The relationship between work and health has evolved significantly over time.
In the current predominantly knowledge-based, technology-assisted economy, more employees find themselves in sedentary jobs, doing less physical work. As a result, this inactivity can create or hide a host of potential health problems.
Meanwhile, the globalisation of labour has also changed the way people work and the conditions in which they do so. The high demand for productivity along with increasing competition often results to higher levels of stress and burnout.
The 2021 National Return to Work Survey Report indicated that among the injury or illness causing Australian employees to miss work are musculoskeletal disorders, fractures, traumas, mental illness, and diseases.
Now, more than ever, companies and leaders must be more aware about their employee’s wellbeing and prioritise their health conditions. Indeed, South Australian workplaces are intensifying their efforts to prioritise the health and wellbeing of their employees. Many of them are implementing various strategies and initiatives aimed at safeguarding and enhancing the health, safety, and overall wellbeing of their workers.
What is health at work?
The World Health Organisation defines a healthy workplace as “one where employers and employees collaborate to continually protect and promote people’s health, safety, and wellbeing and workplace sustainability.”
A healthy workplace considers the health and safety of employees in the physical work environment as well as in the psychosocial work environment, including the organisation of work and workplace culture. It also looks at the employee’s personal health in the workplace and how it can be supported by the company.
Moreover, Australia’s National Preventive Health Strategy explains that there are several social determinants of health. This includes working conditions and employment. It outlines that secure, full-time work arrangement and strong social connections in the workplace positively affects a person’s health, while exposure to harmful substances and injury risks, underemployment, long work hours, and psychologically harmful conditions such as stress, bullying, and harassment can cause adverse effects.
The Link Between Health and Employee Happiness
Employees’ wellbeing has a profound impact on their overall job satisfaction and productivity.
Here’s how prioritising physical, mental, and psychological health in the workplace translates to employee happiness:
1. They feel cared for and valued
Employees appreciate a workplace that prioritise their overall wellbeing. They are more likely to be satisfied with their job when they feel valued and cared for by their employer.
2. They become more loyal
When individuals recognise their employer’s commitment to their wellbeing, they’re more inclined to stay with the company for a long time.
3. They are more engaged
When physical health is prioritised, individuals have the energy and focus to tackle tasks efficiently. They’re also less likely to experience absenteeism due to health-related issues.
4. They contribute to a positive workplace culture
Healthy employees feel supported, motivated, and happy. This creates a work environment where people are capable and inspired to show the same care for their colleagues.
Healthy, Happy Employees Grow the Business
Leaders and organisations who invest in making sure that their employees are healthy and safe in all aspects of their well-being are set up for success.
They are likely to experience these benefits as a result of their efforts:
1. Increased Productivity and Engagement
Healthy and happy employees are more likely to be productive and engaged at work. They appreciate a workplace that cares about their health and, as a result, are more committed to their roles.
Physically healthy employees are also more engaged, leading to improved performance and innovation. Engaged employees are also more likely to go the extra mile for the company.
2. Improved Mental Health
Physical health and mental health are closely interconnected. Encouraging healthy habits at work can significantly reduce stress and anxiety levels among employees. This, in turn, promotes a positive work environment and reduces the risk of burnout.
3. Enhanced Job Satisfaction
Employees who feel their well-being is valued by their employer are more likely to be satisfied with their job. They appreciate a workplace that cares about their health and, as a result, are more committed to their roles. This creates a culture that attracts top talent and enhances the company’s reputation.
How to Create Healthy Habits and Practices in the Workplace?
Whether your workforce is remote or in-person, promoting physical health should be a top priority. Here are some strategies to achieve this:
1. Ergonomic Workspaces
In the office or at home, ergonomic workspaces are essential. Provide employees with ergonomic chairs, adjustable desks, and proper lighting. Encourage regular breaks to stretch and avoid prolonged periods of sitting.
2. Encourage Physical Activity
Incorporate physical activity into the workday. This can be as simple as organizing walking meetings, offering gym memberships, or encouraging employees to take short breaks for stretching and movement.
3. Healthy Eating Options
Offer healthy food choices in the workplace, whether through a cafeteria or vending machines. Encourage employees to bring nutritious meals from home and avoid excessive consumption of sugary snacks.
4. Mental Health Support
Promote mental health initiatives, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and stress management workshops. Make sure employees are aware of these resources and feel comfortable using them.
Additionally, Harvard Business Review together with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation looked at the specific work conditions that affect employee wellbeing. They several approaches to improve work practices that can benefit the employees and the company. Here are some of them:
- Employers should give workers more control on how they do their work. Research shows that having little to no say over how work gets done can lead to a poorer mental health.
- Employers should allow flexible working arrangements. Similarly, when people have control over their work schedules, their mental wellbeing improves.
- Employers must strive to provide consistent working schedules. Erratic and unpredictable schedules make it hard for employees to manage their personal lives and health.
- Employers must ensure adequate staffing and reasonable workloads. High work demands such as long hours or pressure to work fast can affect an individual’s health and wellbeing, leading to several health risks and diseases.
Promoting health at work means ensuring the overall wellbeing of the employees. This relates to the physical, mental, psychological, and social health and condition of each person. By implementing healthy work habits and practices, employers can reap the benefits of having a happy, productive, and loyal staff—ultimately leading to the success and growth of their businesses. Prioritising the health of employees is an investment with long-lasting, positive effects on both individuals and the organization as a whole.