Every good manager wants their staff to be happy, healthy and productive. But when you've got books to balance, rotas to manage, and leave requests to juggle, the matter of your staff's mental and physical health sometimes falls by the wayside.
That's why we're taking a few minutes today to share our top tips for helping your team stay in tip-top condition, touching upon everything from healthy snacking habits to ensuring that your employees use their annual leave wisely.
Ready to give your team the health injection they need? Let's go!
Why your staff's health matters
With so many of us travelling to work by car or public transport, only to then spend our days sitting in front of a computer, we tend to lead far more sedentary lives than those our parents and grandparents led.
In fact, according to a 2017 report from the British Heart Foundation, roughly 20 million UK adults are now classed as physically inactive. Add to this the recent concerns over the amount of sugar we consume, and it's fair to say that we're not in the best of shape.
Even if you'd rather leave the matter of your employees' health to your employees, it's worth noting that an estimated 137.3 million working days were lost due to sickness or injury in the UK in 2016 — something that small businesses often feel the impact of, due to having fewer staff around to provide cover.
On the flip-side, employees who are in good health tend to be happier, more productive, and work better as a team. They're also more likely to stick around, reducing staff turnover and the cost involved with training new employees.
It clearly pays, then, to take an interest in the health of your employees and to do what you can to encourage good habits. But how can you do that without coming across as a busybody or encroaching on your staff's personal lives? Below, we've set out eight ways that you can help your staff stay in shape — without breaking the bank.
1. Ask staff to spread out their holidays
Employees who are well rested are less prone to burn-out during busy periods. All too often, however, salaried staff have a habit of using up their annual leave in big chunks, taking several weeks off in one go and leaving themselves with little to fall back on for the remainder of the year.
Instead, try encouraging your staff to spread their holidays throughout the year, taking two or three days here and there rather than two or three weeks all at once. That way, they'll have regular opportunities to refresh and de-stress, returning to work rested but without the feeling that they won't have another substantial break for months to come.
There are things to consider when taking this approach, of course, and you'll have to make sure that your employees can easily keep track of their remaining holiday time. But by taking shorter, frequent breaks, your staff's performance is less likely to peak and trough throughout the year, and they'll be less likely to fall ill as a result of fatigue.
2. Have a proper break area
A break isn't a break if you're still checking your emails, discussing work-related matters, or surrounded by people who are still beavering away. It's essential, therefore, that your employees are able to move away from their workstations and have the option of focusing on something unrelated to their jobs during break-time.
A separate break room (or simply a designated break area if you're working in an open-plan office) will allow your team to get the downtime they need. Plus, by moving to a break area, your staff are able to signal to their coworkers that they're momentarily "off the clock" and should not be disturbed by phone calls or work-related queries.
By stepping away from their desks for a few minutes, your team will also have an opportunity to stretch, rehydrate, and get away from their computer screens — all things that, if left unchecked, can lead to recurring health problems.
3. Stock up on healthy snacks
It's easy to fall into bad snacking habits when you work in an office — goodness knows we've been guilty of abusing the biscuit barrel here at RotaCloud in the past.
But desk work and sugary snacks can be a dangerous combination, leading to weight gain, lethargy, and in extreme cases cardiovascular problems and obesity.
Instead of simply banning things like biscuits and crisps, however, why not stock up on snacks that are a little kinder to your employees' arteries?
These needn't be expensive; fruit, nuts, low-sugar popcorn and even dry cereal make great workplace treats, and are relatively cheap compared to things like biscuits and chocolate.
Often, it's the act of snacking rather than the things we're snacking on that we become addicted to — simply by substituting those fatty, sugary snacks with something lighter, you can help your employees lose weight without going hungry.
4. Subsidise gym memberships
Consider offering gym membership at a reduced rate to encourage your employees to sign up and get regular exercise.
Many gyms and sports clubs offer discounts to local businesses and employers who buy membership in bulk or regularly refer their staff — take advantage and make your team aware that, as a company perk, they can join the gym for less than they could normally.
By giving your staff access to training facilities and classes, they'll have a chance to blow off some steam, burn some calories, and even unwind with a nice hot sauna or yoga session — all essential for maintaining a healthy body and mind both in and out of the workplace.
5. Start a cycle-to-work scheme
Cycle-to-work schemes give employers the opportunity to purchase bikes and cycling equipment that they can loan to their employees in exchange for monthly payments (usually taken direct from their salary). Staff can also purchase the bikes at a reduced rate as part of a hire-purchase scheme, saving themselves a considerable amount of money.
The bikes and equipment are tax deductible so long as they're used for commuting, but the best part is that, by providing your staff with an alternative way of getting to work, you'll also be helping them make exercise a part of their daily routine rather than something they have to make time for.
Ready to get your staff on their bikes? You can learn more about cycle-to-work schemes here.
6. Sponsor a walk, run or cycle event
A great way to get your staff moving (and build some team spirit while they're at it!) is to hold a sponsored walk, run, or cycling event.
Depending on your employees' fitness levels, you could arrange anything from a five-mile hike to a half-marathon, donating any money raised to a good cause.
In truth, it doesn't really matter what the event is or the amount of money you raise — even if it only takes up a single afternoon, by preparing for it your staff will gradually build up their fitness levels and get into a habit of exercising regularly.
If you feel that you lack the time or facilities to organise a charity event, then encourage your staff to form walking or cycling groups of their own and to meet regularly on weekends — the bonding they'll do is sure to do them as much good as the exercise!
7. Talk about mental health
Your employees' mental health is just as important as their physical health, with one frequently affecting the other.
All too often, the reason we feel overwhelmed at work or push ourselves to breaking point is because the subject of mental health is still considered taboo by some and admitting to feeling overwhelmed is interpreted as a sign of weakness. We could already be on the road to recovery if we discussed the problems we were having, but unless it's a physical ailment, we tend to keep it to ourselves.
By taking the lead on the discussion about mental health, however, you'll be encouraging others to speak up and ask for help when they need it.
Start by ensuring that your staff know who they can turn to if they're struggling with things like stress or depression, and provide outlets for them to do so. Include contact details and procedures for opening up dialogues in your employee handbook, and make the subject of mental health a key point in your employee onboarding process.
8. Wage war on colds and flu
One of the easiest ways to keep your staff physically healthy and showing up for work is to keep your office as germ-free as possible.
They might be 'common', but colds, coughs, and flu can bring a small businesses to their knees, knocking out multiple staff at once and quickly rending their way through the entire office due to the close proximity of staff.
Set procedures for what staff should do when they fall ill and are at risk of infecting others; educate your team on the importance of things like hand sanitisation; discourage eating at desks (computer keyboards are known to be hives for bugs and germs); you could even arrange for on-site vaccinations during flu season to save your staff the hassle of visiting their GP.
There are plenty of ways you can prevent the spread of coughs and colds at work — check out our 10 tips for surviving cold & flu season for more inspiration.
Ultimately, it's down to you as a manager or business owner to foster the kind of culture that you'd like to see within your company. By adopting healthy habits yourself and striking a good work-life balance, it's possible to effect change simply by going about your day.
So book those holidays early, get plenty of rest, work from home when you're contagious, work out when you're not, and steer your team away from those sweet treats unless it's a special occasion.
Over time, the little changes will start to add up and you can make a big difference!
Looking for more ways to keep your team smiling and your business running smoothly? Check out the rest of our articles on the RotaCloud Small Business Success Blog.