In the midst of the worst recession since the 1930s, employers are doing more with less and employees feel the pressures of it every day. With employees overworked, stressed out and worrying constantly about their job and financial security, it’s no surprise that their overall well being is declining as a result.
The nonprofit organization Families and Work Institute recently reported that only 28% of employees say they are in “excellent health” (down from 34% 6 years ago). Businesses inevitably feel the effect of this decline too, both in terms of direct costs and indirectly as well. Research shows that employees in poor health are less likely to be loyal, engaged and satisfied with their jobs than their healthier counterparts.
Employer-sponsored health benefits do make a positive difference, as individuals with health insurance coverage are more likely to report sleeping well, being less stressed and being in excellent health than the uninsured. However, to truly achieve a healthy workplace, businesses need to go one step further, facing the issue with a holistic approach.
“Effective” workplaces are healthier ones:
So many employees go to work every day and face a demanding boss, have little to no support from supervisors and colleagues and have little to no access to learning and/or growth opportunities because they are simply not in the budget right now. On top of all this, employees, especially the ones who’ve seen several rounds of layoffs, still worry that their jobs are on the line.
Add this all up and what does it equal? STRESS.
When employees are stressed and don’t have a supportive work environment, eating right and exercising are probably the last things on their minds.
On the opposite side of the coin are “effective” workplaces, where employees are trusted and supported. The Families and Work Institute study reports that at these workplaces, 40% of employees report being in excellent health. This is double the number of employees who report being in excellent health at the least effective companies.
What employers can do:
As you can probably see, achieving a healthy workplace goes beyond having an on-site fitness center and offering healthier options in your cafeteria. It starts with understanding and flexible senior management teams who make exercising and eating well easily accessible to everyone.
Employers’ efforts to make wellness accessible shouldn’t stop with diet and exercise or creating a supportive company culture; employers should also consider the physical environment of their workplace.
For example, studies have shown that natural sunshine and views of nature help workers boost productivity. Can you identify any ways to bring more natural light into your workspace?
Also, have you thought of ways you can make your workplace more green at little to no cost? A recent Boston Globe article discussed how a Vermont company reduced employee sick-days and had fewer reported allergies and colds just by moving into a green building.
After all is said and done, the one question that employers will need to ask themselves is, “How do I create an employee-friendly environment that makes everyone feel good about coming to work?”
A great way to start your answer is with a positive attitude– it’s good for your health.