May is Global Employee Health and Wellness Month, but actually, workplace wellness should be a year-round campaign! As people spend about half their waking hours at work, it’s important to embed healthy behavior within company culture. And of course, employers should strive to reduce health risks whenever possible.
Ensuring employees’ total wellness takes a coordinated effort — and both companies and team members can help promote healthy practices. Here’s how.
Some workplaces, such as construction sites and factories, are well known for their risk of severe injury or even death. However, other workplace health risks are a bit more insidious. While they don’t always result from a safety incident, conditions such as Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) and burnout can significantly impair one’s career.
For example, healthcare workers have an especially high risk of musculoskeletal disorders, the most common type of RSI. These conditions may lead to early or unwanted retirement from the field. RSIs include carpal tunnel syndrome, back strain, and bursitis. Any sort of repetitive task, such as typing, mousing, or lifting objects, can contribute to RSIs. Even the way you sit or stand at your workstation could strain your muscles and joints if you’re not cautious.
To stay safe at work, follow all recommended ergonomic guidance for your work equipment and station. Take regular breaks, if only a minute or so to stretch and look away from your task. If you experience throbbing or aching pain, disengage from the activity. You may need to consult with your physician if the discomfort persists. Sometimes, simple changes to your workstation can make a huge difference.
Work Environment Safety
Even if your workplace doesn’t include overtly dangerous equipment, there may still be a risk to your health. For example, exposure to high levels of noise can cause hearing loss, tinnitus, or other hearing problems. Constantly looking at a computer screen may lead to eye strain and headaches.
You have the right to wear protective equipment to relieve any symptoms and help prevent serious issues. Reducing your screen’s brightness or even adjusting its angle may reduce eye strain. For extra-noisy workplaces, consider earplugs or noise-canceling headphones.
It also helps to take breaks from the noise and bright screens. While procedures vary by employer, state law allows for work breaks. Resting your eyes and ears can work wonders for your health.
In addition, your mental and emotional health is crucial to your success. A healthy work environment is one that protects your well-being. Chronic stress is a major risk factor for both physiological and psychological illness. So even if you’re physically safe at work, consider how you’re thriving as well.
Any in-person workplace is vulnerable to infectious diseases. Thankfully, many companies have implemented safer protocols in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. But it’s still important to remain vigilant and help minimize the risk of germ transmission. We are all responsible for good hygiene and reducing the spread of pathogens.
In addition to structural changes such as better air filtration, this might include cultural practices and sanitation protocols. For example, it may help to avoid shaking hands — or meeting in person when not absolutely necessary. Companies can also provide sanitization stations for large group events. Shared equipment should be cleaned regularly.
What’s Next for Workplace Wellness?
Once a workplace has made efforts to preserve its employees’ basic safety and health, the next step is to promote their wellness. Enrichment activities help lift spirits, while fitness programs promote an active lifestyle. Both of these contribute to a company culture that prioritizes wellness, so team members feel valued and supported.