De­sign your busi­ness around em­ployee health

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Jobs - By Jeff Pochepan

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.

En­cour­age move­ment

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.

MILKOS/DREAM­STIME

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