As workplace stress and burnout is on the rise, it’s becoming increasingly important to encourage employees to care for their well-being; and now you can with these simple workplace wellness ideas.
It’s probably no secret that stress is a major killer, not only of people, but businesses. As stress is continuing to rise in offices throughout the country, causing sleepless nights, lowered productivity, poor turnover, and higher rates of stress-related illnesses, the government and businesses scramble to find ways to turn these numbers around.
Beyond stress, millions of Americans are suffering from conditions that are partly or largely caused by lifestyle choices, including:
- Cardiovascular disease
Corporate workplace wellness initiatives have exploded in scope and popularity, with the apparent aim of improving worker health and productivity, while cutting down on immense healthcare costs. But surface-level methods like walking groups and a free gym membership likely aren’t cutting it, with research indicating that helping workers achieve wellness can be very difficult.
With both physical and mental health growing in relevance everywhere, there’s a greater understanding of what’s needed and what’s effective when trying to address employee concerns and reduce costs. More than ever, businesses are trying to improve workplace wellness to attract and keep their talent.
What Is Workplace Wellness?
Workplace wellness describes a number of different initiatives aimed at urging businesses to make contributions to their employees’ wellbeing, both to reduce total healthcare costs, and to help improve productivity and employee longevity. Some common workplace wellness initiatives include:
- Fitness and weight trackers
- Healthier snacks at the workplace
- Subsidized gym memberships
- Incentivized programs to get employees to become more physically active
It’s a massive multi-billion-dollar industry, with insurers offering great incentives to businesses to provide these benefits. However, it’s also an industry mired in some controversy, as certain businesses insist on tracking employees considerably, potentially violating their privacy, while others wonder if some of the measures taken under the name of worker wellness are truly voluntary.
Although research is limited in terms of both scope and time, preliminary results of the many initiatives companies have engaged in seem to suggest that the benefits of trying to help incentivize healthier living have been quite modest.
This doesn’t mean workplace wellness is a lost cause – in fact, some of the researchers argue that not enough is being done, and the focus is being put on specific physical metrics (like weight and activity) rather than the holistic picture of an employee’s wellness, which includes their social, emotional, and physical health.
Not everyone benefits from a walking club, a gym membership, or a step counter. Not everyone works better simply because they have lower blood pressure, and not everyone can be incentivized to drop bad habits and start working on themselves with simple financial incentives. This year, companies need a different, more comprehensive approach to workplace wellness if they want to help their employees improve.
A New Comprehensive Approach to Workplace Wellness
A holistic approach to workplace wellness demands that any changes made address not only a worker’s physical health, but their emotional health, social wellbeing, and intellectual needs.
Some potential changes include greater access to mental health resources, more insurance coverage for treatments for mental health conditions that are a problem among employees with poor health markers (like anxiety and depression), and time off for mental health problems.
Changes made to the office to help facilitate a more communal experience (while still providing space for focused work on the tasks at hand) can help with social wellbeing, especially if these communal spaces are built to emphasize collaboration and interaction. Coworking spaces often model this excellently, providing space for collaborative efforts and individual projects and meetings.
Intellectual needs improve through a workload that best takes advantage of a worker’s talents, and more opportunities to allow workers to train and learn tasks while on the job, allowing them to continue their education and work towards certain certifications or positions that interest them.
All of these changes need an individualized approach. With there being no one-size-fits-all, it helps to learn what each employee needs to perform better and take up healthier habits. This can be difficult across larger firms, but by breaking efforts up into individual departments, bigger companies can comprehensively gather data on what their employees’ needs are.
Through big data, companies can more intelligently select incentives that their employees are likely to respond to. Some other examples of workplace wellness in 2020 include:
1. Incorporate More Nature
The clean, structured design of an office can help facilitate focus, and it’s what we’re used to – but it’s far removed from how we once used to live. While it’s clear that industrialization comes with countless benefits, the eradication of nature can leave a serious impact on the psyche.
Making efforts to bring a little bit of nature back into the workplace can help improve physical and mental health. Certain changes, like adding more plants to the office, adding a simple indoor water fountain, or renovating to add more natural light to the office can help reduce markers of stress and anxiety.
Another idea is to incorporate team building activities in nature, to bring employees out into the wild every now and again.
2. Be Plant-Friendly
Another way to bring a little extra nature into the workplace is to provide a room for employees to keep and care for their own plants, and nominally give them plants to care for. Plenty of succulents make for excellent beginner plants, including a wide variety of echeverias, haworthias, cacti, aloes, and sansevierias.
More than just providing a little color, caring for these plants can help in a similar way that caring for a pet does, without the myriad of potential issues associated with pet-friendly offices.
3. Work from a Coworking Space
Whether through a work-from-anywhere policy, or as a way to save on office space, consider moving the business to a shared coworking space.
Coworking spaces offer plenty of benefits in the way of productivity and collaboration, and the communal spirit of a coworking space can help reduce stress.
4. Keep the Kitchen Stocked
One way to keep your employees from snacking on junk food or going for a smoke break, especially if you’re incentivizing smoking cessation or healthier living, is to make sure that the kitchen is constantly stocked with various healthy food options, and that employees can feel free to use the company’s own cafeteria or kitchen for lunch.
No matter how healthy a snack is, it’s easy to have too much. Prioritize filling and nutrient-dense, calorie-low snacks, and serve protein-rich meals with plenty of fiber to discourage binge eating or excessive dieting. It’s not easy to live a healthy life and maintain a balanced diet these days. You can help employees by offering a discount on healthy meal delivery services.
5. Encourage Walking or Stretching Breaks
One way to improve productivity is by helping employees make use of their time more effectively and fighting back against some of the side effects of leading mostly sedentary lives.
While sitting itself won’t cause chronic back pain, it can contribute to it, and it’s better to sit for shorter periods of time than a single long period. If your employees aren’t a fan of standing desks, instead encourage frequent stretching breaks, or quick walking breaks.
There’s a lot to consider when tackling a person’s wellbeing. Workplace wellness has to be more than just a few small policy changes, especially if we expect to revert habits that have lasted for decades and generations.