The pandemic continues to take a toll worldwide, significantly compromising people’s physical, mental, and emotional health, and workplaces have been among the most severely affected. As companies and employees adjust to a new normal of remote and hybrid workplaces and new stressors, cultivating a workplace with healthy employees is the need of the hour. 

In the coming sections, we deep dive into why and how employee health is (and should be) the foundation of an organization’s goals.

What Does Employee Health Mean?

Employee health refers not only to physical health, but mental and emotional health as well. This means employees can also cope with workplace pressures and manage their stress and emotions productively aside from being physically fit. Employee health is important whether your team works in a remote, hybrid, or office setting. 

While it incurs some costs, investing in healthy employees is more cost-effective for organizations in the long run. Neglecting to support your employees’ health can lead to mounting insurance claims, sick pay, compensation costs, and the like.

Neglecting to support your employees’ health can lead to mounting insurance claims, sick pay, compensation costs, and the like.

In the US alone, companies are losing billions of dollars due to employee absenteeism and hampered productivity. Even when unwell or stressed employees log in to work, they may not be as productive and may only be showing up to avoid their supervisor’s wrath or losing their leaves or income.

Healthy Employees: An Important Factor For Workplace Productivity

Compromised employee health puts companies in a tough financial position. Companies need to plan an environment that prioritizes healthy employees on the same scale as expansion plans or other strategic business decisions.

RELATED: Healthy Employees 2023 – The Best Employee Wellness Program Ideas and Strategies

Prioritizing Healthy Employees

A company culture that promotes employee health has the following goals:

  • Increasing job satisfaction and morale
  • Letting employees feel appreciated and respected
  • Reducing workplace absenteeism and presenteeism
  • Retaining staff and crafting better growth opportunities
  • Maintaining an atmosphere of unbiased processes, inclusivity, equality, and diversity
  • Promoting healthy interactions between coworkers and top management

Companies that prioritize and invest in employee health demonstrate that they recognize and value their employees’ contributions to the business and their role in its success.

A workplace that pushes its employees to be more productive without managing their health can fall into a vicious cycle. Ill and exhausted employees rarely work to the best of their abilities.

  • sick leave rates go up
  • employee turnover increases
  • workloads multiply
  • overworked employees are pressured to pick up the slack

Alternatively, a company that prioritizes its employees’ health promotes an engaging, inspiring, and motivating atmosphere in the workplace. Team members meet their targets and deadlines, are productive, and have a healthy work-life balance, which contributes to the company’s success. 

RELATED: 4 Ways the Best Employee Wellness Programs Improve Employee Health

What Is The Role Of Employee Health?

According to the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) research, employee health is linked to higher productivity, better morale, engagement, and corporate success. In the survey, over 90% of businesses agreed that performance (quality of work) and productivity (quantity of work) improved after employee wellness was prioritized.

Meanwhile, neglecting employee health was linked to sickness, reduced engagement levels, burnout, and stress. Coupled with worries triggered by geopolitical tensions and disease outbreaks, employees everywhere are finding it increasingly hard to cope.

Therefore, most companies are now prioritizing wellness and having healthy employees. After all, the success of an organization lies on the shoulders of its workforce.

The success of an organization lies on the shoulders of its workforce.

healthy employees

Factors In The Workplace Environment That Affect Employees’ Performance

Many factors in the workplace affect an employees’ health, productivity, and performance. Companies can conduct anonymous surveys to assess how employees think and feel about their workplace environment.

This will encourage employees to answer questions honestly, giving HR teams and employers a sound basis to craft and implement solutions that promote and support employee health and wellness. Surveys also serve as discreet avenues for employees to anonymously share pain points or suggestions to improve their working environment without fear of reprisal. 

Here are some factors that affect employee performance.

Not Investing in a Digital Work Environment

Digital tools help employers:

  • train employees on workflows and processes
  • conduct workshops and skill development programs
  • communicate in real-time
  • track productivity and performance metrics

They have become even more critical in the new normal of remote and hybrid working. Without the right tools, employees can struggle with disjointed work environments that do not foster productivity and performance. 

