Winter is a time for snowy weather and hot beverages. For managers, however, winter is often synonymous with a variety of health risks as well. Cold and flu season can take a toll on office attendance, resulting in more employees taking sick days, which can cut into productivity and even profits.
But while flu awareness is crucial to keeping your office healthy, it’s not the only health risk facing you and your employees. In fact, many potential medical concerns aren’t specific to a season, but can create concerns year-round. Here are a few of the more common office ailments that you should keep in mind so you can promote better health and wellness at work.
Not getting enough sleep can, over time, have a significant impact on an employee’s ability to function at peak efficiency. The dangerous thing about this particular ailment is it can sneak up on people virtually unnoticed – unlike a cold or a broken arm, it can take days or even weeks for poor sleep habits to manifest physically and psychologically. What’s more, sleep deprivation can be a self-sustaining cycle and can snowball into a serious problem if left unchecked.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that adults get between seven and 9 hours of sleep a night to stay healthy. Unfortunately, only around one-third of working adults in the U.S. meet this criterion, Inc. magazine reported. Poor sleep is particularly problematic because when people aren’t well-rested, their immune systems may be compromised, which makes them more susceptible to other illnesses.
It’s crucial that employers recognize sleep deprivation as the serious health concern it is, and provide staff members with training on how to recognize symptoms, as well as suggestions for improving sleep habits. Inc. magazine suggested a number of ways to encourage employees to improve their sleep patterns, from discouraging mobile device usage before bed to allowing for short 15- to 20-minute naps after lunch.
Typically thought to be the province of jobs requiring a high degree of manual labor, back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders can affect professionals in any field. Even those who work office jobs may be susceptible since they spend hours a day in a chair hunched over a keyboard. In fact, Healthy Working Lives reported that back pain is the No. 1 reason for sickness-related workplace absences in the U.K.
Fortunately, back pain can be prevented fairly simply through a variety of ergonomic adjustments. HR professionals may want to update their learning management systems to include information on basic ergonomic fundamentals, including posture, as part of the standard training program. The Mayo Clinic cited posture and repetition as two of the largest factors contributing to back pain, so regardless of the field you work in, ensure your employees are keyed in to these important factors.
High levels of stress may be the single largest cause of illness and injury in workplaces across the country, in large part because it can manifest in so many different ways. From stress-related ailments to lowered immune response, extreme stress can wreak havoc on an employee’s health and, by extension, productivity.
The most important thing is to identify common causes and manifestations of stress common to your workplace, such as burnout. Health.com also identified a type of stress emerging only in recent years – “technostress.” This is common in jobs where employees are constantly “connected” to the office through email, mobile devices and other forms of technology. To prevent burnout and technostress, make sure you emphasize the importance of work-life balance to your employees. The source recommended having employees set aside blocks of time while they’re not at work when all work devices should be turned off, creating a tangible divide between work time and free time.