Top 10 Ways to Create a Safe and Healthy Workforce

Workplace health and safety is a vital aspect for keeping people safe and managing risk, but also has lots of other positive side effects such as reducing sick days, boosting employee morale, and ultimately maintaining an organisation’s bottom-line. Learn how you can establish a safe and healthy workforce that will leave both employers and employees smiling with our top ten tips.

1. Mandatory Holidays

Ensure your staff take holidays and create a work environment where that’s possible. It’s important that you monitor your workplace culture to make sure your employees don’t feel pressured to avoid vacations. This can happen in competitive work-cultures that admire long hours and overtime.

In 2018, a Booking.com survey of 1000 working Aussies stated: “the equivalent of 2.4 million full time working Australians have gone without taking leave for more than a year, with 86% experiencing burnout as a result of not taking enough leave.”

The research exposed “Australia as a nation of workaholics, with only 31% of workers using all of their annual leave days each year.”

Working long stretches of time without taking a break has negative impacts both physically and mentally. Workplace stress can affect the body’s ability to resist infection and avoid injury. Workplace stress can also cause depression, irritability, and anxiety leading to poor concentration and productivity. Therefore, it’s ultimately in an employer’s best interest to promote and encourage regular, or even mandatory, holidays so that no one burns out on the job.

2. Pre-employment Medicals

Pre-employment medicals help employers in managing the safety and health of their workforce. They are designed to let an employer know how a position might need to be modified in order to accommodate a potential employee and to evaluate if an employee is healthy enough to take the job on offer. It is vital that employers make sure any potential employee will not be a danger to themselves or others in the position.

By performing pre-employment medicals on potential employees, a company can chart an employee’s health throughout their time with the company and even discover an unknown illness the potential employee may have been previously unaware of.

It is important to note that it violates anti-discrimination laws to block an individual from employment for any health issue not directly pertinent to the position they are applying for.

By performing consistent pre-employment medical checks, employers promote a safer work environment and reduce the overall costs associated with recruitment and insurances.

We provide pre-employment medicals and ongoing medicals that are catered to suit the needs of your business and particular job roles. At all of our facilities, we have qualified healthcare experts, supported by an innovative IT software designed and developed by WHA, that ensure your results are produced in a timely, cost efficient manner and always available. To book a pre-employment medical, please call our Australian Customer Service team here.

3. Ongoing On-site Health Checks

Pre-employment medicals won’t last forever. Make on-site health checks a regular policy and make it something your team can look forward to. Or, at the very least, not dread! Consider providing participation awards for any employee who faithfully undertakes an on-site health check each time they’re offered. You could also offer additional incentives that will promote positivity around health checks.

Ideas to encourage on-site health checks:

  • Provide a healthy lunch
  • Offer free coffee, tea, and healthy snacks (see our point about healthy snacks below)
  • Let staff leave early on health check day
  • Award bonuses to those who complete health-checks X years in a row

Studies show that over half of Australia’s citizens have high cholesterol, a leading cause of cardiovascular disease - one of the main causes of death in the country and across the world. There is a very real possibility that offering ongoing on-site medical tests throughout an employee’s time with the company might save an employee’s life.

According to WorkCover, ongoing on-site health checks reduce workplace injuries, downtime, worker’s compensation claims, and insurance costs, while promoting a happy and healthy workforce.

4. Acknowledge Your Aging Workforce

Australia’s workforce is aging. Studies show that as of January 2018, 13% of Australians aged 65 and over are participating in the workforce, and up to 15% of Australians are aged 65 and older.

With an aging workforce comes more risk of employees falling ill. Elderly people are at a greater risk of developing diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, and heart disease. It’s just one more reason to invest in ongoing on-site health checks.

But how else can employers adapt to the changing landscape of their current and prospective employees?

One option for employers to consider is offering sabbaticals and frequent vacation options for their older staff. Rather than looking to retirement as the moment they can finally rest, older employees can enjoy many of the perks of retirement while maintaining their career. With plenty of opportunities to rest and relax, older employees are at less risk of burning out or putting too much stress on their bodies.

Take time to consider the needs of your highly experienced aging workforce, especially as it continues to increase in size.

5. Embrace Nature With Plants Around the Office

This one may seem simple, but it really works.

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Plants in offices are known to increase happiness and productivity. You may think simplicity is best, but it turns out humans work better when they’re not trapped in sparse, cage-like cubicles.

Photographs, art, and other inspiration can help liven up a space and encourage creativity too, but plants offer even more benefits to your workplace. Here are Seven Benefits of Having Plants in Your Office, including cleaner air, reduced stress, reduced noise levels, and increased productivity.

Adding plants to your workspace could increase productivity by 15% according to a study out of the University of Exeter.

Your employees spend a huge portion of their lives in the work environment you provide. Doing whatever you can to make it as pleasant as possible will keep your staff happy, and in many cases, more productive.

6. Free Food! (Healthy Snacks)

People love free food. That’s a fact and it’s actually a science too.

