Ensuring your staff are healthy and well is key to employee morale and productivity, as well as helping to tackle absenteeism. Liggy Webb explains how to successfully implement workplace wellness strategies in your organisation.
The vast majority of the population spends more conscious hours in the workplace than anywhere else. No wonder that there is an increasing pressure on organisations to become more committed to looking after the wellbeing of their staff.
With worrying media headlines and obesity and heart disease statistics spiralling out of control, organisations are attempting to educate employees to look after themselves better through diet and exercise.
Working conditions directly affect absenteeism, which costs industry billions of pounds each year. However to have a sustainable impact, the approach to wellbeing needs to be far further reaching than just tackling physical health issues.
'Workplace wellness' programmes are now so much a part of corporate America that a system of awards exist managed by the Wellness Councils of America. Financial returns for effective sustainable programmes have been reported to be up to $5 for every $1 invested.
So what is exactly is workplace wellness all about?
Workplace wellness is essentially about the responsible actions that organisations take in ensuring the highest potential for the personal health and wellbeing of their people.
By cultivating a healthy and harmonious working environment, employers can positively impact on staff morale, retention and absenteeism and engender a culture of people engagement.
People thrive by balancing and developing themselves physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, occupationally and socially.
Many organisations recognise the benefits of offering a range of responsible learning programmes that help individuals to examine these areas and make the necessary adjustments to improve personal performance.
In today's workplace, wellness is a becoming an increasingly serious issue, with terms like 'stress-related-illness' and 'burnout' becoming household words. Organisations increasingly look for ways to keep their workforce happy, healthy and productive.
An investment in workplace wellness is not just about being nice to employees; there is a solid business case for organisations to create a culture of wellbeing for their people.
The 360 approach to workplace wellness
By taking a wider and more holistic approach to wellness, individuals will be supported physically, physiologically and environmentally.
This model covers six key areas that capture the essence of workplace wellness:
Exercise and diet
Exercise and nutrition in the workplace is key to energy levels and productivity. Many people sit at their desks all day without taking any form of exercise except for a visit to the coffee machine and the canteen. A poor understanding of nutrition leads to consumption of high carbohydrate energy-zapping food which in turn causes the after lunch sluggish feeling. Productivity in the workplace is at an all time low between 2pm and 4pm. Encouraging people to take exercise, even if it is just a walk at lunchtime, decrease coffee intake, drink more water and gain a better knowledge of the nutritional content of food can make a huge impact on performance, energy and focus.
The brain is our most valuable asset and understanding how it works can provide people with a positive advantage. The brain is the engine of the body and what you programme your brain with your body will in turn respond to. More and more emphasis is now put upon general attitude in the workplace, it is individuals behaviour that make all the difference. By encouraging a positive, can do, will do and want to do attitude the working environment becomes far more energised and healthy. Helping individuals to understand how their minds work as well as their bodies is invaluable.
The brain essentially is a goal seeking mechanism therefore helping individuals to set goals and learn how to break these down into SMART objectives can only lead to a culture of goal-achievement orientation. Goal setting techniques are used by top-level athletes, successful business people and achievers in all fields. They give long-term vision and short-term motivation. Work-life balance is now recognised as an important part of developing high performing teams and supporting individuals in this area will engender people engagement and boost morale.
Stress takes a terrible toll on our bodies and our spirits. Extended exposure to stressful environments causes elevations in a hormone called cortisol which is highly damaging. Stress is a well-known trigger for depression and it can also affect your physical health. So it's important to understand and identify the causes of stress and minimize them. Stress management techniques designed to be implemented in the workplace can work wonders. These include time management, breathing exercises, brain gym techniques, and positive personal programming and relaxation exercises such as yoga.
Effective communication is key to the success of a high performing team. Poor communication skills can cause a variety of negative issues in the workplace. Helping individuals to be able to communicate effectively, listen, empathise and demonstrate positive non-verbal communication can reduce stress and build confidence.
The two main areas of environmental wellness include the principles of ergonomics and the reduction of commercial carbon footprint. Physical ergonomics relates to arranging the working environment to fit the people using it. When good ergonomic principles are understood and applied correctly in the work environment, employee visual and musculoskeletal discomfort and fatigue can be reduced significantly.
An organisation's desire to reduce its carbon footprint demonstrates respect for the environment by reducing wastage of limited energy resources and helping to slow global warming. Environmental awareness is important to all of our lives and should be an integral part of our society and culture.
"The concept of total wellness recognizes that our every thought, word, and behaviour affects our greater health and wellbeing. And we, in turn, are affected not only emotionally but also physically and spiritually." Greg Anderson.
Liggy Webb is founding director of the Learning Architect