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How to keep your employees happy and healthy at work

Written by: Chase Charaba
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Published on December 15, 2022.

As an employer, you likely check in with your employees to ensure they’re staying productive and meeting goals at work. But are you also keeping track of how happy and healthy they are?

Your employees’ health goes hand in hand with their workplace performance, making it an essential focus for organizations of all sizes. Many employers are implementing employee wellness programs and benefits to promote employee health and wellbeing.

This article will explore ways to keep your employees happy and healthy at work.

Find out how employee stipends can help you provide wellness benefits with our guide

Why should you support your employees' wellbeing at work?

Employees spend as much as a quarter1 of their life at work. For many workers, this means sitting at desks and looking at computer monitors for long hours every day. Spending lengthy periods sitting can affect physical health.

According to the Mayo Clinic2, researchers have found that those who sit for more than eight hours each day without physical activity have a higher risk of death. They also found that 60 to 75 minutes of moderately intense physical activity a day can counter these effects.

Supporting mental health in the workplace is also important. According to a study by the University of Massachusetts3, one-third of workers report high stress levels in the workplace.

By supporting employee health and wellness, your employees will be less stressed and less likely to take a sick day.

Additionally, supporting your employees' health and wellbeing directly affects productivity, employee engagement, and job satisfaction, which can improve retention. According to MetLife’s 2022 Employee Benefits Trends Study4, 51% of holistically healthy employees were more likely to remain at their current organizations for at least 12 months.

A 2022 Indeed survey5 also found that 80% of employees are more likely to stay with their current organization if happiness and wellbeing are measured, with 60% believing their wellbeing is integral to the organization’s overall health.

MetLife’s study also found that 52% of workers said health and wellness programs are a must-have. These benefits can help you attract top talent even in a tight labor market.

Tips for staying healthy in the workplace

So, how can you keep your employees happy and healthy? We’ve compiled a list of tips and benefits ideas that can help improve your employees’ physical and mental health.

You can improve your employees’ health and wellbeing in the workplace by:

We’ll break each of these tips down into more detail in the sections below.

1. Encourage physical activity

The first way you can prioritize your employees’ physical health is by encouraging and incentivizing physical activity. This can increase productivity and decrease how often employees are out sick.

While these perks may sound great, one of the most significant challenges employees face with physical activity is finding time for it.

As an employer, there are several ways you can encourage activity during the workday:

  • Set up flexible work schedules so your workers can attend a fitness class, go to the gym, or go for a run
  • Offer a gym membership or fitness benefits
  • Try standing or walking meetings instead of sitting in a room
  • Provide an hour lunch break so employees can take a walk

2. Incentivize good nutrition

The natural companion to exercise is a good diet. Just like with exercise, there are physical and mental improvements that employees can experience from eating healthy.

A study6from the Japanese Study of Health, Occupation, and Psychosocial Factors Related to Equity found that higher work engagement is associated with a better diet.

This is mainly because fruits and vegetables have nutrients that help our body produce more dopamine. This feel-good neurotransmitter plays a crucial role in our ability to experience curiosity, motivation, and engagement.

Here are a few ideas for promoting healthy food at your organization:

  • Provide healthy snacks in the break room, such as granola bars and fruit, instead of candy bowls or potato chips
  • Start an organization-wide virtual recipe book for employees to share healthy recipes
  • Provide your employees with gift cards to healthy restaurants and grocery stores
  • Promote virtual cooking classes and webinars that teach healthy eating strategies
  • Provide plenty of access to water to promote hydration. Encourage employees to bring a reusable water bottle to work.
  • Provide health tips and resources

3. Monitor employee stress levels

When talking about your employees' health, you can't forget about their mental health, and stress management is a big part of that. In fact, many employees expect their employers to help reduce stress in the workplace.

According to the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Work and Wellbeing Survey7, 87% of employees think their employers can help their mental health by reducing stress. Of these survey respondents, 37% said providing mental health and stress relief resources would improve their work environment.

One of the best ways to monitor and reduce employee stress is to identify causes of stress and work on solutions.

Common causes of stress include:

  • Pressure to meet expectations
  • Fear of being laid off
  • Employees taking on too much work
  • Financial stress due to low salaries
  • Working long hours
  • Commuting to and from work
  • Workplace conditions
  • Outside stressors, such as an employee’s personal financial situation or health status

Once you’ve identified signs of stress in your workplace, you can design a wellness program that works to address it.

Here are some ideas for helping with stress management:

  • Keep a close eye on your employees’ workload to ensure they aren’t overloaded
  • Encourage work breaks and virtual connection between coworkers throughout the week
  • Be available for your employees to talk openly about their stress and give them reassurance
  • Provide resources for virtual counseling and stress management techniques
  • Host stress management classes

4. Provide ergonomic equipment

Another way to keep your employees healthy at work is by providing ergonomic support.

If your employees sit for most of the day, they must maintain good posture. This avoids putting pressure on their neck, spine, and shoulders. Ergonomic equipment such as chairs and supports can help.

If your employees use computers, tablets, or smartphones for much of the day, eye health is another concern. Staring at a screen can cause eyestrain. This can result in headaches, dry eyes, and sensitivity to light. A good practice is always having your computer monitor at least an arm’s length away. Many ergonomic tools can help alleviate some of these problems, such as blue light-blocking glasses.

