits could be a perk for employees that will improve their overall health. To better help remote workers who struggle with finding the time for healthy meals, consider contracting a meal delivery plan.

While thinking about food choices, it is important to consider employees who have special dietary concerns and offer nutritious alternatives.  Perhaps there are allergies, personal decisions, and medical concerns that should be catered for. 

Encourage physical activity

To encourage physical activity, you could invite employees to go for a walk during lunch breaks or take a moment to stretch.  Virtual exercise sessions are a great way to encourage remote workers to participate.

Studies have shown that thirty minutes of exercise per day can already significantly improve physical as well as mental health. However, most employees spend a good part of their day sitting behind their desks. 

To encourage physical activity, you could invite employees to go for a walk during lunch breaks or take a moment to stretch. Additionally, you could organize regular sports activities. These exercises are not only beneficial to the employees’ health but also stimulate team-building.

Mentally healthy work environment

Offering employees a gym membership and fruit does not necessarily equate to a healthy work environment.  Offering these benefits doesn’t hurt, however, it doesn’t cover the entirety of health by any means. Employee mental health is equally, if not more important than physical health at work.  Here are some ways to promote healthy relations, reduce stress, and create a more empathetic work environment.

Provide adequate time off

In the United States, there are no laws that require employers to provide paid time off.  Some laws guarantee employees unpaid time off, but many find these to be inadequate.  There is no federal law that grants employees paid or unpaid vacation time.  Holiday leave is completely dependent on individual company policies.

For these reasons, vacation time and paid time off are directly tied to company loyalty and employee satisfaction. A healthy, creative workforce needs time to recuperate and refresh their mental state.  In addition to normal yearly PTO, you may want to consider writing in stress leave from work to your company’s time off policy.

With this being said, employers that offer paid time off should encourage employees to use it.  Often, employees do not take advantage of paid time off due to concerns about possible repercussions.  It is good to send reminders to employees, especially at the end of the year and during the summer months, to let them know about how to request time off and the company’s policy.

Allow remote working

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the working routines and lifestyles of employers and employees alike.  Companies have implemented remote work as a means of maintaining a constant workflow during this unpredictable time.  

As a result of these changes, many employees find it difficult to leave their homes and return to their office desks.  Flexibility and freedom are top priorities for many workers! In order to accommodate their needs and eliminate unwanted stress, remote and hybrid working should be maintained as an option.

Promote psychological safety

As a result of the pandemic, there has been a recent spike in depression and anxiety-related disorders.  Although physical wellness is in the spotlight, employers should consider the psychological well-being of their employees with the same level of gravity.  

Offering group and individual therapy sessions with psychologists may be a good step forward toward supporting your team members.  Aside from pandemic-related problems, therapy can prevent workplace hostility, microaggressions, and bullying.

In order to ensure psychological safety, employers should create an environment of diversity, inclusivity, and equity.  Support your employees by protecting them from discrimination and unconscious bias. It is important to state your commitment toward DEI and then address systemic and structural issues within the company.

Socially healthy work environment

Promote community service

Besides being ethical, community service programs demonstrate social responsibility and help recruiters attract conscientious team members.  Volunteer programs and VTO (volunteer time off) help to boost employee morale and feelings of cooperation.  In other words, they are a wonderful part of a healthy team. 

Why do volunteer programs work?

According to a study published by Forbes, many employees would like to volunteer more but cannot find the time to do so.  Companies that provide time off and encourage employees to give back to their communities, promote a culture of gratitude at work, as well as boost organizational commitment.

A healthy work environment means high satisfaction

The best way to see if your efforts have been effective is to create an employee satisfaction survey.

You can ask your employees to rate a list of items from 1-10 on how much they value each in the workplace. It’s things like this that many HR managers fail to focus on, but not because they don’t care, rather, they lack the time to concentrate on anything other than their HR processes.

The next time you perform an audit on your HR processes, it’s worth adding a field that includes a focus on the workplace environment within your company.

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