Workplace health and safety programs generally focus on accident/incident assessment and avoidance, and are established to ensure that employees (and others) perceive the workplace as a stable environment in which they are able to carry out their jobs safely and effectively. However, many management teams fail to consider the fact that the ‘health’ aspect of workplace H&S should also focus on employees’ personal health considerations. In order to do so, management must establish a thorough employee health, safety and wellness program – which builds on the concept of an employee health and safety program in order to encourage a more well-rounded work experience for a healthier, more productive staff. A health, safety and wellness program should of course focus on maintaining a safe working environment, but it should also entail daily or (at least) weekly fitness-based activities that incorporate all levels of physical fitness (from generally inactive to wildly athletic). In doing so, management fosters an increased sense of unity amongst employees, thereby creating an increased morale and a stronger sense of culture in the workplace.
First and foremost, it must be noted that a healthy body is certainly less susceptible to injury and disease – which thereby affects the ‘safety’ aspect of the workplace by reducing the potential for a safe work environment. In order to establish a culture of workplace health, safety and wellness, employers must consider the overall picture of health and wellness, which encompasses both the body and the mind. Studies often show that higher levels of stress can certainly lead to deteriorating health, not to mention the fact that someone who is overly stressed may not pay close attention to the task at hand, thereby putting them at risk for unsafe practices. Establishing a program that focuses on, and continually reinforces the inter-relation between health, wellness and workplace safety will result in a healthier, more secure – and thereby more productive – workplace as employees experience benefits that enrich both their professional and personal lives.
While health and wellness is a real concern for any and every human being, it may be somewhat difficult to establish a work-based program that adequately meets the diverse needs of the spectrum of employees. Encourage employee suggestions and participation in the establishment of goals – perhaps generate a survey to assess health and wellness concerns and needs, or host a round table discussion to encourage a brainstorm of ideas. As a health and wellness plan is formulated, carefully consider the varied abilities and interests of the participants, trying to maintain a balance between those individuals who are less fitness-oriented and those who are hard-core health nuts.
Where possible, management may want to offer a choice or a range of activities – anything from a bowling league to a baseball team to a calisthenics or fitness class. Perhaps a variety of options should be offered from week to week, to avoid any potential monotony and keep active interest in the program. Depending on the corporate culture, it may be better to host a weekly paintball game – allowing employees the chance relieve frustration and tension while getting some exercise – or take a weekly hiking excursion than to establish a team of some sort. Whatever the activity is, establish a mandatory attendance policy and try to ensure that the activity takes place during paid company time, perhaps last thing on a Friday afternoon or at the end of each work day. Doing so will encourage active participation, and will send employees home feeling refreshed and invigorated, having released the tensions of the week (or day) before they even leave the office – not to mention the fact that they did not have to give up any of their personal time to participate.
There are numerous benefits to incorporating the wellness factor into an existing workplace health and safety program. Healthier employees are more productive employees, and this concept should resonate through the ranks of the company, and outside of the working environment as well. A workplace wellness program can encourage the adoption of a healthier lifestyle (both within and outside of the workplace), and can resonate amongst the ranks if presented in a non-threatening, non-competitive, and enjoyable manner. Whether or not management has the means to establish a formal, ongoing wellness plan, at the very least steps should be taken to reduce employee inactivity, encourage more healthful lifestyle choices, and make overall improvements to benefit employees not just professionally, but personally as well.
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