RELATED: 7 Ways a Virtual Wellness Program Makes Employees Healthy

Management Style

It is said that the tone at the top trickles down to the bottom. Good management motivates, generates, improves, and sustains high performance in employees, and ultimately their engagement and satisfaction.

Alternatively, poor management can severely cripple productivity, growth, performance, and morale. Companies should stay on top of how their departments are run to assess whether poor management is impacting employees’ health.

Physical Work Environment

Whether in office, remote, or hybrid arrangements, employees need physical settings conducive to work that helps them feel relaxed and positive. Corporate spaces such as Google and Facebook, for instance, have dedicated spaces to help employees unwind or feel at home with games and sports equipment.

physical work environment for employee health

Studies show that simply adjusting the temperature, lighting, and furniture arrangement in your office can positively affect your team’s health, mood, and productivity.

Check out this interesting study on how the concept of biophilia—a human’s innate connection to nature—can be integrated into offices to create a healthy working environment.

Corporate Culture

Every company has its own distinct corporate culture. For example, a company could value “grittiness” and reward employees who work overtime and are always on call, while another could enforce healthy work-life balances through company policies.

While there is no right or wrong corporate culture, a misalignment between a company’s values and its employees’ ideal working styles can lead to added stress, affecting their physical and mental health. 

Job Workflow and Processes

Employees who work within mundane, robotic workflows or are not constantly challenged may get bored easily, negatively affecting their performance and productivity. Additionally, employees who don’t feel valued are at the risk of suffering from depression, isolation, and a general lack of motivation.

Benefits Of A Healthy Workforce

You don’t need a survey or statistics to tell you that employees who love their job and what they do are often happier and healthier. Two things matter most when encouraging high performance and productivity — how employees feel and how serious employers are about their well-being and health.

It’s simple—healthy employees significantly contribute to a company’s bottom line. Here’s how:

  1. Cuts major costs: Companies can save tons of money on healthcare costs by providing lower insurance rates to those who fall sick less often. This could encourage employees to take care of their health, take fewer sick leaves, and file fewer claims related to major illnesses.
Research by the National Council on Compensation Insurance showed that a growing number of obese workers filed expensive compensation claims compared to non-obese workers, amounting to billions of dollars spent every year by companies.
  1. Better productivity and performance: Employees who follow a healthy and active lifestyle tend to feel good about themselves and are more productive. Companies that support their employees’ wellness through fixed working hours, paid compensation for overtime, two-day weekends, and health/wellness programs will see a remarkable shift in employee productivity and performance.
productivity and improvement in the workplace
  1. Strong morale and image: Employees who feel valued and cared for at the office tend to have higher morale, which spills over into their family and social life. They are also more likely to speak well about their employer, which can boost a company’s image and standing in the community. Ultimately, when a company invests in its people, it invests in itself.
The World Health Organization notes that: “In addition to person-focused interventions, workforce health promotion initiatives have moved toward a more comprehensive approach, which acknowledges the combined influence of personal, environmental, organizational, community and societal factors on employee well-being.”
  1. Talent acquisition: Hiring and replacing staff can be costly and time-consuming. As companies compete to recruit the best talent, they also need to consider what value they can add, so their employees stay back. Increasingly, people are driven by more than just salary when choosing a company. 

To attract and retain talent, employees can offer appropriate healthcare, childcare, wellness/health programs, retirement benefits, personal education opportunities, and growth opportunities that set them apart from competitors.

According to this Aflac report, 60% of employees agreed to a job that offered lower pay but more benefits. Another 16% of applicants said they’d left or turned down offers because they weren’t happy with the benefits offered.

RELATED: How to Design Wellness Programs That Are Successful 2023 Updated

Ways To Encourage Employee Health

Thinking of starting a wellness program to encourage employee health? There are questions you’re going to want to ask and things to consider when evaluating a plan best for your employees.

Let’s look at a few simple but effective ways companies can nurture an environment of good health and wellness:

Practice What You Preach

Even though employees are off the clock during their lunch hour, this doesn’t mean you should neglect them. Lunchtime gives employees a chance to decompress and refuel. Don’t just tell your employees to eat healthy, but show them you’re serious about their health.

