Are You Endangering Your Employees’ Health?
by Rieva Lesonsky
With companies of all sizes seeking to cut healthcare costs and avoid penalties imposed by the Affordable Care Act, we’re hearing lots of news about instituting workplace wellness programs as a way to promote a healthier workforce.
Workplace practices such as ergonomic office spaces, meditation, mid-day naps, standing desks and walking meetings are being put forth as ways to create a healthier workforce.
Healthier employees benefit business in many ways. They take fewer sick days, are more productive, visit the doctor less often and are less likely to have chronic health conditions that cause their and, in turn, your business’s health insurance rates to rise.
That’s why the news in a study from Employers, an insurance specialist, is so disheartening. It reports that small companies are less likely than big ones to promote healthy workplace practices. Specifically:
- 77 percent of small businesses don’t offer employees non-traditional seating options such as stand-up desks, treadmill desks or balance balls
- 29 percent of small business owners say their employees typically sit for more than an hour at a time during the workday
The study points out that jobs are becoming increasingly sedentary and notes research showing that sitting for too long can increase the risk of obesity, heart disease and other health problems.
Consider the greater productivity you could achieve when your employees are more alert and energized. Reminding everyone to get up and stretch once an hour via the intercom or an on-screen alert on their computers can make a huge difference in health and energy levels.
Employees who work on computers most of the day should have the ergonomic equipment (desk chairs, keyboards, wrist rests and other devices) to provide a comfortable setting. Otherwise, their productivity will suffer and they could easily develop repetitive stress injuries that would rightly be cause for worker’s compensation claims.
Some small employers are also ignoring basic mental and physical health issues for employees. One-fourth of hourly and salaried employees of small companies report going three or four hours without taking a break, while 42 percent don’t use their allotted time off each year.
Taking regular, short breaks is not only crucial to refreshing employee energy, preventing errors and possibly dangerous accidents, but is also required by law for many workers. If you aren’t letting employees take breaks when they’re legally entitled, you could be setting yourself up for lawsuits.
Encouraging employees to use their time off also has benefits for you and them. For one thing, when employees who never take time off finally quit, you could end up owing them a huge chunk of wages for the time off they didn’t use. In the shorter term, of course, you’re dealing with employees who are burned out and less effective because they’re not getting any downtime.
Ignoring employee wellness not only puts their health at risk, but puts your business at risk too. That’s downright unhealthy, especially when the remedies are so easy.
Originally published on smallbiztrends.com, February 2015.