woman rubbing forehead while at computer Everyone has personal problems now and again, and it'sonly human that some of these emotions find their way into theworkplace. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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We spend most of our time at work, so it should come as nosurprise to find that what goes on in the workplace can play a keyrole in contributing to employee health. Are your staff sittingdown all day, working with computers? Are they making healthylifestyle choices in terms of diet and exercise? Are you noticingissues with overwork and stress, low productivity, lack ofmotivation and disengagement?

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Whether there are problems with mental or physical health, it'snot just for the individual team member to take action; unhealthystaff can affect (and infect!) entire organisations. Having ahappy, healthy workforce, firing on all cylinders, should be theambition of every business. It improves productivity, sharpens yourcompetitive edge and increases sales. It reduces costs associatedwith absenteeism, sick leave and staff retention. Convincedyet?

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Related: Why your office is beginning to look like aforest

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The daily working environment is one of the most importantfactors influencing your employees' levels of happiness andmotivation in their jobs, which is why promoting a healthyworkplace is as much in your interest as it is in theirs.

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What is a healthy workplace? Broadly speaking, aworkplace environment that supports the health and well-being ofthose within it should have four main constituents.

1. The physical environment

Commercial premises come in many shapes and sizes – from officesto hospitals, warehouses to factories and much more besides. Thereexists, of course, a robust body of occupational health and safety legislation designed toprotect your employees that you will already be complying with. Buta healthy workplace is more than ensuring there are no trailingcables to trip over or cracked ceilings overhead. Good levels oflighting, comfortable furniture, a pleasant décor and extraamenities can all contribute to enhanced levels of staff health andhappiness.

2. Workplace culture

Every company has their own corporate culture, whether or notthey are aware of it. It's what determines the values your businessupholds and the standards that everyone–employers andemployees–should follow. In places where the importance of apositive workplace culture is recognized, implemented andpurposefully maintained, the work environment is healthier. Staffwho feel listened to, valued and invested in have no need to beupset or unhappy. With a great company culture, you can keep teamproductivity levels high and retain and develop the besttalent.

3. A supportive environment

Everyone has personal problems now and again, and it's onlyhuman that some of these emotions find their way into theworkplace. Whether it's difficulties at home or a recentbereavement, suffering from depression or just having a bad day,these issues can't simply be 'left at home' and shouldn't beignored by colleagues and managers. Show compassion, perhaps by having an open doorpolicy, so your staff know that you don't just care about theprogress of the business but also about your employees' well being.A supportive workplace culture is the foundation of a healthy workenvironment.

4. Healthy lifestyle choices

Your team members will be substantially more engaged with theirplace of work if they feel that their employer is interested intheir overall well-being. And as your organisation's best assets,isn't it worth putting an effort into employee wellness, not just because it's a nicething to do but because it encourages better teamwork, higherproductivity and lower sickness absence? With a 'captive audience'for 40 hours a week, the workplace is surely the perfectenvironment to develop and maintain healthier lifestyle practicesand discourage any unhealthy habits your staff may have.

How to create a healthier environment

People who enjoy their work are more likely to engage positivelywith their job. As an employer, it is in your best interest to keepyour staff happy, so that resentment doesn't get a chance to build,impacting the quality of work produced, and ultimately the loss ofthe team member. Creating a healthier workplace environmentshouldn't be difficult, and it doesn't have to cost a lot. Thereare countless ways you can make a real difference that your team will appreciate;here are just a few ideas to consider.

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Office comfort

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Working in clean and comfortable surroundings can really liftthe mood and improve interactions among colleagues. Good lightingand well considered furniture and furnishings are the keystones ofgood workplaces. Among office spaces where British workers spend upto 9 hours a day sitting, the importance of investing in ergonomicchairs or standing desks to maintain good posture should not beunderestimated.

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Break times

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According to Public Health England, a minimum of 30 minutes' exercise per day is agreat way to improve the general health of employees. Encourageyour staff to take regular 5-minute breaks away from the desk tohelp relieve muscle strain and eye fatigue and restoreconcentration levels. Why not take standing or walking meetings, orintroduce apps as reminders to get people moving?

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Wellness initiatives

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You can encourage your staff to keep healthy by introducinginitiatives such as lunchtime yoga sessions, football after work, subsidizedgym memberships, cycle-to-work schemes, or even something as simpleas taking the stairs rather than the lift. In addition to thebenefits derived from movement and exercise, it also gives youremployees the chance to get to know each other better, helping yourteam to bond.

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Team building

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Speaking of team bonding, anything you can do to improveinternal communications and bring your team closer together is anexcellent step towards creating and maintaining a positiveworkplace environment. From Friday evening drinks to monthlybowling outings, celebrating team achievements or going away forthe day, there are lots of activities and initiatives that willhave a morale boosting and bonding effect.

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Healthy eating

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A good diet is not about depriving yourself of the foods youlove. It's about nourishing your body so that you feel good andhave more energy to make the most out of each day. Help yourworkforce to steer clear of processed junk foods and sugary sweetsby introducing healthy eating habits at work. A freelyavailable bowl of fruit is a good start, as are catering optionsthat include salads, smoothies and wholemeal foods.

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Dakota Murphey has a wealth of experiencein business management, with over 10 years of experience she'sworked on a number of successful campaigns. She now enjoys sharing herknowledge through her writing and connecting with like-mindedprofessionals.


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