Column: Health and the Workplace

Simple steps to keep employees healthy and to improve your company’s bottom line

Sure federal occupation rules may guide us on safety, but how do we know our workplaces are really healthy? And why is that so important?

The answer is obvious for many employers, since a happy, healthy workforce means less injury, fewer sick days, increased productivity and better connection with your customers – a situation that may ultimately improve your bottom line.

What may be less obvious for business owners and managers is that a better workplace environment literally reduces chronic illness which can be a driving factor in reducing overall healthcare costs.

Once sleep and commute time are factored in, many employees spend more of their waking hours with their co-workers than with any other group – even their families.

With this much time at stake, a healthy workplace can reduce stress for employees at home and on the job.

Take a moment to consider your workplace and these hallmarks of workplace health:

  • Do employees laugh often?
  • Do employees feel empowered to freely share their ideas?
  • Are the values and expectations made clear?
  • Are work tasks clear?
  • Is the workplace clean, orderly, neat and comfortable?
  • Do employees get along well together?

Safe equipment, good ventilation and ergonomically appropriate workspaces are just the beginning.   Beyond the physical plant, workplace culture has emerged as a powerful force affecting the health of workers and entire organizations. Culture can be viewed as the organizations’ profile in such key areas as respect, fairness and camaraderie.

A healthful environment is beyond the “lunch and learn” approach, where an important wellness program, such as advice on quitting smoking or increasing exercise, is left to stand alone. Workplace health means making a priority of putting people first, emphasizing healthful choices and encouraging openness and sharing with reward and recognition.

A business of any size can do this. The first step is commitment to these principles and at least one empowered business owner, manager or senior employee to lead. Simple actions, such as a newsletter or posting a weekly health tip are good places to start. A planned approach to address workplace issues, such as forming a walking group, holding stair climbing events and encouraging better food choices can be pursued. Multiple resources for beginning these kinds of program are available online, courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease control.

Identify the areas where you can make a difference for your business, then get started and get healthy.

Dr. Hoffman is the owner of two primary care clinics in Salmon Creek, Great West Family Care, which takes most kinds of health insurance, and New West Medical Care, a low-cost membership-based direct practice for patients with no insurance.