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Employee Wellbeing

Unplug and Recharge: 4 Pillars to Employee Well-Being

Research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that for American between the ages of 25 and 54 with children, more than a third of an average day, almost nine hours, is spent at work or handling work-related activities. Furthermore, the clock no longer stops when an employee leaves the office. With technology, work can, and does, continue outside typical business hours.

As employers consider the time spent in office and the evolving role of employees, they must remain cognizant of the value of keeping employees healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthier employees are less likely to call in sick or use vacation time due to illness, and companies that support workplace health have a greater percentage of employees at work every day.

Consider these four best practices:

1. Lower office-related stress

According to a study by Northwestern National Life, work is the primary stressor for a quarter of Americans— a factor that contributes to a myriad of conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Overscheduled days that provide little time for employees to accomplish tasks are a significant workplace stress factor. The right solution differs by company, but employers can consider limiting the number of meetings throughout the day or encouraging employees to work from home once a week to focus solely on the projects at hand. For better insight, employers can survey employees to better understand their stressors.

2. Encourage logging off

According to the European Heart Journal, risk of cardiovascular issues jumps 60 percent for employees working over 10 hours a day, and a study in the journal PLoS ONE found that those who clock at least 11 hours a day are more likely to have depression or depressive episodes. Encourage all employees – from management to entry level — to log off at the end of the day, on weekends, and during holidays and vacations. This mental break can help employees reset and return to work focused and refreshed.

3. Offer healthy alternatives

Healthy options should be one of the simpler ways to make changes in the workplace. Are healthy beverages available or only sugar-filled sodas? Does the company or building cafeteria have appealing options that are also nutritious? Answers to these questions provide an easy starting point for changes. Be sure to evaluate after-hours options as well, particularly access to alcohol. If happy hours with drinking are the office norm, attempt to arrange a healthy alternative such as a post-work running club or company softball team.

4. Alter the physical office space

Many facility managers are re-examining the physical effect of office space on employee health and wellness. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reports that sitting for prolonged periods increases the risk of developing several chronic conditions. The risk of cardiovascular disease increases by 14 percent, cancer by 13 percent, and diabetes by an alarming 91 percent. Employees who sit most of the day and get no regular exercise have a 40 percent higher risk of early death, and employees who do exercise still have a 10 percent higher risk of early death if they sit most of the day.

Encouraging employees to move away from the desk chair can be as simple as building a section of standing desks that can be used by employees, encouraging the use of stairs, offering access to the building’s gym, encouraging walking meetings, or providing fitness stipends.

Employees seek a healthy and productive workplace, as do corporate benefits staff, plan representatives, and human resources leaders. Recognizing the stressors and health risks posed by a workweek that typically exceeds 40 hours, enables a business to adopt strategies that promote good health. After all, the precedent set by employers while the employee is at work can instill healthy habits for a lifetime — both in or away from the office.

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