How Small Green Companies Can Create Healthy Workspaces

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More than 90 percent of business leaders say that promoting wellness can affect employee productivity and performance, according to survey results from the nonprofit Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO). Then again, when asked about the chief elements of business performance, top large employers don’t list health or healthy workspaces in their top responses.

healthy workplace

Green business owners do it differently.  They know that a healthy workforce results in reduced downtime due to lack of illness, improved morale, increased productivity, and higher employee retention, while employees get the benefit of increased job satisfaction and an improved ability to handle stress.

  • Software company Mindbody puts health at the core of its employee relations by offering meditation classes and wellness funds.
  • Honest Tea runs a series of wellness seminars for its employees.
  • The green cleaning supply company, Method, offers weekly office yoga.

But when you’re just launching a startup or leading a small green business, investing in wellness programs and gym memberships can be difficult to swing. Here is a list of ways that you can demonstrate to your employees that you value their health while also keeping costs as low as possible.

Start with the Right Foods and Beverages to Create a Healthy Workspace

Simple as it sounds, we all need to drink water everyday. The Institute of Medicine determines that an adequate intake for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day. The adequate intake for women is about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day. Offer ample water stations throughout your employment site.

Have a dedicated fresh fruit and vegetable snack day, in which you (and possibly some employees) bring in a selection of good-for-you, non-processed plant foods.  You could even suggest that everybody have a vegan lunch one day a week.  Employees will learn from you and each other about the variety, nutrition, and deliciousness of plant-based meals.

Instead of a coffee station, consider offering an electric hot pot and a selection of decaffeinated and herbal teas. And, yes, green tea is really good for you.  Many of the bioactive compounds contain large amounts of polyphenols like flavonoids and catechins, which can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, protecting cells and molecules from damage. These free radicals are known to play a role in aging and all sorts of diseases.

Exercise is a Huge Key to a Healthy Workplace

Stop being sedentary! One recent report indicates that prolonged sitting can have cause fatigue and impair cognition. Another report relates that transitioning from a seated to a standing work posture every 30 min across the workday, relative to seated work, leads to a significant reduction in fatigue levels and lower back discomfort in overweight/obese office workers, while maintaining work productivity. Suggestions include offering your employees height-adjustable workstations.

Remind your employees to adjust sitting positions. Tension neck syndrome (TNS) can occur when the neck and upper shoulders are held in a fixed, awkward position for long periods of time, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Help your employees to know how sitting for long period of time can affect their postures, overall mental acuity, and health.

It’s amazing how taking breaks and getting out in the sun and fresh air can change a person’s entire outlook. Let your employees tell you when they need to take breaks rather than superimposing structured breaks with particular durations. Trust your employees to know when and how long is appropriate.

Permit and even insist that employees get away from their desks and walk during brainstorming sessions. In a meta-analysis, researchers found that walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31%, and it cut the risk of dying during the study period by 32%. The current American Heart Association/ American College of Sports Medicine standards call for moderate-intensity exercise such as brisk walking for at least 30 minutes on five days each week. Wouldn’t it be great if your employees could get some of that walking time in while on the job?

Survey your staff and see if anyone on your crew, or anyone they know, can offer yoga or meditation at lunch or after work. Your employees already know that the big employers like pro sports teams, Forbes, GE, Apple, Google, GM, Chase Manhattan Bank, HBO, GM, Industrial Light & Magic, and Nike offer yoga at work. Sometimes all it takes for naysayers to join an exercise regimen is to see others do it; they join in rather than be left out and change lifestyle habits as a result.

Medical Time is Time Well Spent toward a Healthy Workspace

Be understanding when employees need to keep medical appointments during usual work hours.  Building in flex time for these necessary appointments can keep illnesses from spreading through the workplace, as can creating opportunities for employees to participate in preventative medical help like vaccines or regular checkups at work.

Manage stress properly in the workplace. Any new small business is rife with pressure to stay current, advance your product/ services in a timely fashion, and demonstrate innovation. You can help your workers to transcend that fast pace to be effective and to work healthy. Sometimes a personal day, time with family, or a leisurely conversation can help employees to take care of themselves and maintain a healthy balance.

Standing by employees who experience a mental health problem relates a strong message about your organization’s values. When an employee divulges mental health problems, be proactive in learning about the illness and resources in your community. Create space for dialogue with your employees about mental health issues, always remembering to protect confidentiality. Help manage an employee’s time off when sick and their return from work.

Create a cultural climate in which it’s all right to stay home when sick. A sick employee should remain at home to rest and recover where there is no concern of infecting those nearby. Avoiding close interactions with others who may be sick keeps everybody healthier.

The Physical Design Contributes to a Healthy Workspace

Create a space where employees have storage space for their equipment, gear, or clothes to use for lunchtime exercise. My pal switched jobs recently and now cycles everyday at lunch with other employees. He’s much more physically fit and is in tune with nature, too.

Offer convenient handwashing spaces so that illnesses don’t spread.

Computer eyestrain can cause headaches, difficulty focusing, and increased sensitivity to light, according to the University of California at Davis. Create computer workstations for your employees that have large enough screens so that font size isn’t an issue.

Of course, as reported by Hanley on Green Building Elements, your physical work building can be a good environment for your employees, which leads to good health.

The Whole Employee as a Healthy Member of your Workplace

The most important way to stay healthy at work starts with self-awareness.  Help your employees to know themselves and their health situations. Signs that things might not be going right include poor sleep habits, working unproductive long hours, decreased social interactions, little to no exercise, or eating poorly.  

Be the type of employer who is open to learning new ways to help your employees be healthy at work. And take a vacation once in awhile yourself!  You’ll show that, while important, work is not life. 

Photo credit: Wicker Paradise via / CC BY

Shout out to Spencer Blackman at Entrepreneur for his inspiration.



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