Why Your Workplace Should Be Prioritizing Your Health



Do you believe workplace wellness is becoming a staple of the modern workforce? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by David Hauser, Entrepreneur, on Quora:

There’s no doubt that a focus on wellness is gaining popularity in businesses around the country. Two-thirds of HR managers say their companies’ health and wellness offerings have increased over the past five years, but 20% say they’ve decreased, according to staffing firm Robert Half.

There’s still a long way to go. One of the biggest is in the snack foods today’s businesses are providing to workers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly one-in-four workers consumes about 1,300 calories from snacks at work, which tend to be high in unhealthy fats and added sugars.

Sometimes this is a well meaning mistake. I used to think I was providing my employees with healthy snacks. Then I looked at the ingredients and discovered they were high in sugar and carbs.

Today’s workforce is also under tremendous stress. Work is the leading cause of stress in America, according to WebMD. As a founder and chief executive, I encourage my employees to take breaks, engage in stress relief techniques and not overwork, which includes really disconnecting at night. I also encourage people to take walks during the day, which can bring both physical and mental benefits. The Mayo Clinic even recommends walking meetings.

But there’s another element to wellness that should become a workforce staple: redesigned workspaces.

Maximize natural light

Humans are meant to be outside much, much more than we are. As the AMN (Applied Movement Neurology) Academy puts it, “being outside is in our DNA.”

For obvious reasons, we can’t move all our technology-heavy offices outdoors. But we can, for starters, vastly increase the amount of natural light we let in.

“Office workers with more light exposure at the office had longer sleep duration, better sleep quality, more physical activity and better quality of life,” Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found in a study. More natural light in the morning especially has beneficial effects for mood, alertness and metabolism.

I try to keep enough sun coming in that, for much of the day, we don’t even need to turn on our lights.

Protect your eyes

I’m a fan of two apps for this, f.lux and Iris. They filter out blue light, allow you to control brightness, and more.

Scientists are exploring just how much of its “rap sheet” blue light is really responsible for. But there is research that exposure to it from devices after the sun goes down (when we wouldn’t naturally be exposed to blue light) “can affect your sleep and potentially cause disease,” Harvard Medical School says.

I used to get headaches from looking at computer screens with lots of blue light, and found going to sleep very hard. But since I’ve started using these apps, these problems have gone away.

Standing desks

For many years I heard about the health benefits of standing desks. Smithsonian reports that they can reduce risks of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems and cancer. No wonder they’re the fastest growing benefit, with 44% of businesses now offering them. (Although using standing desks wrong can actually cause health problems.)

I didn’t use one myself until two years ago, when my back began to hurt so badly I could barely sit in a car. I tried yoga, stretching and workouts, but the problem festered. I switched to a standing desk, and within two weeks the problem went away. Today, I stand about 80% of the day.

While I recommend all these things to my staff and try to set a good example by pursuing a healthy lifestyle, I don’t make them mandatory or pressure people to take them on. It’s important to give your employees options and allow them the flexibility to choose.

Some of my employees prefer their desk lamps. Some like to get work done at night, even without blue light filters, and start the next day late. And rather than a standing desk, some like sitting on a big exercise ball or an ergonomic chair.

A big part of what we can all do to make wellness a staple of the modern workforce is to normalize steps like these. When someone makes a healthy choice that works for them, it shouldn’t come as a surprise or even be particularly noticeable. By making wellness a norm, we can save lives, improve health, and save our businesses hundreds of billions of dollars.

This question originally appeared on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

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