Creating a Healthy and Supportive Workplace Environment April 8th, 2010, by Ken Buckley

Health professionals widely agree that fostering a supportive workplace environment is a fundamental part of implementing a successful corporate health program.

Creating a Supportive Workplace Environment

Simply put, workplaces that provide and encourage a healthy environment have healthier employees. Most employees spend nearly half of their waking hours in the workplace.

By developing a supportive environment and culture, organisations are able to make better use of their workplace health program initiatives, increasing participation and enabling the achievement of long term positive health outcomes.

Improving the physical environment and implementing healthy policies can significantly affect a wide range of behaviours and habits. Start by assessing the workplace environment in terms of where and how it supports employees to improve their overall health.

How much exercise do they get on the job? Is there access to nutritious food? Are colleagues supportive of each other’s health goals? What sorts of policies have been implemented to minimise stress? Develop a workplace health committee and work with management to improve policies and facilities to target any areas that come up short. Below are a few suggestions.

Improving the Physical Environment

  • Make it easier for employees to walk, run or cycle to work by providing bicycle storage, showers and lockers.
  • Invest in onsite fitness equipment, or organise a discount at a local recreation facility or gym.
  • Invest in a Corporate Health and Wellbeing program implemented throughout the year.
  • Reconsider any unhealthy food or drink items in vending machines.
  • Provide a microwave and refrigerator so employees can bring their own healthy meals.
  • Put up posters that encourage healthy behaviours, e.g. information about quitting smoking, the food pyramid etc.

Improving the Policy Environment

  • Implement worksite policies to improve stress management such as overtime management and flexible work hours.
  • Support regular physical activity in the form of walking breaks. Identify and encourage the use of any safe paths nearby the workplace.
  • Encourage the use of stairs over the elevator/escalator.
  • Negotiate breaks for exercise, such as a longer lunch hour.
  • If you have a cafeteria, ensure it serves healthy food and drinks.
  • Provide healthy catering at meetings and events, for example fresh wholegrain sandwiches and fruit platters instead of cakes and biscuits.
  • Start a company sports team or league such as cricket or soccer.
  • Support participation and time to attend Health & Wellbeing initiatives implemented as part of cultural Health & Wellbeing program.
  • Organise a fun run.

Remember that the key to the success of any corporate health program is supporting employees to make healthy choices. A supportive environment encourages the maintenance of newly acquired healthy behaviours, enabling a healthier, happier and more productive workplace in the long run.

For more information on implementing a corporate health program and/or creating a supportive workplace environment, contact Healthworks on 1300 90 10 90 (International: IDD 61-2-9954-1888 ) and be sure to quote: “post162″ for eligibility of Healthworks latest online offers and Corporate Health initiatives.

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