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How healthy is your workplace?

I joined a gym last week. It’s an incredibly fancy one in the heart of the city, with a pool and a rock-climbing wall and meditation pods. Over the course of my 12-month commitment, it’s going to cost me an arm and a leg.

I figured that, if I spent the money on a really cool gym, I’d be more inclined to actually use my membership. Statistically, however, that’s probably not going to be the case. According to Statistic Brain, around two-thirds of people with gym memberships never use them.

Health and fitness is a multi-billion dollar industry, and yet all signs indicate that we’re unhealthier than ever. More than half of us are overweight, underslept, and stressed out – and unsurprisingly, it’s affecting how we work.

A healthy workforce is likely to be more attentive and better at managing stress. Healthy employees take less sick days, are nearly 3 times more productive, and have higher levels of morale.

A healthy workforce is a happy one, and a happy workplace is a key component in business success. If you’re a business owner, or a manager, it’s in your interest to make sure your employees are as healthy as possible.

So what can employers do to promote health in the workplace?

Encourage breaks

It’s easy for employees to skip breaks, especially if they’re feeling under pressure. I have friends who’ve worked bar shifts for ten hours without a single break, and those whose idea of lunch is a quick snack in the break room before getting back on the shop floor. Even I’m guilty of it – in my last role, I ate at my desk at least 4 days out of 5.

Schedule proper breaks for employees, and stick to that schedule. Encourage your employees to leave the premises during their break, whether it’s to go for a quick walk, or to just get some fresh air and sunshine.

Change the culture

It’s not uncommon for a workplace to have bad habits that all team members engage in. At one store I worked in, 3pm meant it was time for energy drinks and cheeseburgers. At another, we went through a couple of bags of chocolate-covered pretzels a day. For other workplaces, the bad habit might be a few too many drinks on a Friday night after work, or frequent, high-calorie group lunches.

A sudden, outright ban on junk food isn’t likely to make you many friends. Instead, lead by example and start substituting in healthier options. Suggest nuts, smoothies or fruit when your team needs an energy boost in the afternoon. Instead of Friday night drinks, suggest a more active team activity every now and then.

Communication is key

The more you talk about health and wellbeing in the workplace, the more likely it is that your staff will actively engage in making healthier choices.

Team meetings are a great opportunity to open up a discussion on health in the workplace. Ask your employees what you can do to help them improve their health. Make sure they understand that improving their health benefits everyone – themselves, their colleagues, and the business itself.

Communicating with your employees and asking what measures they’d like to see implemented is far more likely to yield positive results, rather than simply imposing directives from up on high.

Recognise – and address – stress

While it’s impossible to avoid stress 100% of the time, it’s something we should all strive to minimise. Chronic stress can contribute to issues like high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, asthma and diabetes.

For retail and hospitality workers, the most stressful aspect of the job is feeling understaffed.

Of course, sometimes this is unavoidable – after all, even the best manager can’t predict a bout of gastro sweeping through the team. However, if your business is routinely understaffed, it’s time to start looking at your roster, and assessing whether it’s time to change things up.

It maybe that you need to hire more employees, but you may just need to to roster your existing staff more effectively. Either way, make sure you communicate with your team, and let them know that you’re aware of the issue. Just knowing that you’re addressing the situation can go a long way in reducing their stress levels.

By making health and wellbeing a priority in your workplace, you’ll have happier, more productive employees and better results – all without the ridiculously expensive gym membership.

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