For most people, health and wellbeing at work will initially mean health and safety. The physical safety of the workforce is quite naturally very much to the fore when it comes to considering wellbeing. Good training, the right protective clothing and a safe working environment amongst other things are a reasonable expectation of any work environment. In fact, this is so much the case that they are enshrined in law to protect workers. The question is, are there benefits to extending the principles of wellbeing at work into initiatives beyond those required by a safe environment?
Does making the workplace an environment where wellbeing is promoted have any real world benefit?
While it may seem a little ‘new age’ compared to the traditional view of the workplace, having a strong and versatile health and wellbeing policy results in some very desirable outcomes. There is evidence that working itself has a beneficial impact on health. Assuming that is that the amount of work and the associated stress are kept under control and workers are not pushed to the limit. You may have seen articles recently about young Japanese workers developing a culture of extreme levels of work resulting in some pretty bad health issues. Balance is important as are our old friends work/life balance and job satisfaction.
There are lots of initiatives
As a response to the pressure of work, some Japanese businesses have introduced measures such as work time exercise sessions and encouraging healthy activity. One rather innovative example is to pay a dividend for workers who do not do overtime. Assuming they reach a set of achievable and reasonable targets then the workers are paid the bonus, so they are not tempted to take additional pressure by accepting overtime. The theory is that the continued efficiency generated by this scheme means the benefits far outweigh the overtime productivity.
While some of these measures may be a little extreme, the principle of encouraging healthy activity is not only an achievable goal it is a relatively low-cost one. Gym memberships and even converting rooms in larger businesses to healthy exercise are all fairly low-cost perks to offer. If you have enough employees, and space free, yoga, tai chi or Pilates classes may be another option. The right option will depend on your workforce and their roles, of course. While a good stretch through some lunchtime Tai Chi may be great for an office workforce, a warehouse full of primarily younger employees would probably prefer a basketball hoop or football area. One multi-office site I know has a table tennis table in the central area.
Sport and health activity isn’t all there is to it though. Other initiatives such as making more healthy eating choices available to the team may well be of benefit. There is a lot to be said for a piece of fruit rather than a piece of cake. Simple small changes will have a knock-on effect that could well make a small but significant change.
As a final thought on wellbeing, and probably the most important, let’s return to that earlier paragraph about work/life balance and the importance of job satisfaction. Mental wellbeing is easy to overlook compared to losing a few pounds, but it is no less important. A worker that feels valued, listened to, appreciated and sees themselves as part of the larger whole of the business is likely to be much more motivated and feel much better about their working life. As a result, they are less stressed, and less stressed means healthier mental wellbeing that in turn leads to content, committed and efficient workers. In short then, having an appropriate physical, career, and mental wellbeing policy that encourages a healthy approach to their working and even personal life could result in a more focused and efficient team.
A very appropriate saying about maintaining good health springs to mind ‘if you think exercise and eating well are hard work you should try a few days in hospital because you didn’t’.