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Four ways you can create a healthy workplace

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Your workforce is your greatest asset so helping your staff be fit for work should be a key part of any business strategy. By encouraging employees and colleagues to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you’ll reap immediate financial benefits as sick days fall and output soars.

But showing people you value them will also bring long-term gains, such as employee retention and improved morale. We’ve revealed the four key areas you should focus on if you’re to successfully create a healthy workplace.

Keep it clean
Working in a less-than-clean environment can be demotivating, provide the perfect breeding ground for colds and stomach bugs and potentially damage productivity. It’s worth investing in high quality cleaning products and booking in regular deep-cleans with certified cleaners.

But don’t just focus on the kitchen and toilets, as bacteria and viruses could be lurking around your employees’ workspaces too. Desk phones and computer keyboards can easily become contaminated with germs, as can desk tops and office equipment such as printers.

Hand hygiene is key to combatting the spread and preventing infection. Wall-mounted hand sanitiser remind people to keep it clean, or you could supply a small bottle for individual workstations. Make sure your kitchen and bathroom have plenty of hand soap dispensers too, to help stop potential germs from spreading.

And finally, ensure your workforce has access to bins and disposable bags to keep waste management in check. Your staff will spend a lot of time at work and, ensuring high standards of hygiene and cleanliness are met is vital.

Design for health
Good ergonomic design – where the workspace fits an employee’s individual needs – has a major role to play in creating a healthy working environment . High quality seating, regularly inspected and replaced when faulty, and desks at the right height, are basic essentials that will cost you less than extended periods of sick leave.

Lower back pain causes a significant number of sick days and can be debilitating over time. It’s an occupational hazard in jobs involving heavy lifting, but it can also be caused by sitting for long periods in unsuitable office chairs, so make sure to get the right chairs for your employee’s needs.

While getting the seating right is important, there is more that you can do to prevent other injuries. Making sure people are comfortable at work by investing in ergonomic furniture will help prevent muscular strain but also contribute to making them feel valued and cared for. Carpal tunnel syndrome, a wrist pain caused by excessive typing, is another avoidable injury that can stop people working and even require surgery. Invest in padded wrist supports that are both cheap and effective.

The lighting in your office is another key factor when building a healthy workplace. Having a dimly-lit office space can damage the mood of your employees, making them feel demotivated and sluggish, whereas bright lighting may cause the onset of conditions such as migraines. Your best friend is daylight, so try to let in as much as possible and instantly see an uplift in the atmosphere.

Fighting the flu
However fighting fit and active your employees are, they can still be laid low by the common cold. And the hazard of working in an office is that germs soon spread. Supply anti-bacterial wipes so people can clean phone receivers and keyboards, and encourage the use of hand sanitisers.

Even the most sterile of workplaces can’t always prevent colds thanks to the virus’s incredibly effective transmission mechanism – coughs and sneezes. Employers can be their own worst enemy by celebrating staff who make it into work when suffering, spreading infection wherever they go. It pays to have a policy that encourages employees to stay at home when they’re contagious. For those who are infected but still feel up to work, equip them with laptops and encourage them to operate remotely from home.

Keeping your staff engaged and happy
Showing your employees that their health matters is a powerful tool for keeping them engaged and motivated. It will also show the world that you’re a responsible business that knows how to look after its most valuable asset.

Our working culture often rewards people for the number of hours they put in – with employees feeling that they need to be seen to be present for long hours if their workload dictates so. However, research shows that this has a negative impact on the quality of the work that those ever-present employees are producing.

It seems that we all have a limited tank of cognitive resources, which are progressively drained when we continually work without a break. Non-stop working leads to negative stress reactions which prevent people from concentrating and can build up over time and damage emotional and mental wellbeing. Taking a pause from work is essential to allow creativity and thinking power to be replenished. Encouraging your employees to take regular breaks can make them more productive.

Regular refuelling is essential to keeping the brain working at its best. People will only feel empowered to do this if they are encouraged to do so, and the best way to make this happen is to lead by example. Taking a walk at lunchtime, leaving work on time and taking your annual leave are good ways to start.

Promoting a culture that celebrates health and wellbeing is a vital business strategy and it is your responsibility to ensure that workplace health is taken seriously. Not only will you be looked upon more favourably by your workforce, as you're looking out for their wellbeing, you'll receive acknowledgement from your industry and wider business world. You already invest in recruitment, training and staff development, so why not also ensure your people are happy and healthy too?

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