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4 Ways to Improve Workplace Health

Big Think Edge | August 09, 2018

When most people think about improving workplace health, they think of green cleaning methods or washing their hands before eating. However, another aspect of health and wellness in the workplace has nothing to do with cleanliness and everything to do with employees’ mental and emotional states.

Mental health and overall wellness are essential to ensuring that your organization promotes a healthy work environment and culture. Here are a few unconventional methods for reducing stress and improving employee health and wellness in the workplace:

1) Do Away with Dieting and Encourage a Healthier Lifestyle

Simply put, diets do not work. We shared in a previous Big Think article that non-diet weight management is significantly more effective than dieting to improve employee health. Rather than focusing on diets like conventional wellness programs, the researchers cited in the article say that it’s better to promote “mindfulness and intuitive eating” to help employees change their eating habits and gain a more positive outlook regarding body image.

Focusing on diets alone can have adverse effects to employee health. Not only does diet-related employee weight loss frequently revert once employees stop participating in the program, but it also can lead to increased levels of frustration or even depression as people regain the weight they lost.

2) Bring Fido & Set Tails Wagging While Improving Mental Health

In a previous Big Think article, we discussed a study that supported the idea that having dogs in the workplace was advantageous. According to the study, mental health at work improves when furry companions are there:

“Over the course of the study, surveys completed and saliva samples given by the company's 550 employees led scientists to conclude that having (clean and well-behaved) pets in the office can improve individuals' experience at work.”

HelpGuide.org also supports this idea that dogs have a powerful effect on people and can “reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health.”

3) Encourage Mindfulness Through Meditation and Yoga

If bringing a real dog into the office does not work for your corporate environment, maybe allowing employees to practice their “downward dog” yoga poses would be a better fit.

Many major corporations are integrating mindfulness meditation and yoga activities into their work environments to improve productivity and promote employee health. In fact, statistics cited by Inc. show that service providers are increasingly turning to this form of alternative care are part of an estimated $1.1 billion industry of meditation and mindfulness training.

Daniel Goleman, a Big Think expert and founder of the concept of emotional intelligence, agrees that meditation that promotes mindfulness is highly beneficial. In his Big Think course “Strengthen Emotional Intelligence with Meditation,” Goleman also says that it feeds two of the core dimensions of emotional intelligence: self-awareness and compassion for others.

So loosen your tie or take off your heels and unroll a yoga mat. If a Thai soccer team of pre-teens can practice meditation while trapped for two weeks in a cave, your employees also can take a few minutes a day to do the same in the comfort of an airconditioned office to find their inner peace.

4) Tell Employees That It’s Okay to Play at Work

According to Big Think expert and video game designer Jane McGonigal, it’s helpful to encourage your employees to play. A playful work environment will feed optimism, enhance mental health at work, increase physical energy levels, and facilitate learning.

“When we’re depressed we feel pessimistic about our own capabilities and we lack the physical energy to engage in ordinary tasks let alone really difficult challenges. If you reverse that you get a state that is something like being very optimistic about our own capabilities, having the physical and mental energy to do things that are difficult.”

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