It’s widely recognized that having a healthy mind and body is necessary in order to have a healthy, productive work life. But as life continues to move at an increasingly fast pace, this is much easier said than done. In 2021, my digital marketing business, Hennessey Digital, launched our Health and Wellness Program for our employees, an important step in prioritizing the health of our team.
Why promote a healthy workplace?
As a business owner, it’s important to stay aware of your own mind and body’s needs so you can remain productive and creative. But it can be easy to let these things slip by the wayside during busy seasons—and honestly, what seasons aren’t busy as an entrepreneur? Many of us are familiar with late nights at work, forgetting to eat meals or exercise, and unfortunately dealing with great deals of stress, exhaustion, and burnout. While it’s important to pay attention to the needs of your body and mind, it’s also important to remember your employees have the same needs.
Life and work are intertwined in a way that cannot be separated. It might seem simple to put aside whatever you’re dealing with at home to focus on work for the day, but it’s not realistic. Similarly, problems at work come home with you. Both our personal lives and our work lives affect our moods, energy levels, and ability to focus. If your child is sick or you’re having a tense argument with your spouse, of course you aren’t going to be able to fully engage in your job—what’s going on at home is more important to you. And problems in the workplace, such as stress, burnout, or a negative work environment will affect your mood and energy level when you go home. You might make your argument with your spouse worse because you’re tense and stressed out, or you might be unable to sleep because you dread returning to your toxic work environment the next day, further exacerbating the problem.
How to promote a healthy workplace
By promoting the mental and physical health of your employees, you can create a better working environment and encourage employees to succeed, creating a more sustainable workplace in the long run. Happy, healthy team members will be more productive and create better results for your company. But promoting your team’s health isn’t as simple as putting some exercise equipment in your office, especially when you factor in mental health, which is complex and can majorly affect the way a person thinks, feels, and performs their job. Strong mental health is reliant on a number of factors, but here are a few things that are necessary, which you can apply in various ways for both yourself and your team:
Fuel your mind with good food and hydration.
Staying hydrated and eating well are necessary to keep your body and mind running. And brain function for your energy, focus, and creativity are the first to suffer when you don’t get these things. If you forget to drink enough water, it might be beneficial to use a large water bottle with measurements on it to keep track of exactly how much you’re drinking. This is an easy tool you can provide for your team as well. It’s a good idea to keep healthy snacks around the office, both for yourself and your employees. Some foods will give you a burst of energy while others, especially fat- and carb-heavy foods, will slow you down or make you sleepy. Having healthy options easily available will help you make good choices. Another way to promote healthy eating for your team is to allow them to work from home, where they can cook healthy meals for themselves. When employees are in a rush to reach the office in the morning, where they might order takeout or pack things that are quick and easy rather than nutritious for lunch.
Sleep is possibly even more important than food and exercise, but unfortunately it’s overlooked or underestimated by many people. A phenomenon in many offices is a sort of competition to see who slept the least. If you notice this kind of attitude toward sleep, it may be worth addressing. Often lack of sleep is due to poor habits, but it can also be a result of busy schedules that don’t allow enough time to sleep. To ensure you and your employees have enough time to sleep, consider offering flexible working hours, which will allow them to adjust their schedule if needed. Let’s face it: some people are night owls and others are morning larks.
Exercise stimulates the mind.
Did you know that sitting is literally killing you? Excessive sitting actually lowers your life expectancy, and it can lead to injuries from repetitive motions and weakened muscles. And as we all know, exercise is excellent for both the body and the brain. Have you ever noticed that some of your best ideas form when you’re exercising? Or have you ever taken an exercise break and come back to your work feeling energized and highly productive? Take regular breaks to go for walks and encourage your team to do the same. Even if those breaks take 10-15 minutes out of the workday, they will increase your team’s overall productivity. You can also provide exercise equipment and standing desks in your office, or provide wellness benefits such as a gym memberships to encourage your team to exercise outside working hours as well. Our People Success department organizes fun competitions like team zombie fitness challenges that uses steps to escape from the zombies. It gets employees working together and encourages increased exercise each day.
Keep mental health in mind.
One of the words that’s most commonly used when someone is struggling with their mental health is “stress.” Mental health is innately tied to physical health, and just like treating your body right can help your brain, negative emotions can seriously affect your body. Reducing stress, burnout, depression, and other mental health challenges is complex, but there are a few things you can do.
First, ensure you’re getting enough sunlight. Not only does the vitamin D improve your mood, but the light itself plays a major role. Working in an office without much sunlight can be draining, but if you can’t manage to arrange your office so everyone has access to sunlight, consider allowing at least part-time remote work.
Burnout is another factor that affects many people, and there has been an epidemic of it lately. Watch carefully for burnout in yourself and employees, and when you identify it, take steps to improve the situation that’s causing it. Create a culture of support around burnout and other challenges people may be facing, such as family matters and health challenges, which can contribute to burnout significantly. There are many resources to help address burnout, as it’s a complex issue. Remember to prioritize your employees as people rather than workers. If you’ve hired well, your team wants to do a good job. If they’re struggling, there’s likely a reason for it. Ask for and listen to feedback, even if it’s not what you want to hear. Work and work-related activities take up a majority of a person’s waking hours, so the environment you provide plays a major role in an employee’s quality of life.
I highly recommend offering some kind of mental health benefits. This might look like paying for counseling for those who need it. Or try allowing mental health days. Just knowing they have the option to take a day off if needed is likely to be enough for most employees, and you likely won’t experience a significant cost as a result.
In order to keep a happy, healthy, and productive workforce, the most important thing you can do is to create a positive workplace culture of health. A negative or toxic culture can easily wear on anyone, causing problems both at work and at home. With these steps, you’ll be on your way to improving the health of your entire team and creating a stronger and more sustainable work culture.