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10 ways to… Create a healthy work environment

Archived content

This page has been archived because it is no longer current information but is still relevant, or it is current but over 12 months old
  • Publish date: 15 February 2011
  • Archived on: 19 February 2012

A happy, healthy and comfortable work environment is important for your staff – and can be achieved without spending a fortune. It boosts productivity and morale while acknowledging the time spent in an office.

Small Business Update

This update was published in Small Business Update 86 - February 2011

Small Business Update from Atom Content Marketing is a monthly magazine for people running their own business. Articles vary in length and cover 'hot topics', issues of importance, and current affairs.

  1. A happy employee is a productive employee. People who enjoy their jobs are likely to engage more thoroughly with their work. It is in your interest to keep staff happy; otherwise, resentment could start to impact on the quality of their work or they may even consider leaving.
  2. Comply with health and safety legislation. Legally you are obliged to observe certain rules, such as carrying out a risk assessment (The Business Link website was replaced on 17 October 2012 but no direct equivalent to this page has been included in the new website. The archived guidance is now available through the UK Government Web Archive.) to identify hazards in your work environment and ensuring basic levels of comfort. Minimum workplace standards include proper sanitation, access to drinking water and sufficient ventilation.
  3. Are you sitting comfortably? Research by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has shown that back pain is one of the biggest causes of absenteeism in the UK, so it makes sense to consider investing in office equipment designed for people who sit in front of computers for any length of time. Repetitive strain injury (RSI) can occur by repeating the same movement – for example, clicking a mouse – many times but an ergonomic keyboard or mouse will reduce the risk.
  4. Engage with different personalities. Every workplace has a mix of characters, and what works to motivate one will not necessarily help others. Get to know your employees and find out whether a hands-on approach or more independence will help them.
  5. Set out a clear and fair staff policy. This should apply to all employees – regardless of their seniority. If a manager consistently misses deadlines you should take it as seriously as you would with a junior employee, or you could find that individuals become resentful. If your policy changes, ensure everyone knows about it.
  6. Encourage managerial responsibility. Your managers should set an example to their teams both in how they carry out their work and how they behave in the workplace. Bullying, harassment and favouritism are unacceptable.
  7. Get the right balance. Whether it's an employee who daydreams in meetings, or one who works late into the night, help your staff strike the right work-life balance. Research by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy suggests that only one in four workers takes regular breaks – which increases the risk of chronic musculoskeletal disorders, depression and other stress-related illnesses that can cause long-term absenteeism.
  8. Get healthy. Particularly if your environment is office-based, your employees may lead a sedentary lifestyle which could lead to long-term illness. Whether it's offering reduced membership to a local gym or signing up for the Government's Green Transport Initiative – which provides tax-free bicycles – encourage your staff to get active.
  9. Team building. Keep relationships within the office healthy by scheduling teambuilding activities. These can range from going out for a meal to an HR development event.
  10. Relax. The best way to find out whether staff are happy and your work environment is healthy is to be approachable – that way, if there are any problems, your employees will not hesitate to come to you. Deal with problems as soon as possible and regularly ask for feedback on how your workplace could be improved.