What is employee health?
For many of us, staying healthy is extremely important. As such, we focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, pay attention to nutrition, get sufficient exercise, and avoid stress and practice mindfulness.
So, as an employer searching for top talent at a time when highly-skilled workers are scarce, creating a health-promoting environment for your current and potential employees is imperative. In doing so, you can actively create the optimal conditions for higher employee satisfaction and stress management – not to mention lower turnover and fewer sick days.
Why promoting employee health is important
Health-promoting initiatives in companies have many advantages – both externally and internally. In short, a healthy company that has integrated health into its corporate culture stands to reap massive benefits.
- Improving service quality: Employees who aren’t distracted by stress or health issues can focus more intensely on their customers. As such, healthy employees lead to higher customer satisfaction.
- Employer branding: Employers that prioritize employee health increase their attractiveness to potential employees. Given this, it’s only natural to see employee health as an important aspect of employer branding.
- Recruiting new talent: To compete for new, skilled talent, and find and attract well-qualified employees, employers must present values and benefits that are aligned with the needs of their potential employees.
- Increasing motivation: Promoting employee health generally increases staff motivation and wellbeing. Stress, one-sided exercise and unhealthy dietary habits, on the other hand, tend to be motivation killers.
- Identification with company values: Employee health measures encourage employees to identify more with the company when they see that their values are being recognized.
- Lowering absenteeism: Because they make employees healthier overall, health-promoting initiatives can help reduce the number of employee sick days.
- Reducing turnover: High turnover is not only extremely frustrating for employers and employees, it also costs companies dearly – with sums of up to twice the annual salary of the position in question.
To learn more about this topic, check out our article on employee retention.
- Improving the working atmosphere: Everyone benefits from an improved working atmosphere. Cooperation becomes more fun, and team dynamics can easily be enhanced by measures such as offering company sports.
According to social scientist Rolf Stuppardt, some developments can be demonstrated in companies that make an effort to promote health:
- Above-average promotion: Personal development and highly qualified employees often play a central role in these companies.
- Above-average personnel development: Employee development, both personal and professional, is another key trait.
- Leadership: These companies are also characterized by managers with expertise and leadership skills. Employees are also actively involved in key processes.
- Communication and conflict resolution: Conflicts are seen as an opportunity to identify potential and improve processes. Trust and transparency play a major role here.
- Social competence: Stable relationships, mutual support and open communication are the cornerstones of relationships among employees.
For more information on the goals and benefits of employee health measures, click here.
Studies on employee health
A study of German companies conducted by Asklepios Kliniken and the management consultancy Roland Berger in 2020 shows the added value of promoting employee health: staff turnover decreases by 40%, turnover per employee* increases by 11% and the value of the company’s shares even increases by 76%. The study also shows that the potential for promoting health in German companies has not yet been exhausted. Among other things, this is evident based on the number of sick days, which has increased by almost one million days in Germany over the last 10 years. What’s more, company offers are also underutilized — the study found that only two thirds of employees took advantage of the health benefits and initiatives that their companies offered.
Employee health in times of COVID-19
As we’ve seen, employee health promotion from a company perspective has been underestimated for some time. But since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s become more important than ever.
Work is a meaningful part of life for many people, and it has a strong social component to it. During lockdowns and work-from-home setups, moments of social connection tend to break down. Exceptional situations require an even stronger focus on a collegial and health-promoting environment.
The current challenges are countless: change in processes, work location, lack of social contacts, loneliness, sitting for long periods of time, and sometimes no concrete workspace or lack of childcare, just to name a few. All this can result in overwork, stress, frustration, and physical and psychological effects, including increased absenteeism. Here, we give you some ideas on how to improve the situation for your employees:
- Digital offers: There are some digital health perks that you can offer your employees, like meditation or mindfulness apps that may help with stress management.
- Regular exchange: Incentivize exchange among colleagues so that your community stays vibrant. Plan collective virtual yoga sessions, workouts or a virtual coffee or lunch break.
- Setup: Many employees may have difficulties setting up a workspace in their homes. Support them in this by offering them a home-office budget.
- Project management: For virtual and remote teams, always streamline planning, and prioritize good project management and clear, transparent communication.
