Last week we looked at the first five ways you could improve health in your office and hopefully that’s given you some good ideas already.
As a reminder, this is the current state of play in the UK – in the last reporting year 1.3 million workers in were suffering from a work related illness, 0.5 million of these were suffering from work related stress, depression or anxiety and a further 0.5 million were suffering musculoskeletal illnesses too (muscles, joints and bones). A staggering 25.9 million working days were lost as a result*.
This week we revisit the office to round off the list with a further five improvements, all aimed at proactively reducing the chance of ill health happening in the first place, so you won’t hurt your team or have to spend valuable time managing the repercussions of illness.
In the ‘old days’ office communication was sedate. Send a memo, have a cup of tea, wait a day or two for a reply. There may only have been one phone per office too, imagine that! Today we are lucky if we only have one phone each. Now, we have to manage desk phones, mobile phones, voicemail, email, texts, Skype, messenger apps as well as post and faxes. These days, office workers are constantly bombarded with incoming communication of all kinds, often long after working hours are supposed to have ended. Why not place an embargo on office communication after an agreed time? Give your employees time management training, support them to follow it and encourage a culture of appropriate work-life balance with a healthy communication policy. Keep a close eye on individual workloads to reduce absence, improve work quality and prevent mental illnesses from developing.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”s7fb0″ via=”no” ]These days, office workers are constantly bombarded with incoming communication of all kinds[/ctt]
Good natural ventilation is a must in any workplace. It keeps the humidity high, it maintains oxygen levels and reduces static. Fresh, clean air from outside is best of all, but if air has to be artificially conditioned, make sure it’s done well and the conditioning equipment is functioning at its optimum. Add real plants into the workplace too, not just for visual appeal, but also to oxygenate the workplace and improve humidity (a straggly plastic Ficus just won’t cut the mustard here….).
Breaks and Break Out Areas
These areas should be relaxing, recharging, well equipped and large enough for everyone.
For a relatively small investment, this is a perfect opportunity to give something valuable back to your team for their hard work – quality tea and coffee, filtered water, comfy chairs and free health fruit or snacks is a good start.
The cheap and cheerful ‘one piece’ plastic canteen table and chairs should be banned forever!
You should also encourage your team to take rest breaks. Far too many people refuse to take them, or take them whilst still working away at the keyboard. Taking breaks will help a great deal to reduce fatigue, DSE illness and will also improve the quality of their output.
You may think that loading employees up as much as possible will improve your overall output. Sorry to disappoint, but it probably won’t! Plan workload effectively and make sure your team members individually agree that it’s achievable for them. Nobody benefits if workload is unmanageable, your team may be in the building, but they will not be productive.
Out of the office activities
Ok, so the last one is technically cheating, but what goes on outside the office will affect what happens within it. You can’t control all of it of course, and forcing your team into unwanted extra curricular activities is not a good idea, but you can offer welcome extras to your team to promote their good physical and mental health. Think about cycle to work schemes, discounted gym memberships, counselling support, social events and many more. These things should not be seen as a cost but as an investment in your team, in their happiness whilst at your company and ultimately in your own output, profit and recruitment and retention success.
Are there any other ways that you have improved the health of your office teams? Why not tell us about your good practice in the comments below?
Director, Haysman Consulting Limited
Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner
*Estimates based on self-reports from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) in 2015/16