Wellbeing Blog

September 15, 2016

Well by Design: Simple Strategies for a Healthy Workplace

"Corporate wellness" is now a $6 billion industry covering many aspects of health.  While most wellness programs focus heavily on physical health, the more progressive companies take a holistic approach; offering resources supporting employee’s total wellbeing. Fostering positive workplace relationships, financial security, improved physical health and active community involvement will attract exceptional workers who will in turn, provide exceptional contributions.

However, even a company with the most robust resources and programs to support employee wellbeing may fall flat in their efforts without a workplace culture and environment that makes healthy choices easy. The most innovative companies are now reconstructing their physical environment to be supportive of wellbeing by design. This attention to the physical work environment as a part of a comprehensive wellbeing strategy is leading to more energized, productive, thriving employees.

There are simple environmental changes that you can make without the need for a major renovation that can have a huge impact on your workplace culture. Consider the following, as you think about what changes would work for your environment:

Design for Physical Activity:

  • Maximize the appeal of stairwells. Make sure they are well lit. Post inspirational messages or fun facts on each floor and consider changing them periodically to keep it interesting. You can even decorate the stairwells for holidays. Consider signs in elevators that promote the stairs, perhaps mentioning how many calories you can burn per flight of stairs.

  • Encourage walking and standing meetings.

  • Map out walking paths with step counts and distances both indoors and out.

  • Offer adjustable standing desks in individual workspaces or in collaborative conference rooms.

  • Install bike racks to encourage biking to work.

  • Transform an empty office into a fitness resource center with small weights, stability balls, yoga mats, and exercise bands, that employees can use while at work. 

  • Have managers send out “office recess” emails encouraging everyone to stand and stretch throughout the day.

For any of these strategies you may use, it is essential that company leadership and front-line managers promote and support the message and lead by example.

Encourage Nutritious Food Choices:

  • Provide a fruit basket with free fruit.

  • Host healthy pot –luck lunches where food and recipes are shared by employees.

  • Replace soda cans with water bottles in your meeting and breakrooms.

  • Provide a clean and inviting space for employees to prepare lunch and connect socially with friends and colleagues.

  • Create a list of nearby healthy restaurant and catering options and make it visible.

  • Access to a refrigerator and microwave will at a minimum allow employees to prepare meals at home verses grabbing fast food during the work day.

  • Evaluate your vending choices and replace unhealthy snacks with healthier options.

  • Reduce surgery drinks and offer access to free filtered water.

  • Consider partnering with a local CSA or farmer’s market that can provide fresh fruits and vegetable delivery to employees each week.

Be Engaging by Design:

Organizational policies which endorse the importance of work-life integration are a crucial starting point for a people-positive workplace. Because the office is where we spend a large chunk of our waking hours, it is important that we make it comfortable and inviting. Here are some small touches that can make a big differences:

  • Abundance of natural light

  • Good air quality

  • Live plants

  • Artwork

  • Acoustics that absorb distracting noises like ringing telephones and churning printers or installing white noise

  • Allow employees to add personal touches to their workspace such as pictures of family and friends, children’s artwork, etc. 

  • Provide ergonomic assessments for employee workstations to minimize physical discomfort.

Though these strategies may seem trivial, when taken as a whole they can help create a physical environment that promotes comprehensive wellbeing for all.

Your unique culture and industry will help determine what changes will work best for your organization. For example, open workspaces can encourage greater collaboration and teamwork, but can create privacy concerns and distractions for some organizations and people. Before making design or structural changes, seek the help of experts and always solicit employee feedback.  What will work for one company doesn’t always work for another. 

What is one small step can you implement today?


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