You can discover more ideas on how to make work during the pandemic healthier and less stressful here.
What are some concrete ways to promote employee health?
Employees are the happiest and most secure when they feel understood, when their tasks are manageable and when they find their work meaningful.
But apart from the theory, in practice, employees are often plagued by these complaints:
- Back and joint problems (sitting or standing for long periods of time).
- Burnout or exhaustion
Ideas and initiatives to improve employee health
Wondering how you can help combat these negative health impacts? You’re in luck – we’ve put together some ideas for you. So get inspired – while keeping in mind what might best fit your company values and employees.
- Feel-good work stations: A better work-from-home setup can prevent or alleviate back pain in particular. Height-adjustable desks and ergonomic chairs are a good start.
- Recognition: Showing appreciation is an integral part of many corporate values and modern leadership standards, and ensures that employees feel understood and noticed. This includes respectful treatment and transparent communication – for example, through regular feedback meetings.
- Recreation: Improve the recreational quality of the office environment. Create spaces for breaks, quiet areas, areas for socializing and networking, and perhaps additional relaxation offers such as an in-house massage therapist.
- Work-life balance: Prioritizing a balanced relationship between working hours and free time is a great way to minimize stress levels. Many employees favor flexible working hours in order to better organize their free time or take care of their families.
- Flexibility: Flexible solutions such as working remotely or from home should always complement office-based work. Don’t create a culture of presence – good work can happen in places other than the office.
- Fresh air: Many employees – and not just smokers – appreciate a breath of fresh air. If possible, provide employees with an outdoor office area.
- Team building: A good sense of community makes for a better working environment, higher motivation and deeper trust. Promote the cohesion of your employees through team-building measures. There are many interesting ways to go about this, from team sports to escape games to cooking together.
- Sports activities: Sports activities can help keep employees fit, while strengthening team unity. Tip: For flexible company sports, try Urban Sports Club!
- Facilitate the return to work: Help parents resuming work after their parental leave with the smoothest possible re-entry and family-friendly benefits.
- Mediation: Mediation and mindfulness exercises can help reduce stress. You can offer this benefit on-site or virtually through meditation apps.
- Prevention courses: Some employees may have never given much thought to health and prevention: How much exercise does a person with an office job need? What exercises can relieve stress if I stand a lot? How do I sit properly and adjust the office chair? These questions can all be answered in prevention courses.
Want to learn more? You can read more about health promotion measures here!
Examples – employee health in practice
Now that we’ve given you some ideas of what employee health initiatives can look like, here are some more examples of how employee health is implemented in companies.
Disney: a pioneer of workplace health promotion
As early as the 1930s, Walt Disney was bringing designers and architects together to think about how he could better design the work environment for his employees to increase health and satisfaction. Employees benefited from an air-conditioning system (a true luxury at the time), a company golf course and regular talks by famous guest lecturers.
Adidas: a world of sports
The 59-hectare sports campus of Adidas is not only an architectural highlight, but also has lots to offer its more than 5,000 employees. The workplace concept of the sporting goods manufacturer is based on open, communal areas. Employees can use well-equipped workstations on a daily basis in a variety of areas, depending on their role.
The campus includes a well-equipped gym and several outdoor sports facilities for soccer, tennis, climbing and basketball. It’s even got its own stadium! The “Halftime” building offers company restaurants and meeting rooms, and there’s a company kindergarten named “World of Kids”.
Urban Sports Club
Not every company can provide its own gym or stadium for its employees. Fortunately, there are other ways to integrate sports into their everyday work life – for example, with a company membership from Urban Sports Club! Here, you can subsidize employee workouts – from a yoga class, a visit to the gym and beyond. Employees can choose their membership according to their preferences and needs – including on-site classes and online sports offers.
You can read more about examples of employee health promotion in this article.
Maintaining and promoting employee health benefits not only employees, but companies as well. By integrating employee health into your values and making it part of your company culture, you can increase your attractiveness as an employer and improve your chances in the fight for talent. Plus, you’ll increase employee satisfaction – and even reduce sick days and turnover rates. The best part? You can start with small, low-cost measures. For example, try offering meditation classes, ergonomic workstations, or subsidizing sports activities for your workforce.