Lunch breaks that are at least an hour-long give employees enough time to eat at a steady pace without rushing. Ensure they step away from their stations to enjoy a well-deserved lunch. This will help them sustain their energy levels and concentration throughout the day. 

Meanwhile, companies with cafeterias or pantries can promote healthy eating by:

  • Swapping fried and oily foods with baked snacks
  • Introducing freshly prepared salads and fat-friendly dressings such as olive oil, nut butter, or balsamic vinegar
  • Keeping a juicer in the kitchen and ditching packaged drinks
  • Placing a roomy fridge in the kitchen, so that employees can bring in home-cooked meals
  • Offering fruits, nuts, or protein bars to encourage mindful snacking during breaks

Managing Stress

Long hours, unpredictable situations, and deadlines contribute to workplace stress. Studies show that stress is one of the leading causes of absenteeism in the workplace. Implementing programs that help employees manage stress can boost mental and emotional health, productivity, and morale.

Stress is one of the leading causes of absenteeism in the workplace.

Here’s how you can help your team manage stress:

supporting stress for employees
  • Conduct on-site meditation classes 
  • Distribute free resources like books and pamphlets on stress management
  • Take employees on weekend retreats
  • Host talks with stress management experts
  • Implement four-day workweeks
  • Give employees the option of working from home instead of spending long hours in the office
  • Create a childcare space for new parents
  • Dedicate spaces where employees can decompress, such as a small library

RELATED: 24 Ways Employers Can Manage Stress at Work (Use Them Today)

Get Moving

More companies are offering fitness programs or providing gym facilities to promote better health among their employees. However, when planning a fitness program, it’s important to understand your team’s preferences and abilities to encourage participation. For example, some people may prefer yoga, while others may prefer more strenuous activities or team sports. 

Here’s how you can promote physical fitness programs in your workplace:

  • Distribute sign-up sheets for group workout sessions in or out of the office
  • Establish a dedicated workout space in the office so employees can work out when time permits
  • Organize company-led marathons or walkathons
  • Organize after-work yoga classes
  • Subsidize gym memberships or provide discounted fitness sessions with a fitness coach
  • Implement incentive-based programs that encourage employees to meet personal health goals

Mental Health Checks

Given the stigma that unfortunately still surrounds mental health, some employees may be too embarrassed to ask for help. Companies that are open and supportive of mental health initiatives encourage their employees to come forward and seek assistance on their own.

Here’s how you can implement and foster a compassionate and positive atmosphere:

  • Organize free private consultations with a mental health professional
  • Arrange mental health seminars with experts
  • Sign up to become a StigmaFree company through the National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • Provide safe channels for employees to raise mental health concerns
  • Share mental health content on office chats or bulletin boards

RELATED: 10 Tips to Implement Mindfulness in the Workplace

Remote Wellness Initiatives

Remote workers can feel isolated from team members, leading to stress and depression. Extend the same benefits to employees working from home to keep them engaged, active, and interested in your new wellness programs. Encouraging collaboration between team members in person or online will also reduce feelings of isolation. 

remote working wellness

Frequently Asked Questions on Employee Health

Do Healthy Employees Perform Better?

Employees who maintain healthy lifestyles tend to perform better and manage their stress and time more efficiently. They are more likely to have better energy levels and are less likely to get sick.  

Are Healthy Employees Happier?

Various studies have highlighted that healthy employees tend to be happier than unhealthy employees. Illness, stress, and emotional and mental pressures can affect an employee, leading to depression and a lack of motivation.  

Next Steps for Healthy Employees

It may seem overwhelming on figuring out how to put together a wellness program inside your organization. Here at WellSteps we’re here to help! We know that just taking the first step and looking at a demo of what we can do with you for your employees is the best way to get moving in the right direction.

Schedule a free demo with our team right here today!

About The Author

Dr. Steve Aldana

Dr. Aldana is the CEO of Wellsteps, a worksite wellness solution that leads the nation in wellness program deployment and engagement. Dr. Aldana authored over 75 scientific papers and 7 books on health risk management, healthy living, and health promotion programs. He has given over 350 keynote speeches across the U.S. on the ability of good nutrition and regular exercise to prevent, arrest, and reverse many chronic diseases.