Dr. Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford University, an expert in workplace health, gave a keynote speech that addressed his research on the effects of work environments on human health. He was quoted as, “Companies that build great workplaces also improve human physical and mental health and lifespan.” It is estimated that unhealthy work environments cost our society in the United States over 100,000 deaths and $130 billion.
How can employers make sure that employees can prioritize their health and wellness?
Autonomy in Work
There has been a significant amount of research conducted on employees that have little control over their work. For people who have very little control over their workday, negative effects have been shown in employees’ overall wellness. The more your employees can feel that they have some say in how their work is accomplished, the better their overall wellness.
Make the Number of Work Hours Manageable
After a certain number of work hours, a worker’s productivity per hour decreases immensely. “According to Pfeffer, long work hours ‘are associated with adverse health, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, disability.’”
Facilitate Positive Social Relationships
Humans are social creatures. We thrive in teams and communities and do some of our best work collaboratively. The more an employer can facilitate positive relationships between colleagues, the better your employees will feel about their place of employment. Pfeffer was quoted as, “In fact, anything that pits people against one another weakens social ties among employees and reduces the social support that produces healthier workplaces. Equally destructive are transactional workplace approaches in which people are seen as factors of production and where the emphasis is on trading money for work, without much emotional connection between people and their place of work.”
Allow Employees to Successfully Balance Home and Work-Life
When employees know that there will not be negative consequences for attending to personal life commitments, such as doctor’s appointments for children or aging parents, they can prioritize their social wellness that contributes to overall wellness. “If employees are happy at home they will bring their best selves to work every day.” Employers who understand employees’ need to balance home and work life can help their employees by clearly communicating company policies about time off.
When employers are seen as fair, it gives employees a sense of peace that things will always make sense in terms of fairness at their job.
- Equity (pay, opportunities, and treatment across job roles)
- Impartiality (promotions based on merit and performance alone)
- Justice (Do your employees feel like they can challenge unfair decisions without repercussions?)
Show Them Where Your Loyalty Lies
Stress has been shown to have negative health effects including lowering one’s mortality. When companies go through mass layoffs, stress is apparent in every employee’s life. Even with employees who end up not being laid off, the sheer amount of stress over the potential of job loss is enough to tank their productivity. This can cause more harm than good for the company laying off employees hoping to stay afloat.
“There’s often a financial burden for employees, even when they have insurance. A significant fraction of the U.S. workforce is unable to get their prescriptions filled or access medical care. A fair percentage of those people are insured. And in fact, a reasonable number of people who file for bankruptcy because of medical expenses also have health insurance.”
One famous employer, Patagonia, guarantees every employee gets health insurance from their very first day and has a company policy where everyone gets a three-day weekend every other weekend to prioritize health and wellness.
In the end…
Workplace environment and culture have just as much impact on employee’s wellness as offering various health and wellness benefits. Need help creating a cohesive plan for your workplace’s wellness? Connect with Aerobodies today!