The New Year and a new decade is upon us, and with a changing year comes the familiar tradition of setting resolutions.
But setting healthy goals isn’t just great for our personal lives — it can also improve health and wellbeing in the workplace. With the natural momentum that comes with turning the calendar page, the start of a new year is the perfect time to take stock of your current policies and set goals to improve one or more areas of the workplace wellness experience in the coming months.
To help you along the path to a better, healthier, happier office, we’ve compiled seven ways to promote wellness in the workplace, with tips on where to begin, and facts on the benefits of employee wellness programs.
Ready to improve your employee experience in 2020? Request a demo today to see how Robin can help optimize your workplace.
The rise of workplace wellness
Changing views on work and leisure, the rise of telecommuting and co-working, and competition for top talent have created more focus on living well at work. Why? For one, we’re spending more hours on the job than ever— in fact, 73 percent of millennials report working more than 40 hours a week, and nearly a quarter work more than 50 hours a week, according to Manpower Group. For this reason, employees are setting higher expectations for their workplace and its wellness culture.
Those employees are staying in the workforce longer, as well. With this long-view in mind, keeping your staff happy and healthy means they’re more likely to commit to the company long term, express more satisfaction with their daily lives, and promote a strong culture of belonging and mutual purpose.
7 ways to promote wellness in the workplace in 2020
1. Improve employee comfort
The days of wobbly office chairs and drafty conference rooms are increasingly behind us. Younger companies, especially in the tech space, are investing in greater employee wellness standards by implementing higher standards for physical comfort, according to a study from Fellowes.
These improvements include better ergonomic accessories (wrist- and backrests, ergonomic keyboards, impact-reducing standing mats); better furniture variety (such as variable height desks ergonomic seating, balance chairs); improved climate control features; water, air & light quality improvements, and noise reduction.
Continually improving your office environment is a great, evergreen resolution that can increase productivity, reduce healthcare costs for employers, and improve the overall employee experience.
2. Give everyone a say in workplace wellness efforts
Being in control of your own destiny can change your outlook on almost any situation, and that’s especially true in the workplace.
Studies show that, while the old school way of management reserved autonomy for executives and the C-suite, there are wide-ranging benefits to empowering all employees to become stakeholders. Some of the biggest benefits? Beyond retention and satisfaction, it can greatly increase mental health and overall wellness. It can reduce high levels of burnout by nearly 50% among Millennial employees, according to a Gallup Study.
Because it is a cultural rather than a physical investment, increasing autonomy for employees is a relatively low-cost goal to strive for. It may include expanding employees’ ability to take the lead on projects, determine when or how they work, participate in policy discussions, and help craft their individual employment and career goals.
3. Embrace employee-led wellness
One way in which your staff can lead the charge is through the creation of wellness programs and policies. The benefits of this approach are twofold: First, it’s an area in which individuals can take ownership of the process and (by extension) the organization.
Second, employees are more likely to get the services they want and need, reducing wasted effort and budgets. When employees have a hand in the development of programs, they are more likely to feel connected to the initiatives, which can encourage participation. This participation could take the form of surveys with a selection of options, discussions during periodic individual or team reviews, or through the formation of a wellness committee that can represent departments and come up with the best options for implementation.
Some popular initiatives for employee-led action include onsite fitness programs (including integrative wellness practices like yoga, in-office massage, and meditation), smoking cessation, and weight loss groups. Fitness doesn’t have to mean expensive equipment and facilities changes; walking clubs, running clubs, and even book clubs are all low-cost, low-barrier programs that can improve life for your staff.
4. Improve office privacy
The open office was once hailed as the cure-all for workplace communication and collaboration issues (the analogy of a hardworking beehive was often used to support these claims).
In practice, however, its purported benefits are overshadowed by noise, confusion, illness, and stress as a result of workplace design that didn’t reflect employee behavior and activity. Fortunately, more offices are moving toward a flexible, customizable environment, featuring a mix of open and private spaces that make it easier to collaborate selectively, and take advantage of solitude as the need arises.
If your office is currently in an open format, evaluating your space needs and investing in a flexible layout can reap great rewards in terms of employee health and wellness. Privacy can also support autonomy, giving workers the ability to stay productive without distractions or “over-the-shoulder” management concerns.
5. Take your snacks up a notch
One easily-achievable area of the WELL building certification you can embrace is improving nutritional benefits offered within the office.
Good snacks can almost every area of wellness, from improving health outcomes and reducing stress, to improving employee perception of the workplace and creating opportunities for employee engagement (we’ve all stopped for a quick chat with a colleague while perusing the office snacks).
Creating a budget for upgraded, nutritionally-sound, diverse food selections like fresh fruits, nuts, on-the-go protein options (while ensuring that vegetarian, vegan, halal, and kosher employees have items to choose from as well) is a simple way to bring everyone together, give them a boost during the day, and improve the overall health of your office. (Note: This would be a great initiative for your newly-formed Employee Wellness Committee or the folks at SnackNation provide an office food service that helps handle this initiative while providing enough options to satisfy the entire office).
6. Create a more accessible, inclusive space
The best offices hold that title because they’re best for everyone. One important component of overall wellness is the way work makes us feel, no matter what our challenges or differences.
Accessibility is not limited to ADA compliance (although this is extremely important). It also means going beyond the letter of the law to increase comfort and function for everyone who works in or visits your space and embracing a supportive environment for those who suffer invisible challenges and disabilities.
This could also include the expansion of your mental health benefits to promote emotional wellness in the workplace— for example, through an employee assistance program (EAP) or by partnering with a teletherapy or telepsychiatry provider to create accessible mental health care options for staff.
7. Adopt healthy policies
Increasingly, companies are adopting policies that allow employees to proactively and autonomously meet their health and wellness needs. These policies recognize the whole person —how they live both inside and outside the office walls. Some policies your organization might consider heading into the New Year:
• Flexible work schedules that allow employees (within reason) to set hours that work best for them, based on their working style, health needs, family needs, or other factors.
• Remote work policies that allow employees to work off-site either part-time or full time. While remote work policies take some time to develop— and require a considerable investment in helping staff adapt to this perk— the benefits are often worth the investment. Just make sure your people still feel connected wherever they're working from.
• Specialty PTO offerings, such as mental healthcare leave or volunteer leave. These types of days encourage specific, healthy behaviors in employees, and can improve both work satisfaction and daily life.
• Enhanced maternity and paternity benefits, which allow new parents to adjust to life with an expanded family without work concerns. This type of expanded leave can increase company loyalty and brand perception.
Beyond simply fulfilling legal requirements, an accessible and inclusive workplace sends a strong message about a company and its values. In the spirit of inclusive design, we’ve created this informative ADA compliance checklist to help you follow up on your 2020 workplace wellness resolutions and create a compliant and welcoming office space.