📖 Read more about the science behind free food in: This Is Why Everyone Gets So Excited About Free Food At Work.

Offering healthy snacks at work will satisfy people's desire for free food and won’t leave your staff with a sugar crash mid-afternoon, plus it will provide them with a huge boost in vitamins and minerals. Synthetic alternatives like candy, chocolate, and other crunch snacks may be delicious, but they will hinder your employee’s concentration and productivity.

Fruits that have a long shelf-life and ones that have their own wrappers are perfect for an office fruit bowl.

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Try these common, durable fruits:

  • Apple
  • Banana
  • Orange
  • Tangerine
  • Grapefruit

Add a little excitement to your fruit bowl with:

  • Mango
  • Peach/Nectarine
  • Pomegranate
  • Kiwi
  • Lychee
  • Avocado

Vegetable trays are great too, and even more healthy, but these require more ongoing support to ensure continued freshness.

7. Promote Physical Activity and Fitness

Physical activity combats many of the health problems that can arise in a person’s life. Regular physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and mental illness.

There are a few things employers can do to ensure their employees are getting the exercise they need. Healthier Work suggests organising a corporate rate at a local gym, promoting the use of stairs over lifts, or simply reminding staff to get up and stretch instead of spending their whole day sitting at their desks.

8. Mental Health Awareness and Understanding

Society is slowly but surely gaining awareness and understanding of the complications that can arise from poor mental health and the root causes of mental illness.

A study from HeadsUp.org revealed that untreated mental health conditions can cost Australian workplaces upwards of nearly $11 billion per year, due to things like employee absenteeism and workplace compensation claims. 1 in 5 Australians acknowledged they had to take time off of work due to feeling “mentally unwell” in the year the study was conducted.

The same study showed that while 9 out of 10 Australian employees believe a mentally healthy workplace is critical for success, only 5 out of 10 believe their workplace provides a mentally healthy environment.

A business that empowers employees to seek the help they need leads to greater productivity and wellbeing among staff and better financial security for the company.

9. Work Flexibility

A recent study concluded “workers at a Fortune 500 company who participated in a pilot work flexibility program voiced higher levels of job satisfaction and reduced levels of burnout and psychological stress than employees within the same company who did not participate.”

Participating employees who received more flexibility reported:

  • Control over their schedules
  • More time spent with family
  • Decreased burnout
  • Decreased stress
  • Decreased psychological distress
  • Greater job satisfaction

Providing work-life balance is vital to attracting and retaining employees. Flexibility is a growing concern for workforces in general, but for millennials, flexibility is even more important. When compared to gen X and baby boomers, millennials value flexible work options over all other factors. A FlexJobs survey of 3000 found that 82 percent of millennials cite work flexibility as a factor when evaluating a prospective job.

Providing flexibility doesn’t only refer to the rise of remote work. It can, but there are other ways you can provide flexibility to your workforce.

Consider these options that encourage flexibility inside and outside the workplace:

  • Offer flexible hours (ex. 9-5 plus or minus 2)
  • Allow employees to set their own hours
  • Work-from-home Fridays
  • Extended lunch breaks
  • Allocated time off for physical activity
  • Yearly or monthly “no questions asked” mental health days

The idea of letting your employees work from home, even on occasion, may sound scary but there are employer benefits too:

  • No more missed work days because of bad weather.
  • No more missed work days because of traffic or a road accident.
  • No more missed work days because a child’s school is closed.
  • No more missed work days because a child or loved one is sick.
  • No more missed work days because an employee is feeling better, but might still be contagious.

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Jason Fried, author of Remote: Office Not Required says: “if you can’t let your employees work from home out of fear they’ll slack off without your supervision, you’re a babysitter, not a manager. Remote work is very likely the least of your problems.”

Allowing employees more flexibility in any way builds trust between you and your staff.

10. Implement Work Smarter, Not Harder

Studies show that one-sixth of working Australians are on the job 49 hours or more a week and Health Direct claims Australians work some of the longest hours of anyone in developed countries.

Do you want your employees working as many hours as possible, or do you want them reaching quality results? Does it matter if an employee works 38 hours a week or 60 hours a week if they are achieving the same results at the end of the day?

Make “work smarter, not harder” a philosophy of your business. The results will speak for themselves and your employees will appreciate you for it!

📖 Read Inc’s article: 5 Scientifically Proven Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder.

Working longer hours does not equal increased productivity. In fact, the stress of working long hours can spark poor decision making, workplace mistakes, and anxiety.

📖 Learn more about the Negative Effects of Working Long Hours.

Overworking is no longer idolised in progressive, healthy workplaces. Replace this mindset with the importance of balancing work, sleep, exercise, family, leisure, and more.

So there you have it! There are our top ten tips to creating a safe and healthy workforce. If your business is looking to implement health and wellness programs in the workplace, or is considering conducting pre-employment and/or ongoing medicals either on or off-site, contact us today.