Health and Wellness in the Workplace 2019
The term “self-care” has gone past the point of being trendy or a nice luxury to have — now it’s become an actual necessity. From meditation apps to new spaces dedicated to well-being and mindfulness, more and more people are re-evaluating their daily routines and putting themselves first for a change.
We’re especially witnessing more time and investment being placed in health and wellness in the workplace. Companies, big and small, are realizing that implementing workplace wellness programs and truly putting their employees’ health at the forefront will help reduce stress, boost productivity and engagement and, in the long run, save them money.
According to a survey by CareerBuilder, the top five stress symptoms causing missed work days are constant fatigue (29%), sleeplessness (26%), aches and pains (24%), high anxiety (23%) and weight gain (18%). In addition, stress-related absences has cost Canadian employers about $3.5 billion each year, according to Workplace Safety & Prevention Services.
Investing in workplace wellness initiatives within your organization has proven to produce positive effects on both your employees’ health and your company’s health. Employees produce their best work and remain healthier with less sick days and burnout.
But it’s not enough to offer free gym memberships and fitness programs. Pamela Burger, Director of Health and Wellness Solutions for Aetna, an international health benefits provider, knows that mind, body and spiritual health is just as important as the physical side — exercise, nutrition, medication — of wellness. Workplace wellness programs must come from a holistic approach.
“There is increased diversification with different programmes being offered. We’re transitioning from talking about wellness in a traditional sense — eating right, exercising more and making sure you’re taking necessary medication — to looking at holistic health and the trend towards talking about well-being as wellness,” she mentions on the Aetna blog.
However, implementing health and wellness in the workplace won’t work unless the entire organization, employers and employees alike, creates a foundational culture of encouraging and prioritizing of self-care.
Here are some workplace wellness tips for a healthier and more productive office.
Encourage more walking breaks
There’s a 2-kilometer stone path in Kyoto, Japan called The Philosopher’s Path, named after Japan’s most famous philosophers, who was said to practice meditation while walking this route on his daily commute to Kyoto University.
Channelling this type of zen-like energy and incorporating a “walking meditation” practice in between work hours and can help you cultivate a calmer mind and bring some clarity amidst the chaos of the day.
You don’t have to go the full 2 km, however, to reap the same positive benefits — even five minutes of walking outdoors, away from your screens, will suffice. A study in the New York Times has reported that five-minute walks throughout the day can lift moods, reduce lethargy and improve overall health; furthermore, researchers also found that sitting for long hours heightened the risk for diabetes, depression and obesity.
In addition, walk breaks are also an inexpensive way to promote workplace health and wellness, especially for smaller companies who may not have the budget or resources for more comprehensive wellness programs or amenities.
It’s perfectly natural for employees to want to take a break from their desk, so they shouldn’t feel guilty about doing so. Encourage employees and colleagues to find their own ways to recharge throughout the day — Inc also writes about the how to take the best breaks during your workday (and why you should never skip them) here.
Put more plants in the office
All those houseplants your neighboring coworker seems to hoard aren’t just there to make their desk pretty. An Exeter University study found that employees were 15% more productive when working in a 'green' office than their peers in other working environments. A green office appeared to provide a boost to employee engagement and concentration levels, even aid long-term decision-making, after the introduction of plants into the office, this Forbes article comments.
The color green has also been known to have a relaxing and calm effect — but on top of the positive psychological benefits of having indoor plants in workplaces, the physical health benefits are just as surprisingly good. Because plants release roughly 97% of the water they take in, placing plants together can act as a natural humidifier, increasing the total humidity of the room — especially helpful in the cold, dry months of winter.
More plants can also improve the air quality of the office, even reduce pollutants and toxins in the air, which is necessary when most time is spent indoors, often in stuffy spaces. Recent research led by Dr. Fraser Torpy, director of the University of Technology Sydney Plants and Indoor Environmental Quality Research Group, has found that indoor plants can help reduce carbon dioxide levels by about 10% in air-conditioned offices and by about 25% in buildings without air conditioning. The list of health benefits for creating a plant oasis in the office are endless — just think less sick days, generally happier employees and beautiful plant babies abound.
