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Unlocking the secrets of a healthy workplace

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As an employer, your workforce is undoubtedly one of your greatest assets and it pays to take good care of them. An unhealthy workplace can be costly for businesses, with research finding the estimated cost of absence to an employer upwards of £690 per employee annually in the UK. It is also estimated that £29 billion is lost in productivity every year for UK businesses due to sickness absence.

With 1.9% of UK workers reportedly taking time off work due to one or more work-related health problems, similar to that of other European countries such as Italy (1.9%) and lower than many others, including Spain (2.8%) and Poland (7.7%), creating and maintaining a healthy workplace can have many benefits. Fortunately, this may be simpler than you imagine if you pay attention to four key areas:

Keeping your employees active and healthyActivity and exercise have long been associated with being mentally sharper, more dynamic and maintaining physical health. There are a number of ways that this can be promoted, from offering discounted gym memberships to organising lunchtime exercise classes. Co-ordinating charity walks or fun-runs can also help develop a feeling of camaraderie and teamwork outside of the office’s four walls.

More and more companies are also offering employees the perks of free annual health checks and healthy lifestyle advice, as well as free flu vaccinations in the winter.

Healthy eating
Encouraging healthy eating can make a real difference to your employees’ general well-being. Google's headquarters is famous for ensuring that there is always a wide variety of free, healthy food always available for staff in its offices. While you may not be able to go as far as proving your staff’s daily dose of food during office hours, providing free fruit to help employees towards their “five a day” is sure to be appreciated.

If you have a vending machine in the office perhaps try to offer other healthier options as well – and make sure that there are plenty of water coolers to help keep everyone well hydrated.

Mindfulness and resilience training
There’s no doubt that today’s workplace can be a very stressful environment which can take its toll on employees’ mental health. In fact, HSE figures show that there are more days per individual lost to stress, anxiety or depression than to musculoskeletal issues each year in the UK. Further research shows that 60% of UK establishments have an action plan in place to help prevent work-related stress, with other European countries also actively tackling the issue; Italy (50%), France (30%) and Germany (20%).

It’s been found that just a short period of meditation can often transform a person’s mental state and it’s also important to remember the Zen proverb “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” A handful of organisations are encouraging staff to practice mindfulness and other forms of meditation to help deal with stress. Germany’s Daimler Financial Services offer free yoga and massage therapy to staff to help deal with the everyday pressures of work, as does Deutsche Bank.

Encouraging time out
Taking regular short breaks and a full hour for lunch is another reliable way for employees to remain fresh and focused on the job in hand – and doing all you can to ensure staff take their full holiday entitlement is important, too. Try to provide breakout areas where it’s pleasant for staff to take a break away from their desks and send frequent reminders about using up all annual leave.

Individually, these are small steps to make for your organisation - just a few changes can help to create a more pleasant and productive environment. Plus, they won’t just improve the health of your staff, they could give your organisation a whole new lease of life, too.

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