Contributed by Seb Atkinson.
In the US, employees take an average of 4.9 days off each year in sick leave, according to research by PwC. If you’re a small business, these days can really add up – if you have 100 employees for example, that could mean an average of 490 days are lost each year due to sickness. As a result, it can really pay to reduce this figure and improve productivity by empowering your staff to live healthier, happier lives. Read on to discover how to achieve this.
Reducing Stress at Work
Did you know that in recent years, stress has become the leading cause of long-term absence from the workplace? Absenteeism due to job stress has also escalated dramatically, with the number of people calling in sick due to stress tripling between 1996 and 2000.
So how can employers help reduce stress in the workplace? The first step is with the management team. It’s essential that leaders keep a lid on their own stress levels, using up their holiday allowance and making sure negativity or anger doesn’t rub off on employees. This sets a precedent for employees that it’s ok to take time out to relax, rather than constantly pushing them up to and over the limit.
Two-way communication between staff and management is also essential, especially if there are major changes within the business. This can help keep feelings of anxiety and stress at bay, and allows managers an opportunity to understand the concerns and ideas of their team, fostering a healthier company culture.
Help Staff Lead Healthy Lifestyles
Is your team particularly active? A healthy, active employee is usually a happy one, since exercise is a natural anti-depressant. Exercise also gives the immune system a boost against colds and viruses.
To start seeing the rewards of having healthier, more active employees, see if you can take advantage of some of the readily available corporate discounts offered by many gyms, fitness centers and sports clubs. This might include paying for – or subsidizing – their gym membership, but could even be more far-reaching. One idea might be to bring back the former office staple – the company soft ball team, or easily accessible team sports such as dodge ball. This can not only improve the health of your staff, but also give your office a real team spirit.
Give Your Employees Access to Healthy Meal Choices
Alongside a good lifestyle, the right food can really help to reduce absence and even boost the power of the brain by around 20%, according to the World Health Organization. Even simple dietary changes can improve the health of your staff, for example swap chips with sweet potatoes and battered fish with salmon in the work canteen.
Food can also be used to help lessen the symptoms of certain infections, and can make for great snacks to provide your employees with throughout the day. For example, yogurt can fight infections, green tea contains anti-oxidants, oranges contain vitamin C, while walnuts and almonds are a great source of vitamin E.
Equip Your Team to Protect Themselves from Illness
Finally, though it seems obvious, personal hygiene is essential for keeping germs at bay and sick days down. But the truth is, according to a study by Michigan State University, a mere 5% of bathroom users wash their hands correctly!
It’s, therefore, a good idea to ensure employees are gently reminded to wash their hands and given the right tools to fight germs. For example, staff members could be supplied with pocket sized hand gel at their desks, while well stocked hand gel dispensers and wall mounted dispensers should be provided in all bathrooms. Staff should also be provided with tissues at their desks, helping to stop the spread of germs.
In addition to this, posters or signs like the one above are a great reminder about the importance of good hand hygiene, and serve as a prompt for people to remember to wash their hands.
Have You Tried Any Of These Ideas?
Small changes like the ones above can really make a positive impact on your business, allowing you to reclaim lost hours due to sickness, as well as benefiting from a more energized, motivated and productive team.
Have you tried any of these ideas and schemes at your workplace? If so, feel free to let us know how it went in the comments section below!