Posted by: BeneFIT Corporate Wellness
Date: January 30, 2020
Occupational health, behavioral health, and physical health are connected
What employer doesn’t want to shore up their workforce? Many studies have shown that encouraging employee health and taking steps toward a healthy workplace culture will reap benefits for employees and employers alike. Here are some examples:
- A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition establishes too many carbohydrates can decrease productivity – pointing to good nutrition as a boost to better work habits.
- Research shows that physical exercise has a positive effect on the brain, including cognitive functioning, and promotes a condition of well-being. This adds up to better performance on the job.
- Conclusive scientific evidence exists for physical inactivity as a primary and actual cause of most chronic diseases, which are costly in the workplace in terms of insurance claims, productivity, and absenteeism.
Consider the connection between safety, occupational health, behavioral health, physical health, and healthy productivity. How are these areas affecting your workplace?
The overlaps between health promotion and worker safety on the job are also backed by research. This is especially true for occupations that involve strenuous or repetitive work, and where being in good physical form is important. Obesity, for example, can contribute to back injuries because using proper body mechanics when lifting or moving objects is difficult for people who are overweight. Links have been made between workplace stress and illness, such as high blood pressure, which can lead to increased errors and lack of judgment.
Fatigue caused by lack of sleep is another overlap, as this can reduce an employee’s ability to concentrate and respond properly. When you’re drowsy, your brain is not as creative and won’t process information as quickly or retain important facts as well.* Preventing your employees from becoming hurt or sick in the workplace is a better strategy than restoring them back to health after an incident or illness.
Here are some tips:
- Understand the risks inherent in your workplace. Once you know the particular hazards, you can take steps to reduce work-related injury or illness.
- Take reducing workplace stress seriously. Common causes include long hours, heavy workload, job insecurity and conflicts with coworkers or bosses. Stress can lead to depression, sleeping difficulties and problems with concentration.
- Allow employees to take regular breaks. Staying fresh and alert helps avoid injury or burnout. Help them schedule the most difficult tasks of each day for times when concentration is best, such as first thing in the morning.
- Provide access to mechanical aids whenever possible. Instead of employees trying to lift or carry a heavy object, ensure there is a wheelbarrow, conveyor belt, crane, or forklift nearby.
- Invite employees to talk over any concerns. As an employer, you are legally obliged to ensure a safe working environment.
Mental and emotional health
Since employees spend about one-third of their lives on the job, the state of their mental and emotional health will undoubtedly affect their ability to perform. Statistics reveal the scope of this influence: Across the U.S. economy, serious mental illness causes $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year, and depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost productivity each year.**
Many employers rely on employee assistance programs (EAPs), which offer individual employee counseling, manager training, and critical incident intervention for their workforce. Companies who have taken this step are better positioned to start reducing these costs and making progress toward improved emotional and mental health for their employees. Here are suggestions for promoting mental health at work:
- Enforce working hours. This can be done by limiting out-of-hours work and encouraging reduced email access outside of office hours.
- If possible avoid employees working in a solely isolated way. If they are working from home extensively make sure there are regular check-ins, contact, and helpful communication.
- Set attainable deadlines and spread workloads equally and fairly across employees and teams.
- Provide support services (such as EAP) and staff members who have had training in mental health and workplace stress. Make sure this support is known.
- Promote healthy eating and regular exercise.
- Fight the stigma. Encourage open communication about mental health and develop solutions for those who behave in a less-than-respectful manner.
When was the last time you assessed your company culture and how the environment positively or negatively impacts the health of your population? Now is the time to do so. Use the results to build out a plan for improvement or sustainability. And don’t feel you have to figure this out on your own. Employers have access to expert wellness professionals locally, who can help.
To find occupational health/safety and EAP resources, visit lvhn.org/medical-services/occupational-health and www.preferredeap.org.