Creating a Healthy Workplace
Maximizing Team Happiness and Productivity
Better productivity, reduced absenteeism, and increased morale – these are just some of the benefits of creating a healthier workplace.
However, creating a healthy work environment is easier said than done. What actually makes a healthy workplace? And do you need to think about more than just your work surroundings?
In this article we'll define what a healthy workplace is, and we'll look at its benefits for you, your team, and your organization. We'll also explore practical and inexpensive strategies that you can use to transform your team's working environment.
What Is a "Healthy Workplace"?
L. R. Murphy, a leading expert in the field of occupational health, defines a healthy workplace as "one whose culture, climate and organizational practices create an environment which promotes employees' mental and physical health, as well as productivity and organizational effectiveness." As such, creating a healthy workplace isn't just about safe, well maintained physical surroundings.
A healthy work environment has many benefits. For example, it can:
- Increase morale and job satisfaction.
- Boost performance and productivity.
- Contribute to better employer-employee relationships.
- Reduce absenteeism, sick days, and healthcare costs.
More than this, having a healthy workplace helps you attract potential recruits, and it helps you retain your best people.
What Makes a Healthy Workplace?
According to recent research, there are five main factors that contribute to workplace health. These are:
- The physical environment (including health and safety).
- Employee growth and development.
- Employee involvement.
- Life balance.
If you want to make your own workplace healthier, you'll need to spend time working on each of these five areas.
1. The Physical Environment
Creating healthy and safe surroundings goes beyond obvious things like cleanliness and order; it includes creating an environment that promotes the mental health of your team, and takes into account their physical well-being too.
Begin by walking around your workplace and really looking at it. Is this a place that is uplifting and motivating, or is it drab and uncomfortable? Is it too hot, or too cold? Start making a list of improvements that will turn your office into a more pleasant and energizing place to work.
Ask team members for their thoughts and suggestions. Think about repainting your department with bright, energizing colors. (Again, ask your team for suggestions.) You could add plants – which improve air quality and bring something of the outdoors inside – and allow people to customize their own work areas.
You can also increase air quality by keeping work spaces well ventilated, by only using air conditioning when you have to, and by making sure that you have heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems serviced regularly. An air purification or filter system may also help.
Our Expert Interview on Innovations in Office Design with Diane Stegmeier has more on developing a productive and comfortable work environment for your people.
Also, make sure that your organization's business goals aren't affecting the health and safety of your team. Our article, Safety in Teams, will show you what to look for.
Make sure that your team's desks, chairs, computers and other working accessories are set up correctly to minimize the chances of any injuries, and that lighting levels are comfortable. (We know this can be a boring subject, but it really is important!)
You can also reduce the chances of illness spreading through the workplace by promoting good hygiene standards (washing hands regularly, sneezing into a tissue, keeping surfaces clean, and so on), and by encouraging people not to come into work when they are sick.
If you don't have money in your budget to hire professional decorators, a team painting or reorganization session can be a great way to foster team spirit, or to wind down during a quiet period.
2. Employee Growth and Development
Most of us want to continue to grow and develop our skills throughout our lives. The more that you can help people do this, the happier and more productive they're going to be.
You can start thinking about this by taking our How Well Do You Develop Your People? quiz. This helps you understand your attitudes towards team development, and helps you explore how you can improve your people's effectiveness through appropriate training and development.
You can also:
- Give your team members a Training Needs Assessment. This helps you identify the skills that they need to develop, and shows you where to begin.
- Meet with your team members one-on-one to ask them about their career goals and identify ways that you can help them grow and develop so they can accomplish these. You could also help them find a mentor, or use the GROW Model to coach them.
- Encourage team members to take on challenging projects that will help expand their skills. Not only will this help them develop professionally, but your faith in their abilities is likely to be a major boost to their self-esteem. (You can use the Nine-Box Grid for Talent Management to help you assess their potential.)
You will only realize the health benefits of developing your people if you give them the opportunity to apply the skills that they're learning. So give your team every chance to put their new knowledge and skills to use.
Everyone wants and likes to be recognized for their good work. So you won't be surprised to learn that giving and getting proper recognition is an important part of creating a healthy workplace.
To provide your people with recognition, do the following:
- Make sure that you reward your team on a regular basis. Never underestimate how important a simple "thank you" can be for a job well done.
- Although you may not be in control of your team's compensation, do what you can to ensure that your people have packages that are fair and worthwhile.
- Practice management by walking around. As you do this, touch base with each of your team members. Offer them encouragement, or a quick "job well done" comment on a recent success.
4. Employee Involvement
Employee involvement programs have been proven to increase staff morale and loyalty, as well as increase productivity. Your team needs a certain level of job autonomy to feel good about what they're doing. Remember that the freedom to make decisions is often cited as a key factor in achieving job satisfaction.
To involve your people:
- Avoid micromanagement in the way that you deal with your team. Learn how to delegate, and give your people as much responsibility as you sensibly can.
- Make sure that your people have ways to provide feedback to you, and to the broader organization. There should be several ways for your team to offer constructive criticism, or to present innovative ideas, designed to help the organization improve.
- Come up with creative ways to get your team more involved in the organization. For example, you could use cross-training, or encourage individual team members to take turns managing your team for a day.
5. Life Balance
People have many different motivations in life. Some are ambitious and want to be successful, and are happy to work long hours to achieve this. Others may want to spend as much time as possible with friends and family. And all of us can feel stressed, burned out or overloaded from time to time.
To help the people on your team who want a better life balance, consider the following:
- If you can, create flexible working arrangements for your team. Perhaps allow them to work four days a week, or to work from home on one or more days, if this is practical.
- Allow your team members to take breaks during their working day, and encourage them to get outside for some fresh air and light exercise, if practical. You could even suggest "walking meetings," where people discuss issues on the move outside.
- Make sure that your people "leave work at work." Coach them on how to relax after a hard day so that when they go home, they can rest and recharge. (Bear in mind, though, that some people may be happy to take work home, or continue working in their "down time.")
- Make sure that no one on your team is experiencing burnout – this happens when passionate, committed people become deeply disillusioned with a job or career from which they have previously derived much of their identity and meaning. Encourage them to take our Burnout Self-Test to make sure that they stay fresh and engaged.
Also consider whether people have job satisfaction, and try to observe if they're happy in their work. If you suspect that people on your team aren't happy or fulfilled with what their doing, consider using job crafting techniques to help them mold their roles to fit them better.
Creating a healthy workplace offers managers and organizations benefits, which include improving morale, reducing absenteeism, helping with recruitment, and improving productivity.
There are five main areas to focus on when creating a healthy workplace:
- Physical environment.
- Employee growth and development.
- Employee involvement.
- Life balance.
Strategies to create a healthy workplace include making sure that you're rewarding people regularly by saying "thank you," encouraging people to get the right life balance, and providing everyone with a safe, comfortable environment to work in.