Making self-care a priority for employees is important. Nina Sharpe tells us how to prioritise wellbeing in the workplace and boost productivity as a result.
In modern workspaces, a greater emphasis is being placed on the wellbeing of the employee. As it becomes increasingly apparent how vital it is for workers to have balanced lifestyles, there’s more pressure on organisations to make changes. These changes must prioritise the long-term mental and physical health of their employees over short-term productivity.
A study conducted by BMC Public Health determined that those in high-stress work environments visit GPs 26% more often than those in comparatively low-stress work environments.
The fact of the matter is that employees who feel perpetually stressed and are generally unhealthy find it much harder to be productive. By implementing strategies that value employee health and wellbeing, organisations demonstrate care for their workforce. In turn, this fosters loyalty, motivation, and productivity.
In the 21st century, businesses are learning that health and wellness need not be casualties in the battle for a productive workplace. In fact, they are incredibly strong allies when cultivating an effective and happy workforce.
The following tenets all aim to encourage employees to focus on self-care and prioritise their wellbeing.
Set a good example
One of the best attitudes those in management roles can take is to lead by example. Staff who see their leaders stretch themselves to breaking point day after day will inevitably begin to emulate that behaviour. Managers who look after themselves will not only inspire their team to do the same, but they’ll also be more approachable and less prone to negative interactions at work.
By implementing strategies that value employee health and wellbeing, organisations demonstrate care for their workforce. In turn, this fosters loyalty, motivation, and productivity.
A 2009 study conducted by Anna Nyberg as part of her doctoral thesis reveals that men who expressed displeasure with their management ran a 25% greater risk of heart complications later on in life.
Place emphasis on positive social connections
Humans are inherently social creatures. When social connections within the workplace are a priority, this improves morale, productivity, and quality of life. A study published in Science magazine found that poor social connection poses a greater risk to human health than smoking, obesity, or hypertension.
When employee relationships have foundations built on trust, respect, and cooperation, morale and productivity within the company soars. This also leads to lower staff turnover and higher job satisfaction levels. By promoting face-to-face interaction and collaborative events, employers go a long way towards cultivating an effective and happy workforce.
Encourage employees to talk about their issues
As Amy Edmonson demonstrated in her 2003 paper about psychological safety, workspaces where humility, empathy, and inclusivity are a priority produce better performance and faster learning within the workforce.
Conversely, when a business relies on negative reinforcement and harsh discipline to keep their employees productive, it slows people down and negatively impacts the physical and mental health of the staff.
Promote healthy sleep
Getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night is vital for human health and well-being. According to a Gallup poll, Americans are sleeping less now than ever before, particularly those in low-income groups. Lack of sleep has been linked to numerous mental and physical disorders, such as depression, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Additionally, it contributes to attitude problems within the workplace. People who get less than seven hours of sleep per night are more likely to be irritable, sullen, and uncooperative.
Make water more accessible than coffee
Most workers rely on caffeine to remain alert and stay motivated throughout the day. While there’s nothing wrong with a morning cup of coffee, many employees neglect their body’s need for hydration. The average person drinks 3.9 cups of water per day, which is less than half of the recommended daily intake.
By providing water coolers or water fountains instead of coffee machines in common areas, employers place a greater emphasis on health and hydration as opposed to over-consumption of artificial stimulants.
Have walking meetings
In this collaborative investigation, researchers determined that the average adult sits for approximately 6.5 hours per day. While this behaviour is necessary for the modern workplace, the increase in sedentary behaviour is concerning to health officials. Lack of exercise and mobility is a massive contributing factor in cases of hypertension, heart-disease, anxiety, depression, and more.
Having walking meetings is a creative and fun way to get your employees on their feet. As an added plus, this approach provides a less formal setting in which employees feel more comfortable expressing ideas and opinions.
Encourage employees to use health benefits
When it comes to physical health, prevention is key. Even small businesses must make health benefits available to their employees to promote well-being in the workplace. A Professional Employer Organisation (PEO) can be of great help here, as the best PEOs can offer different levels of health coverage. This makes it easier for businesses of all sizes to secure health insurance for their workforce.
You need to encourage your staff to use their health insurance for regular check-ups and screenings. Not only will this reduce health issues among the workforce, but it will also provide peace of mind to employees knowing that their health is being monitored and looked after.
Provide healthy lunch options
In high-pressure work environments, employees tend to prioritise speed and convenience over health when it comes to their meals. While not every business has a staff meal facility, those that do should make nutritious food readily available.
Encourage employees to use their vacation days
Everybody needs time off to rest, recuperate, and enjoy some downtime. Currently, Americans forfeit 212m days of vacation time per year. Contrary to popular belief, taking paid vacation time actually increases productivity.
Vacations also reduce stress and subsequently promote physical health.
Allow flexible working hours where possible
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that flexibility is a key aspect of a healthy work environment. Clinging to traditional work structures in the face of an ever-changing world doesn’t do anyone any favours. Of course, it’s up to management to tread the line between healthy discipline and unnecessary rigidity.
By allowing employees the freedom to alter their work schedule (within reason), you will demonstrate trust in your workforce and a willingness to accept healthy compromise. In a 2019 survey, 30% of the respondents left their job because there were no flexible work options, while a further 16% were hunting for a job that offered more flexibility.
With so many stats and studies backing the premise, it’s easy to see why self-care in the workplace has come under the spotlight. By looking after employees and encouraging them to look after themselves, a happier, healthier, and more productive working environment will be far easier to attain.
About the author
Nina Sharpe is a content champion for various outlets, covering business topics from finance for startups to small business accounting tips.