Design your business around employee health
Thriving employees are the backbone of every business, big or small.
Employers have become increasingly invested in the health of their workers, and with good reason. The more conscientious and comprehensive the office design and employee health policy, the more your business outperforms those who don’t subscribe to employee well-being standards.
Loyalty and job satisfaction lower turnover ratios. Healthier environments reduce absenteeism and the spread of germs. When employee health is considered from a multitude of angles, everybody benefits. Here are some ways to design your business around promoting the healthiest workforce possible.
A common perk for the last decade or more has been an on-site gym, employee-sponsored gym memberships and wellness plans, but employers can do more. According to the WELL Building Standard, employees who move throughout the day are healthier than those who don’t. Sitting burns 50 fewer calories per hour than standing and has been shown in some studies to decrease lifespans.
At Microsoft, there are free on-site Zumba classes, walking and running tracks on campus and courts for pick-up basketball and volleyball games.
Aside from encouraging employees to take breaks and go for a walk, employers can invest in sit-stand desks. Employees are still working while getting in some much needed movement. If you want to take it to the next level, consider a treadmill desk or an under-thedesk elliptical machine for employees who want to exert more energy throughout the day.
Another way to encourage movement is to consider the placement of staircases. If the stairs are easier and faster to take, workers will use them. Beautiful staircases can really open up office space to natural light, serve as a meeting ground for company announcements, and double as an area for people to congregate for those collaborative discussions that make your business hum.
Support active transportation
If you’re in the market for new office space, consider proximity to public transportation. Being a few blocks from a busy transportation hub not only saves money and helps the environment, it gives employees a little bit of exercise.
It also makes sense to have a secure place for employees to lock up their bikes if they cycle to work. On-site shower and changing facilities can also help workers who want to incorporate as much exercise as possible into their day.
Let the outdoors in
We all need sunshine to keep up our Vitamin D, and being stuck in a dark office is depressing. The positive effects of natural light in the office are innumerable, including visual comfort, supporting a better sleep cycle, minimizing headaches and more.
Overstock.com’s headquarters in Salt Lake City demonstrates this beautifully. Overlooking the panoramic Salt Lake Valley, the company’s CEO wanted employees to remain connected with the view while working. So the company installed 30,000 square feet of smart windows, which adjust automatically to optimize natural light while shielding glare from employee computers. Subsequently, employee productivity went up by 2 percent, which translated to an annual savings of $2 million.
By placing enclosed offices and meeting rooms in the middle of the office space, and spreading the employee workstations around the perimeter close to the windows, you're giving a higher percentage of your employees access to natural light with minimal effort on your part.
Plants are another way to promote the health of your employees. Not only do plants improve the air quality, they add texture and interest to the overall design of an office. Green is the color of growth and renewal, and can improve the mood of your employees.
Make healthier food a priority
If your company has inhouse eateries, go over the menu with an eye for reducing the foods that make us unhealthy: processed foods, industrialized oils and junk food. Check portion sizes and consider offering smaller options.
Asana does all this and does it well. It has an in-house culinary team to provide three meals a day plus snacks to their employees, and their offerings are all organic, as locally sourced as possible, and always sustainably farmed and fished. Good food is a better source of energy than junk.
Services like Fruit My Cube, Farm Fresh to You and Green BEAN Office can be a great alternative to vending machines. You can have fresh fruits, vegetables and healthy snacks delivered to your office and within easy reach of employees when they get a snack attack.
If you have to have vending machines, ditch the candy and stock them instead with fruits and vegetables or nuts. Providing free water and green tea instead of sodas and sugary juices is another way to be healthier.
Create smart policies
Curating a healthy environment isn’t just about how the office looks and feels and what food is available. Having a comprehensive sick-leave policy that encourages workers to use it when they need it can go a long way toward reducing employee stress and the spread of illnesses.
Ensure your health-care coverage is top notch, and when employees exercise their benefits, support them in whatever ways are necessary. That way, when they’re healthy, they’re enthusiastic about coming back to work.
Putting policies in place to ensure workers with mental health situations are treated the same as those with physical ailments reduces stigma surrounding mental illness, and lets employees know that no matter what their medical needs, your company backs them in every way possible.
Thoughtful design and policy in your office has the potential to elevate your company above the rest in terms of employee health and wellness. That can help attract and retain top talent.
Jeff Pochepan is is the president of StrongProject, a modern office design and furniture resource based in Los Angeles.