The average Australian spends about one-third of his or her life at work, which adds up to a lot of hours sitting in a chair, stressing over deadlines or buying candy from the office vending machine. Fear not, though. With a little effort, any office can become a healthy one. There are several workplace health initiatives that provide advice on starting programs, help track progress and recognise businesses that are succeeding in improving the health of their employees.
Here are some key take-aways to help HR managers create a healthier and happier work environment.
1. Gain the support of office management
If leadership does not get behind healthy workplace initiatives, the job is going to be hard. Build a strong case for your program by highlighting examples of success; provide arguments for why the program would benefit your workplace and prepare a program agenda and targets, supported by data.
According to AHRI:Assist, health and well-being programs improve staff morale, increase retention and cohesion, reduce absenteeism and improve corporate image. If your employer thinks in terms of dollars and cents, return on investment in employee health can range from $1.40 to $4.70 or every dollar spent, says Healthy Workplace Western Australia (HWWA).
2. Assess the needs of workers
Do you work in a high-stress industry? Are there a lot of smokers in your office? Do employees spend the majority of their day at their desk, in one place? Not every office is the same, but it’s daunting to try and address every single health-related issue at once.
Take a lead from employees and conduct a survey to determine people’s top three concerns. Determine what motivates workers, and use this information to shape your strategy and create realistic goals.
3. Have an action plan
Immediate changes are the first step, but keep in mind that to create lasting change, you need to include long-term initiatives as well. First, know what resources are available to you and how you will use them to measure success. For example, HWWA has free templates online for creating workplace health policies, and WorkSafe Victoria has an interactive healthy workplace kit to track your progress.
Then, create a binder to hold all your health plan policies, calendars and goal sheets. It helps to break up your targets into segments to track progress in weeks, months or years.
4. Give employees the tools they need to succeed
Once your plans are laid, your goals are set and your resources secured, you can’t just leave employees to fend for themselves. Like a field of dreams – if you build it, they will come.
This can include something as simple as replacing the communal bowl of sweets with fruit or starting a lunch-hour walking club. If money is available, look into installing shower facilities, or see if any local fitness centers will provide a discount on membership.
The important thing to remember is that you need to make health initiatives accessible, desirable and understandable. Employees are more likely to embrace the benefits of drinking more water or quitting smoking if the materials to do so are in one place and ready for the taking. Check out the Australian Government’s Department of Health page for state and territory resources.
5. Recognise workers on a job well done
Creating lasting change around health means changing attitudes and lifestyles – not an easy thing to do. If your office mates are working hard to be healthier versions of themselves, implement a recognition scheme that acknowledges their progress. Want to create a Healthy Employee of the Week bulletin? Go for it.
Recognising hard work means employees will not only continuously strive for improvement, but it will motivate them to sustain improvement in the long run.