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September 29, 2016

Guest Post :: Three Ways to Promote Employee Health

By: Melissa Davidson

Workplace culture that encourages competition – spoken or not – is perfectly normal and some people even thrive on it, but it also puts a lot of pressure and stress on employees.

If employees’ mental and physical health starts to erode because of too much stress, a decline in morale could result. Obviously not a good situation for employee or employer. Mental illness and substance abuse issues cost employers an estimated $79-105 billion annually in indirect costs, which is a big reason why mental health has to be part of the workplace conversation.

The overall well-being of employees is vital to the success of the business because engaged employees don’t take as many sick days, are more productive at work, and less likely to quit.

Employers in 2016 realize that managing their team’s health is not really elective but a key component to their business plan/model and to the happiness of employees. So, what are some pointers to promote employee well-being? Here are a few ideas to consider:

Stress Reduction Activities

Experiencing stress is inevitable whether it’s at work, home or driving down the street. Sometimes when we are stressed, the first thing we ditch is exercise. Working long days often leads to a sedentary lifestyle.

If you aren’t finding the time to get a workout in, try another tactic. Practice yoga at the workplace. Participating in yoga helps calm the mind, stretch the muscles and improve posture. Classes could be held on site either before work, during lunch or after work. Many businesses are jumping on board with corporate yoga classes and will even pay – either fully or partially – for their employees to take classes.

Meditating at work is another possibility that doesn’t need to cost anything. The benefits of meditating include improved focus, mental clarity and positive feelings. It’s an opportunity to recharge your battery in a designated quiet room at the office. Employees can be taught guided meditation to do on their own or an instructor could lead sessions.

Encourage Work/Life Balance

When’s the last time a boss told you to take a vacation? Americans are notorious for not using their allotted vacation time. Some of it has to do with FOMO (fear of missing out), or feeling pressure upon return from vacation, or guilt, or whatever.

Use your vacation time! You’ve earned it. Once again, employees who take a vacation are more productive, which is one reason employers should encourage their employees to go on a vacation.

A study called Project: Time Off by the U.S. Travel Association found that employees who use all of their vacation time actually increase their chances of getting promoted and getting a raise by 6.5%, compared with people who leave 11 or more days of paid vacation unused.

Identify and Support

Being able to spot a potential problem before it arises ensures that support can be offered if needed. Employers should have a system in place to monitor absenteeism, conflicts and productivity levels, for example. Employers with a good understanding of group dynamics in the workplace can identify these issues.

With one in four adults suffering from a mental illness every year, one of the most under-treated and misunderstood mental illnesses in the workplace is depression. Depression is highly treatable, but 71 percent of workers with mental illness have never sought help from a medical or a mental health specialist for their problems, which only further perpetuates stigma.

Employers with a well-being policy have a plan in place to help employees unable to work due to stress and integrate them back into the workplace when appropriate.

Stress is no doubt part of the work scene, but managing it is the best policy. We also can’t forget that employees actually have to enjoy their jobs to set them up for success.

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