Guide to Environmental Wellness
For the purpose of this article, we are going to define “Environmental Wellness” as: How design, operations, and behaviors within the workplace can be optimized to advance human health and wellbeing.
Did you know?
Humans spend 90% of their time inside buildings
We also work 62,400 hours of our lives (assuming 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, and 30 years as our timeline)
80% of adults in the U.S. go through their day at least mildly dehydrated
Harsh, inconsistent, or glare-filled lighting over the course of 8-10 hour workdays is a prominent cause of sleep disorders and causation of headaches, affecting productivity
Worker performance can be lowered by 66% when distracted by office noise, while even a 4% – 6% decline in productivity can be measured when building temperatures are non-optimal
Having elements of greenery and nature incorporated report a 15% increase in employee well being, a 6% increase in productivity, and a 15% increase in creativity.
Because we spend so much time at work, we as HR professionals and key players in making change happen in our workspaces can have a huge effect on how these spaces impact employees’ health and wellness goals. The goal is to remove barriers to success by amending the environment. Some of these changes are simple, while others require planning ahead of a new construct or majorly overhauling your current buildings.
The three factors to environmental wellness include 1. Policies and Procedures, 2. Social Supports, and 3. The Built Environment.
Here is your basic guide to evaluating your facilities to help your employees be successful:
Ensure you have a kitchen or common area/break room with microwave, fridge, sink, utensils, and/or dishwasher. This will encourage employees to bring lunch instead of eating out
Filtered/drinkable water accessible
Indoor & outdoor walking paths marked (doesn’t have to be a physical path – take some steps or a measuring device and figure out mile markers, in or outdoors)
Basketball hoops (or similar activity) in the parking lot
Vending machine overhaul. Require 50% of your machines have healthy options, move unhealthy options lower while moving healthy options to eye level, or inflate prices of unhealthy options in order to make healthier foods more affordable and accessible. At least post nutrition facts about the contents on the outside of the machine so employees have the knowledge to make better choices.
Lively and energetic paint colors on the wall
Allow standing desks (or better yet, use standing desks as an exciting prize to one of your wellness contests!)
Wellness bulletin board. A designated area to communicate all things wellness.
Paintwork or artwork on walls in facility. You can even have an employee art contest to highlight their talents and engage employees in voting to choose the winners to be hung.
Talk to maintenance about regulating temperatures and keeping air moving
Hopscotch boards on the floor entering meeting rooms or bathrooms. Extra steps, a quicker pulse, and unavoidably, a smile.
Outdoor seating area (picnic table or bench) to get some fresh air, vitamin D, and eat lunch (prevents more frequent trips to get fast food)
Stairwells? Make them more attractive by painting the walls (FUN, employee work, not just normal paint colors, although that will help), having music in the stairwell, or having fun facts posted about taking the stairs v. the elevator and how it’s better for your health.
Elevators? Put prompts outside of elevator about stair health facts (calories burned, muscles used, elevated heart rate, blood flow, etc.)
Bigger Overhauls – natural lighting (skylights or moving workspaces towards windows) & dedicated Well Mom lactation rooms
Unhealthy food laying around – must have healthy options next to a candy dish
Catered lunch – if the organization is catering in lunch for meetings with people larger than 4 people, healthy options must be available for a choice
Nicotine free campus
Make clear if employees can use yoga balls at their desks or if that is a hazard in your organization
Walk Well Wednesdays Club
Working mother groups
Saturday 5K training groups
Community events groups – Relay for Life, Heart Walk activities
Weight loss groups