Here are a few ideas for ergonomic equipment you can provide:

  • Chairs that support employees’ backs, necks, and lower bodies. They should also adjust so that employees can place their feet flat on the floor
  • Resources informing employees about the benefits of good posture
  • If your employees make and receive calls, you can provide them with headsets to reduce strain
  • A reminder that employees should look at an object 20 feet away from them for 20 seconds every 20 minutes to reduce eye strain

5. Provide breaks and opportunities for employees to socialize

Encouraging employees to take regular breaks can help your employees refocus and reenergize them, contributing to greater productivity. You can do this by hosting fun group activities where your team can socialize or by allowing your workers to take regular breaks. For example, you could build five-minute breaks into your employees’ schedules.

Some states require employees to take breaks. For example, Washington state8 requires employers to offer an unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes and a paid 10-minute break for every four hours worked.

Encourage employees to use their breaks to build healthy habits such as getting up, walking around, or having a healthy lunch.

6. Promote clean workspaces

Keeping your organization’s workplace clean helps employees stay healthy. Be sure to sanitize high-trafficked areas such as door knobs, meeting areas, break rooms, and light switches, as bacteria can build on these surfaces over time.

Encourage employees to keep their personal workspaces clean. Frequently used items such as keyboards, mice, and phones can also collect bacteria. Disinfecting these surfaces can reduce the spread of germs that cause colds or the flu.

Keeping things organized can also reduce stress and improve productivity, as employees will spend less time searching for materials.

7. Offer PTO

Paid time off (PTO) is another excellent way to support your staff’s job satisfaction and wellbeing. Taking time off allows employees to rest, catch up on much-needed sleep, and focus on their hobbies or exploring new places. This can increase employee happiness, which can, in turn, influence wellbeing.

Providing opportunities for PTO can also improve your workplace culture and satisfaction.

A 2022 Skynova9 survey found that 92% of employees who felt supported in taking time off were also satisfied with their jobs. Conversely, only 59% of employees who did not feel supported in taking time off felt satisfied with their jobs.

8. Provide a quality health benefit

One of the best investments you can make in your employees’ health and wellbeing is by providing a quality healthcare benefit. After all, according to our 2022 Employee Benefits Survey Report, 87% of employees value health insurance.

For small to medium-sized employers, offering competitive health benefits can sometimes seem out of reach due to rising group health insurance costs. That’s why alternatives such as health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and health stipends are attractive options.

With an HRA, employers can reimburse employees tax-free for their qualifying medical expenses, such as individual health insurance premiums. You simply set a monthly allowance for your employees to use and approve their eligible expenses.

Three of the most popular types of HRAs are:

You can also offer a health employee stipend to your employees. This is an excellent option for organizations with employees who receive advance premium tax credits. It is also an option to provide 1099 contractors and international workers benefits. However, health stipends are taxable for employers and employees, making HRAs a better option for many organizations.

9. Offer wellness benefits

Finally, offering wellness employee benefits is an excellent way to improve your employees’ wellbeing and satisfaction.

While there are many ways to establish an employee wellness program, many workers value flexibility. A wellness stipend allows organizations of all sizes to provide employees with a monthly allowance for wellness expenses.

Instead of creating wellness programs and perks for a variety of employee wants and needs, you can give your employees the freedom to choose how they want to use their wellness allowance. This allows you to reimburse employees for expenses like gym memberships, fitness classes, yoga, home exercise equipment, and wellness mobile apps.

That way, your employees can live a healthier lifestyle while you maintain complete cost control.

Conclusion

Focusing on your employees’ health and happiness offers a wealth of benefits for your employees’ productivity, workplace satisfaction, and overall wellbeing. Showing your employees you care goes a long way toward establishing your organization as an employer of choice.

By following the tips in this article, you can create a caring and supportive environment that supports your employees’ physical and mental wellbeing.

One of the best ways to improve your employees’ wellbeing is by offering flexible and individualized benefits. If you’re ready to offer personalized benefits to your workers, PeopleKeep can help. Our employee benefits software solutions make it easy to set up and manage HRAs and employee stipends in minutes each month.

Schedule a call with a personalized benefits advisor to learn more about how you can leverage employee benefits to keep your employees happy and healthy at work

This blog article was originally published on March 5, 2015. It was last updated on December 15, 2022.

1. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/weve-broken-down-your-entire-life-into-years-spent-doing-tasks_n_61087617e4b0999d2084fec5

2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005#:~:text=Research%20has%20linked%20sitting%20for,that%20make%20up%20metabolic%20syndrome.

3. https://www.uml.edu/research/cph-new/worker/stress-at-work/financial-costs.aspx#:~:text=is%20Job%20Stress%3F-,How%20costly%20is%20job%20stress%3F,turnover%20is%20due%20to%20stress

4. https://www.metlife.com/employee-benefit-trends/2022-employee-benefit-trends/

5. https://www.indeed.com/lead/wellbeing-must-be-a-business-strategy-not-an-afterthought?lp=text2&utm_campaign=brand-q1-2022-tier1&utm_medium=brew-lead&utm_source=email

6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7382306/

7. https://www.apa.org/pubs/reports/work-well-being/compounding-pressure-2021

8. https://www.paycor.com/resource-center/articles/lunch-break-laws-by-state/

9. https://www.benefitnews.com/news/should-the-u-s-have-the-same-pto-as-the-u-k-and-the-eu

Originally published on December 15, 2022. Last updated December 15, 2022.
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