Taking care of your employees' health costs you time and money. But creating and promoting a healthy workplace could save you far more than it costs by improving efficiency, increasing outputs, decreasing turnover and reducing absenteeism. That's because healthy employees are happier, more productive and likely to stay on the job longer.
So how can you create a work environment that will keep your employees safe, healthy and ready to get the job done? Here are three ways you can encourage your team to take control of their health.
Promote healthy habits
Start by encouraging everyday habits that promote good health. Why? Sick and injured employees cost you money.
A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that absenteeism due to illness costs employers in the United States $225.8 billion annually. But requiring employees to come to work even when they're ill isn't any better: Employees going to work sick accounts for nearly two-thirds of the cost of worker illnesses.
The CDC recommends implementing policies that directly encourage good habits, such as providing healthy food in the office to encourage good nutrition or scheduling yearly flu shots or blood pressure screenings for all employees. If your company culture is particularly social, you could institute healthy activities for employees to participate in, such as signing everyone up for a charity walk or creating a company softball team.
If your business involves manual labor, be sure your employees follow both federal and local safety guidelines, as well as recommendations for working in extreme temperatures. Always prioritize safety over cutting costs; in the long run, injuries can take your employees out of the workforce, increase your health care expenditure, and possibly even cost you money in litigation and settlement fees.
Don't forget to make sick leave available and create a workplace culture that encourages employees to use it when they need it. By normalizing sick leave, you create a supportive environment for your workers, leading to better retention and higher productivity for your office as a whole.
Encourage movement breaks at work
Desk work involves long stretches of time when employees are not moving. Buying standing desks for your employees isn't the answer; the negative effects of desk work – like musculoskeletal disorders and increased risk of certain diseases – happen whether workers are sitting or standing. Instead, new research confirms that sedentary time should be broken up with periods of physical activity. [Ready to get moving? Try these three tips to stay active at work.]
These breaks, studies have found, mitigate the damage of too much sedentary time at work. By encouraging employees to leave their desks, stand up and move around, you protect them from injury and increase their focus, which directly boosts your bottom line.
Support employees' mental health
Promoting good mental health among your employees is just as important as encouraging good physical health.
Studies have found that high stress levels lower job satisfaction, performance and productivity across nearly every industry. Stress isn't the only component of mental health to be aware of, however. Other research shows that employees with mental illnesses, such as depression, are more likely to be absent from work or have to leave their jobs.
You can help your employees maintain good mental health by providing mental health care as part of insurance options and promoting mental health awareness and self-care in the office culture. It's also important to treat your employees with mental health disorders the same as you would an employee with a physical illness, allowing them to take time off or temporarily reduce their workload if necessary.
As with physical health, supporting the mental health of your employees is good for business. An analysis of return on investment published in 2014 by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that, for every dollar you spend on creating a mentally health workplace, your business receives a benefit of $2.30.
By creating a workplace culture that prioritizes employee health, businesses can increase their competitiveness, retain workers and improve their bottom lines. In other words, it's a win for everyone.