Aches, pains and illness for employees can all affect productivity for businesses. For a small and medium-sized Enterprise (SME), it only takes one person to be off sick for it to potentially have an impact on your profits (for example missing a meeting with a potential new client because of illness).
Regardless of how many people you employ or the budget you have set aside, it can be worth taking the time to create a healthier work environment.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to keep your team firing on all cylinders without breaking the bank. Obviously, you can’t control what your employees do in their own time, but by getting them into good habits and leading by example at work, you can go a long way towards establishing a healthy and more productive team.
Here are four simple ideas to make your work environment healthier
1) Support your employees with healthy eating habits
You may not have your own staff restaurant or canteen, but it doesn’t mean you can’t encourage healthy eating. It’s well known that sugary drinks and chocolate bars can lead to a lull in energy levels later in the day. Try installing a water dispenser or leaving a bowl of fruit in communal areas to make healthy options available. Similarly, at meetings you might want to think about replacing cakes and biscuits with a selection of nuts or vegetable dips. Experts recommend that we eat a minimum of five 80g portions (a handful) of fruits and vegetables per day - if you can do 10 portions, even better. Bringing healthy snacks to work isn’t always convenient, so making these options available in the office can go a long way.
2) Get everyone on their feet
Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, used the phrase ‘sitting is the new cancer’ to highlight the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle. This may be a little controversial, but the concerns around sitting in one place for too long are widely documented – especially in the workplace.
One way of addressing physical inactivity would be to try stand-up meetings or if numbers allow, go for a group walk instead. This kind of lateral thinking is not only good for the body, it is good for the mind too. And if you want to avoid your employees becoming tired and lethargic, you should make sure they take regular breaks, or at least have a change of scene. For example, at lunchtime encourage them to take a stroll after eating (avoid lunching al-desko if possible), visit the gym or relax in a different part of the office. It may result in a slightly longer break, but the benefit of having a proper break is that your people are likely to come back fully refreshed and more productive.
3) Encourage fitness and exercise
Fitness can be a lot of fun if positioned in the right way. Setting up a five-a-side team is a much healthier way to boost team morale than going to the pub, as are group cycle days or fun runs. Even fitting a bike rack in your car-park can send out a positive message. Discounted gym membership is another idea, or you could even provide your employees with fitness trackers. They don’t need to cost the earth and if you set incentives for achieving personal goals and you could also introduce a little bit of healthy competition.
4) Make it easy for people to improve their health
You don’t have to be a large corporate organisation to arrange flu vaccines for your employees. Giving people time off to visit their local surgery shows you care about their health and wellbeing, plus it can help to reduce the number of sick days through early intervention. It’s the same for people who want to give up smoking. Don’t just have a smoke-free premises; offer incentives to help them give up. This could involve anything from supplying free nicotine replacement patches to paying for their therapy sessions. It would mean an upfront cost without immediate return, but if it helps one of your employees give up smoking, they are likely to make it up on time spent working instead. As a bonus, they may feel you as an employer are as equally committed to them, as they are to you. Lost time can equal lost money so this is a win-win for both parts.
Because businesses come in all shapes and sizes, you might need to adapt these ideas to suit your own working environment. But hopefully they include enough inspiration to get you started. The thing to remember is that cost doesn’t have to be a barrier to a healthy, happy workforce and if you’re prepared to make one or two changes, the long-term benefits can quickly outweigh the upfront cost.
Disclaimer: The article is produced in collaboration with Bupa, one of Elect’s insurance providers.