Promote healthier eating
Swap the office pizza parties with a healthier lunch — and “healthier” doesn’t have to mean “blander.” Find local restaurants or caterers that serve interesting and fresh foods, for instance Mediterranean-themed lunches or a Farmer’s Market-style spread. If you’re up for getting creative, plan a healthy breakfast party potluck, in which employees can bring in a dish or veggie platter with homemade dips to contribute to the meal.
For midday snacking, at Vitarock, we tend to stock our office with our favorite healthy snacks straight from our own online store. Office staple snacks include MadeGood’s Organic Chocolate Chip Crispy Squares or Organic Traditions’ Dark Chocolate Almonds (with a hint of chili pepper!) for your chocolate fix.
Bring work-life balance into the office
You can include the best gym memberships and free yoga passes in your employees’ health benefits packages — but all those perks won’t matter if they’re too overworked to enjoy them after hours.
To encourage that “self-care first” culture, you may have to bring wellness to them. Consider using corporate yoga services — where certified yoga teachers bring yoga classes and workshops to your workplace. Yoga services like these are becoming increasingly common, with some of the biggest corporate businesses embracing this type of onsite wellness program. Don’t know where to start? ZEN&CO. offers a host of corporate yoga services in Montreal and other cities across Canada, from introductory workshops to private or group yoga classes, including hatha yoga, yoga nidra, meditation and even “laughter yoga,” given in your offices.
Another option — if you know someone personally who is a certified yoga teacher, reach out and see if he or she would be willing to come into the office and provide yoga classes for the company. All you need is a few yoga mats and a quiet, comfortable space in your workplace for them to hold the practice, whether it be a boardroom, conference room or spare office, and you’re well on your way to wellness.
Form a wellness committee
You may have had a social committee in your workplace at some point — but why not a wellness committee. This new wellness committee can still incorporate the fun aspects of a social committee, such as events planning and birthdays, but always with health and wellness in mind. They can help plan those healthy breakfast parties or brainstorm other creative health-conscious event ideas and wellness-focused team-building activities for your company.
The wellness committee can also help kickstart the conversation around implementing an actual company wellness program for the whole organization — one that can help reduce insurance costs in the long run when done right. The first step would be to gather as much information and survey employees to evaluate their specific needs. The best corporate wellness programs and benefits can only be determined after understanding the needs and priorities of your own employees — which health programs they need most, what wellness perks they’re most interested in, any wellness-related issues or lifestyle concerns and health and fitness goals/plans they may have.
Afterwards, the wellness committee can plan to do some research — find corporate wellness technology tools, look up employee benefits companies and wellness vendors and then develop a wellness plan that can be presented to management.
Remember: a workplace wellness program is only as good as the support it has from all parties involved. Senior management commitment must be established, visible and ongoing for this program to be a success.
Vitarock’s Workplace Wellness Kit
As a proud certified B Corp, part of our mandate is to ensure our employees are taken care of — from fresh and healthy lunches to an eco-friendly, open concept office space, with natural lighting and plants abound.
Want to create a health-focused, wellness-oriented space for your organization? Check out our Workplace Wellness Kit and stock up on these essential items for the entire office — or keep them for yourself.
Diffusers can help create a soothing, natural spa-like atmosphere into an office space. But unlike conventional essential oil burners, this nebulizer uses ultrasonic technology to convert the oil and water under high frequency vibration, turning into a nice, cold mist. You can use the AromaSens Nebulizer as a humidifier or air purifier as well. Your office mates will thank you for it.
2. Lavender essential oils
Classic lavender has been proven effective time and time again by leading researchers as a natural way to treat anxiety. Keep Aura Cacia’s 100% pure essential lavender oil in your office drawer and rub a few drops on the area below your ears for those days you need to destress and unwind, midday.
3. Vitamin D supplements
Vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is produced within the body when you get that perfect dose of sun on your skin. So for those days indoors, you will need to turn to Vitamin D supplements, which can in turn improve bone health and joint health, help with immune function and boost your mood. Nova Scotia Organics only uses the purest, certified organic plant materials in their supplements, meaning you don’t have to wonder whether you’re consuming any harmful fillers or synthetic chemicals.
4. Multivitamin drink packets
We at Vitarock always have our cupboards stocked with Ener-C multivitamin drink mixes for those days we need a boost of energy, without the caffeine. Packed with electrolytes, it’s a delicious, nutritious, low-sugar way to hydrate and provide immune support — perfect for those afternoon lulls.