Healthy and Relaxed Workplaces

05/09/2014

There are many ways to develop a healthy workplace, from simple changes in schedules and staffing through to detailed reviews and new programs.  In order to create working changes that benefit both individuals and the bottom line, it's essential to create ongoing and sustainable changes that can shift over time.  Some of the world's biggest businesses have done just this, by combining a detailed health philosophy with specific programs designed to enhance the health of employees.

Google are perhaps the most famous example of workplace innovation, with Google employees around the world offered more freedom than your average office worker.  Along with free meals, free exercise classes, and free health insurance, Google employees are also allowed access to special relaxation rooms and scooters to travel between offices.  According to Shannon Stephenson, an HR specialist for Google, “We look at health in a holistic way. It’s not only physical, but also emotional, and financial...  We want health to be as easy and accessible for our staff as possible.”

While not many companies offer the same perks as Google, more businesses around the world are learning that it pays to be nice.  For example, the Swisse offices in Sydney and Melbourne offer a free healthy breakfast to early starters, with naturopaths and dieticians also on-board and staff allowed one "health and happiness day" a month.  According to Swisse CEO Radek Sali, “Every employee’s own health is essential to our culture... The most tangible effect is the reduction in sick leave by 50 percent; we get it back in droves with our workers’ attitudes, too... People feel very proud of working here.”

According to the Australian Psychological Society, an emphasis on employee health is essential for businesses on the lookout for strong organisational performance.  Absenteeism, high turnover rates, and reduced productivity have all been linked to workplace stress, with a healthy and relaxed workforce translating directly to a healthy business.  Workplace stress is the second most common cause of workers compensation claims after manual handling, so businesses have a number of incentives to create a healthy workplace environment.

Workplace health programs like those implemented at Google may seem warm and fluffy, but studies have shown they have profound practical benefits for employees and businesses alike.  While free healthy food, complimentary exercise classes, and scooters are likely to remain a novelty in most modern workplaces, attitudes will continue to change as the links between employee well-being and business performance get too obvious to ignore.