Well, well, well

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Arghh, it’s the dreaded end of quarter which means I need to retroactively track my daily activity for the past three months so I can earn rewards for my husband’s wellness program at work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of wellness initiatives at work. Healthcare costs are skyrocketing so why not try to curtail costs by improving employees’ health.  Employees who are fitter, less stressed, and have a better attitude are generally more engaged and productive at work.  According to the US Chamber of Commerce, companies who promote wellness for employees receive higher returns on their investment, sometimes $2 to $3 per dollar invested.  Now, that’s a bonus for both sides!

But elaborate, online wellness programs are not the only strategy to improve employee well-being in the workplace.

Considering the average worker spends 23% of their working life in the office, providing an environment that is comfortable, inspiring and familiar is a simple approach to improving employee wellness.  Sure, it would be fantastic to dine onsite at a state of the art cafeteria serving fresh, organic food, or have free access to a fully equipped gym just steps away from your office.  But that’s not so easy for companies with a limited budget or space for those facilities.  The following are the top 5 strategies companies are implementing to address employee well-being at a personal and budget-conscious level.

#5 A Resimercial Touch
This term has emerged to describe the blending of residential qualities in commercial spaces.  Nowadays, the line is blurred between home and work.  Bringing  home-like influences to the office environment creates a familiar and comfortable setting for employees which can reduce stress and improve performance.  Even big name residential manufactures like West Elm are dipping their toe into the commercial industry by introducing office furniture with a “homey” flair.  So, bring on the rugs, lamps, plants and… hammocks?!

#4  A Place at the Table
75% of the work in industrialized countries is performed while seated.  Therefore, having an ergonomic chair that enables concentration and minimizes the distractions that stem from being uncomfortable is crucial.  Ergonomic chairs are plentiful and many boast innovative designs that provide unmatchable health benefits.  For years, lumbar support was the big rage with manufactures focusing on lower back support.  Today, research is targeting thoracic support, with the upper back and neck receiving special attention.  Haworth’s new Fern chair is one of few that addresses the thoracic region. Inspired by the unique structure of the fern plant, each frond is calibrated to support a different area of the back, from the thoracic, to the lumbar, to the pelvic areas.  Every user who’s tried the chair instantly falls in love…. including me.

#3 Collision Zones
Not as dangerous as it sounds, collision zones are intended for employees to have chance encounters with one another.  Spaces such as lounges, coffee bars, outdoor patios and gaming areas are common spaces that draw people together and yield social interaction.  These spaces offer employees an escape from their routine work, and ultimately refresh workers so they are more  productive throughout the day.  And what’s even more refreshing, providing high protein snacks and caffeinated beverages in these spaces for a bigger draw and bigger boost of energy.

#2 Sitting Is the New Smoking
We’ve all heard this before.  Sitting for prolonged hours of time increases the risk of low back pain, weight gain, cardiovascular disease and circulatory problems.  To combat this, studies indicate that standing for 15 minutes per hour can decrease the risk for these issues and ultimately improve worker performance.  Height adjustable desks have increased in popularity ten-fold over the past several  years.  What once was a solitary request by employees with a doctor’s note requiring the specialized desk for health concerns have become the standard for many organizations.  And if height adjustable desks  for every work space is not feasible, companies are incorporating shared touchdown areas with standing height work surfaces in various locations to give employees that much needed posture break.

#1  Let There Be Light
Voted time and time again by employees as the number one priority in the work space – access to natural light.  Exposure to daylight has proven effects including improved sleeping habits, increased creativity, elevated moods, and higher energy levels… all contributing to a 3% - 40% increase in sales and production.  But how do you promote daylight equity in spaces that aren’t abundant?  Strategies such as rotating seating locations, holding meetings outdoors, or locating shared break out areas in sunlit filled spaces can help companies capitalize coveted daylight.  A healthy dose of  vitamin D goes a long way!

Wellness in the workplace is not a trend…. it is here to stay.  Employees expect it, need it and measure it for job satisfaction.  Fortunately, a multitude of strategies to promote employee well-being exist.  Finding the right ones that are beneficial to both employers and employees is the hard part.  

Michelle Eckhart
Director of Ideation
PMC Commercial Interiors

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