OPI asked the experts what their definition of a healthy workplace is:
Gavin Bradley, Founding Director, Active Working:
The definition is evolving. My personal vision is that we must take a holistic approach to balanced nutrition and intermittent physical activity, coupled with an intolerance of excessive sitting and inactivity. In particular, the ‘battery hen’ conditions that office workers face – such as confined spaces in which people are expected to sit for long periods – is radically addressed, ie access to sit-stand desks, stairs and walking meetings. According to the international expert statement guidelines, commissioned by Active Working and PHE in 2015, we need to reduce sitting time in offices by at least two hours progressing eventually to four hours.
Stuart Hall, Interior Designer at Commercial Group:
First and foremost, a healthy workplace needs to meet basic human needs. It should have adequate bathroom facilities, good ventilation and comfortable ambient conditions. If these core factors aren’t satisfactory, innovative furnishings and interior design are pointless.
Physical health is only one half of the equation; emotional health is also important.
Betsey Banker, Wellness Market Manager, Ergotron:
There are a lot of ways to approach this. From a physical perspective, workers should have access to ergonomics such as supportive workstation furniture that allows them to fit their technology to their personal needs, ie chair height, keyboard height and monitor height. Healthy movement such as changing postures using sit-stand workstations or attending standing meetings should be supported.
Steve Plaistowe, Senior Channel Manager, Fellowes:
A healthy workplace can be defined in many ways. For most businesses, their staff are their most valuable asset, and looking after staff by encouraging healthy work lifestyles (and by providing the infrastructure around this) can make significant differences in business performance.
Healthy workplaces can encompass many things. From the more obvious physical elements of good seating, ergonomics, lighting, ventilation, heating and other ‘touchable’ items, to encouragement of good diet through provision of fresh water and healthy foods. This should also be combined with exercise opportunities such as subsidised cycle purchases, gym memberships and ‘walking lunches’, through to support for mental challenges such as stress and anxiety counselling.
Mike Stearns, Technical Safety Specialist, Grainger:
The term ‘healthy workplace’ is still evolving, but generally it’s a workplace that takes a holistic approach to employee safety and health, while accepting accountability for the overall safety and health of the community.
In essence, an organisation that creates a healthy workplace is one that sees itself as more than just an employer; it’s also a business that sees the value in contributing to the overall well-being of the community it calls home.
Matt Tuffee, Head of Foodservice UK & Ireland, Keurig Green Mountain:
It’s pretty simple. A healthy workplace is one which puts the well-being and happiness of its people first. Ensuring the day-to-day comfort of employees is prioritised is crucial if we are to have a productive workforce that doesn’t suffer from Sunday night dread. From ensuring there is enough daylight to offering workplace assessments, a healthy workplace is a space in which people are comfortable and accommodated.
Kylie Roth, Senior Director, Workplace Research, Knoll:
You’ve got to start with the basics. If people aren’t physically healthy and/or have good environments that support them physically, they can’t think about other things that are going to lead to higher levels of well-being such as engagement.
Employees need access to natural light, water, food and ergonomic furniture. If they’re sitting in a chair and their back hurts all day, they’re not going to think: “I can’t wait to come to work and think about how I can connect and give more to my office.” They’re going to think, “my back hurts all day long”. Deal with the basics and then you can start to think about how to create spaces that really connect people. Research says that people who have a best friend at work are happier and typically stay longer within the organisation, so connections really do matter within the workplace.
Arnuad Bouchez, Group Category Director, Workplace Safety; Isabelle Huguet, Group Category Director, Life@work, Lyreco:
At Lyreco, we view the healthy workplace as a full concept rather than isolated elements. We have put in place a category management approach with Workplace Safety and Life@work and the development of these two areas demonstrates their importance to us.
When we talk about a healthy workplace, we actually refer to the combination of three components:
1. A company’s basic compliance with safety regulations preventing risk at the workplace: this covers fire & escape, accessibility & circulation, and workplace safety.
2. A healthy workplace includes the work environment and different tools and equipment that will prevent health issues (big or small) for employees. This area covers air & temperature control, lighting, ergonomics, hygiene, etc.
3. Another field of interest for the healthy workplace is wellness which encompasses general well-being, good working conditions, proper breaks, working hours, work/life balance, etc. Every company can decide to invest or not in this area, but it is becoming an increasingly important retention criteria for employees.
The first two components are "must-haves" and fall under Health & Safety regulations.
Look out for more on the healthy workplace in the 2017 Green Thinking supplement later this year.