Employee wellness has become an increasingly hot topic, fanned by studies that suggest sitting for extended periods of time, poor ergonomics and fatigue on the job can lead to potential health issues. However, a new poll by EMPLOYERS® finds that small businesses, which employ more than half of the American workforce1, have been much slower to embrace promoting employee wellness.
According to a recent survey2, adults employed full-time in the United States spend an average of 47 hours per week at work. In fact, 18 percent of full-time employees typically work 60 hours per week. Since employees spend a majority of their time at the workplace, employers have a unique opportunity to impact employees’ health and wellness.
One important trend that emerged from the recent EMPLOYERS survey was that small business employees do not take sufficient time away from work, despite research that shows vacations and other forms of restorative time off can have positive effects on health.
The EMPLOYERS survey found that two out of five (42 percent) small business employees do not use all of their allotted time off from work each year. Additionally, while at work, nearly one quarter (23 percent) of hourly and salaried employees often wait up to three or four hours before taking a break.
To help combat these alarming statistics, small businesses can become more proactive about creating workplace environments and enforcing policies that promote employee health and well-being.
Here are six simple things businesses can implement to encourage employee wellness:
Unplug. When employees go on vacation, encourage employees to commit to un-plugging and taking time to relax so they come back to work rejuvenated. Managers can lead by example, modeling this behavior for other staff and encouraging a culture that embraces periods of rest. The EMPLOYERS survey found that nearly two-thirds of small business owners (65 percent) have worked at some point during their planned vacation time.
Analyze ergonomics. Forward-thinking companies are increasingly exploring new work environments. For example, stand-up workstations, Bosu-ball desk chairs, and allowing the freedom to work from home are possible options for employees other than sitting for eight-plus hours per day.
Healthy snacks. Promote better eating choices by providing healthy alternatives in the company break room or vending machines, or consider purchasing fresh fruit each week to combat the inevitable mid-afternoon slump.
Walk it out. Encourage exercise! This can be everything from helping offset the cost of gym memberships to supporting regular walking breaks or stretch and flex sessions.
Promote preventative care. Allow employees time to receive regular flu vaccinations, provide them onsite at the beginning of the flu season, or reimburse out-of-pocket vaccine expenses.
The sick stay home. Sick employees put their colleagues – and your customers – at risk. Encourage staff to take a needed sick day or allow them flexibility to work from home.
Effective workplace wellness programs can encourage healthy behaviors. By incorporating elements such as healthy snacks, weight management tools, medical screening and on-site fitness opportunities, small businesses can help employees make wellness part of their everyday lives. In addition, policies such as allowing time for exercise, providing on-site kitchens and offering healthy food options can further facilitate employee health and help create an overall culture of wellness.
A healthy workplace creates a win-win situation for employers and their employees. Small businesses with programs and policies focused on employee health and well-being reduce risks to both workers and the organization.