Supporting your team’s overall well-being is one of the best things you can do to drive the success of everyone’s efforts. Today’s work life is overscheduled and multitasked, occurring amidst a deluge of information. It’s not surprising that reports show 40 percent of workers feel their work is “very or extremely stressful.” For 25 percent of them, it’s the No. 1 stressor in their lives.
Unfortunately, that stress doesn’t end when they leave the office; it’s common for employees to continue working in their “off” time. This unending responsibility does not allow the mind to rest and restore itself. Though some of the out-of-office work may occasionally be necessary, too much can lead to burnout and actually decrease employee productivity.
Research shows many positive outcomes for individuals who participate in wellness initiatives at work. One is an increase in health-promoting behaviors. For instance, wellness program alums have been shown to reduce their alcohol consumption and smoke less, get more sleep and exercise, eat a healthier diet, and learn ways to reduce stress.
Despite the clear benefits, it’s difficult for employers to know the best ways to start implementing programs that encourage employee wellness. Here are a few steps you can take to reach that goal.
1. Make burnout-banishing changes.
Burnout is one of the biggest risks to an employee’s well-being. The overwhelmed feeling that comes from a long period of work-related stress creates inefficiency at work, reduces mental clarity and focus, and can cause an employee to feel resentment toward her employer and workplace. It also causes adverse health effects and $125 billion to $190 billion in increased healthcare costs.
To help prevent employee burnout, make some positive changes in your workplace. For starters, promote personal contact between colleagues. Downplay in-office email and foster face-to-face interactions in its stead. Instilling these practices will increase emotional connection and a sense of shared mission. Another key change is discouraging after-hours working. Have a clearly stated policy about “closing up the shop” for the night, and expect employees to adhere to it — for their own good.
2. Help employees prioritize physical fitness.
Office work is hard on the body. Too much sitting is associated with increased abdominal fat, higher blood sugar levels, and an increased risk of disease. It’s also not good for our energy levels or happiness — our bodies were meant to move.
There’s much you can do to encourage more movement at your workplace. One way is through flexible scheduling, allowing workers to fit in time for exercise or fitness classes during the workday. Even a longer lunch break can allow a brief opportunity for light physical activity. You can also incentivize fitness through a gym reimbursement program or by starting a company athletic league for volleyball, soccer, softball, or other team sports. If you do, be sure to lead by example and join in yourself.
3. Add plants.
Your workplace environment matters greatly to your and your team’s overall well-being, particularly when you consider that employees may spend years in one workspace. A sterile, boring, and lifeless environment is not conducive to feeling good or thinking clearly. The best offices bring some aspect of nature into the workspace, and plants are a simple and beautiful way to achieve that.
Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, president and CEO of Earth Friendly Products, maker of ECOS cleaning products, points out an additional advantage: “Plants aren’t just attractive; they’re excellent air filters shown to reduce air pollutants by up to 87 percent. They also remove carbon dioxide from the air, boosting feel-good oxygen levels. Why invest in more expensive air filtering systems when you can enjoy the results and natural aesthetics of a spider plant or broadleaf lady palm, which both help reduce toxins?” Some plants, such as lemon balm, even offer an additional benefit: a fresh, lemony smell that has been shown to improve a person’s mood.
These three simple steps can be a great start to boosting employee well-being. Creating a burnout-proof, lively, and nature-enhanced workplace will have powerful benefits for your team: reduced absenteeism, increased focus, and more productive interaction.