They say “happy wife, happy life”, but in the business world, “healthy employees, healthy business” is more appropriate. Of all the things we can think of that are good for business, “healthy employees” probably comes last on what is surely a very long list of items, but a healthy workforce is, in fact, one of the most important elements of a successful business.
Without employees, an organization cannot move forward, reach its goals, and fulfill its mission. And the healthier the employees, the better. Throughout the years, scientific research has proven time and time again that a healthy workforce improves business performance, boosts employee morale, and increases productivity as well as demonstrates corporate responsibility and, therefore, creates a more positive public image.
But just how can you keep your employees healthy, and at the same time ensure that your business succeeds?
While companies slowly recover from the 2007-2008 financial crisis that shook the entire world, businesses look for any way they can to save money by lowering costs, so introducing a workplace health and wellness program may not be part of their immediate plans. Fortunately, however, there are other, low-cost ways to keep employees healthy, and we’ve found five of the best.
See Also: 5 Key Health Issues in the Workplace
1. Invest in Standing Desks
Sitting is the new smoking, and too much sitting at work can kill you. It causes workers to gain weight as calories start to burn at a far lower rate when most muscles aren’t used; it causes neck and back problems, and it puts people at an increased risk of depression, diabetes, thrombosis, cancer, and – are you sitting down for this? – early death.
As an employer, you can abolish the “let’s sit down and talk about it” culture by investing in standing desks for your employees. And here’s why: a 2014 study led by Dr. Alicia Thorp found that breaking up workplace sitting time with intermittent standing bouts lessened fatigue and musculoskeletal discomfort in overweight and obese workers. Numerous other studies have shown that standing desks improve work performance and are excellent mood boosters.
2. Introduce Walking Meetings
The average office worker spends almost 10 hours each day sitting – whether that’s at work making important calls and plowing through email after email, or at home watching TV and surfing the web. And as previously explained, sedentary jobs don’t exactly equal good health.
Another way to fight the sitting disease and keep employees healthy is during work meetings. But instead of heading over to Conference Room B, you can take your next meeting out for a walk.
Walking meetings are great because they help employees exercise; improve their creativity; communicate more effectively, and they provide a more relaxed environment where they can get to the point more quickly. Moreover, a 2015 study conducted by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges in Britain found that 30 minutes of brisk walking each day could very well save your life as it leads to a dramatic reduction in the risk of breast cancer, bowel cancer, dementia, heart disease, and having a stroke.
3. Encourage Employees to Take Breaks
US-based office supply chain store Staples surveyed 200 office workers in 2014 and found that 66% of respondents spent eight hours a day at work and more than 25% of workers don’t take breaks except for lunch. The survey also found that 20% felt too guilty to take breaks.
Working without a break can cause work errors and accidents as well strain workplace relationships and damage employee health, and that’s why it’s important more than ever to encourage employees to take regular breaks.
A 2010 study found that brief mental breaks could improve a person’s ability to stay focused, and scientists even discovered a formula for perfect productivity: work for 52 minutes at a time and take a break for 17 minutes.
4. Bring in a Yoga or Meditation Instructor
There’s a reason (and a good one at that) why yoga and meditation appear in just about every other print and digital article out there on the topic of health and wellness. Simply put, it’s good for you – as a matter of fact, it’s really good for you: it helps you lose weight, lowers the risk of injury, improves muscle tone and strength, lowers blood pressure, and it’s an excellent confidence booster.
As more and more companies are waking up to the idea of providing a healthy environment for their employees, many have begun introducing yoga programs to the office. And you can do the same by bringing in a yoga or meditation instructor (you could even ask around the office if someone moonlights as one) to lead regular classes during lunch or even after work.
Meanwhile, in a 2009 study of 48 office workers, the Ohio State University found that one-hour weekly group meditative meetings during lunch over six weeks, as well as practicing yoga and meditation at their desks for 20 minutes every day, lowered participants’ stress levels by more than 10% and improved the quality of their sleep.
5. Allow Napping at Work
Employees who sleep on the job are still frowned upon and often face disciplinary action such as suspension or termination of employment, but some companies embrace and, in fact, encourage workplace napping. Some have even introduced specialized nap spaces like Google, who provides its employees with sleep pods or Hubspot, who offers a beach-themed nap room complete with a hammock.
While you might think that allowing employees to sleep while on duty is a pretty bad idea (and it is when you’re talking about professions like police officers and air traffic controllers), these big companies know exactly what they’re doing. And you might be able to learn a thing or two from them.
Over the years, numerous studies have revealed the many benefits that workplace napping has to offer, including increased alertness, improved memory, and decreased mistakes. In 2008, Sara Mednick and her team and the University of California even found that power naps were more effective than caffeine and boosted productivity by at least 36%.
See Also: 5 Tips on Staying Healthy at Work
Can you think of any other low-cost ways to keep employees healthy? Tell us in the comments section below, and don’t forget to share this article with any business owners you know who want to create a healthy workplace for their employees!