Money & Business

How Healthy Is Your Workplace?

By / Mar 24, 2016 (iStock/Thinkstock)

Research shows that employers can play a role in helping their staff adopt healthful behaviors at the office.

It’s officially the first week of spring, which for many means spring cleaning, even at the office. In addition to being an excellent time to organize your desk, sort through your inbox, and shred old documents, now’s a great time to check how “healthy” your office is.

A recent article from the American Society of Interior Designer’s Icon blog highlighted some of the features of healthful workplaces, such as increasing the amount of daylight inside, eliminating toxins and allergens from the air, switching to more ergonomic furniture, and offering a variety of workspaces so employees can move around during the day.

Active workplace designs—those that encourage employees to move to different areas—are trending, according to the construction industry news outlet Construction Dive, which also noted the popularity of standing desks among organizations that are emphasizing health at work.

Although, sadly for standing-desk proponents, their health benefits may not be as influential as originally thought. Researchers recently published an analysis of almost two dozen studies on the potential health benefits of standing desks and other fad desk trends, such as the treadmill desk, and found that there isn’t much scientific evidence that standing is healthier than sitting.

Standing doesn’t burn a significant amount more calories than sitting, and there is some evidence that standing for long periods of time could be harmful to people’s health—sometimes leading to enlarged veins, Jos Verbeek, one of the researchers told NPR.

Verbeek suggested organizations turn to active workplace designs instead.

Another option, even if you prefer to spend most of your working hours seated, is the walking meeting. Not only does walking with coworkers provide health benefits but walking while talking has also been shown to increase productivity and creativity among participants. Just make sure to plan your route and set an agenda.

Healthier Eating

In addition to providing a greater variety of ways for employees to get up from their desks periodically, workplaces can play a role in encouraging staff to eat better.

Researchers from the Google Food Team and Yale Center for Consumer Insights recently found a link between behavioral economics, or how psychological, social, and emotional factors affect people’s decision making, and the ability to improve people’s eating habits.

For example, by promoting vegetables in a work cafeteria with bright “Vegetable of the Day!” posters, researchers were able to increase the number of employees who tried a featured veggie dish by 74 percent.

While not every association has a cafeteria or can provide its employees with a snack pantry, there are opportunities to decorate staff lounges or kitchens with colorful photos of healthy food or even providing fresh fruit on Fridays, for example.

If you’re in need of more ideas to promote employee well-being, check out the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence, which features free research, tips, and tools on topics like how to de-stress commutes and the benefits of teamwork.

How does your association promote health and well-being? Please share in the comments.

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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