Companies everywhere are finally transitioning back to working in the office after more than a year of working from home. While some are excited to get back to the office and see coworkers in person, many employees are hesitant about going back to the office.
Their hesitancy makes sense. Study after study has shown that employees who work from home often report higher levels of productivity, improved personal health, and better work-life balance. So if your business has decided to come back to the office, be prepared for a rocky transition.
There is one way to make the transition back to the workplace easier for your employees: prioritizing employee health. Employees notice when employers actually care about their health. And with increased talk of a “Great Resignation” on the horizon, employers should make the transition as smooth and pain-free as possible. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why putting employee health at the top of your priority list will make your business better.
Improved Physical Health
Anyone who has worked in an office environment before is well aware of how a bad chair can make a workday worse. Our bodies are not meant to be sitting down in front of screens for 8+ hours every day. Back at home, employees were able to be more active throughout the day, so giving them the same opportunities to move freely throughout the workday will make the transition easier and employees more productive.
Office employees regularly suffer from shoulder and neck tension, back pain, and eye strain. Allowing time during the day for walks, yoga breaks, and time outside can help improve your employee’s mental, emotional, and physical health.
From long daily commutes to the office to everyday work stress, employees everywhere are reporting feeling burnt out. The impact that prolonged stress has on the body is well documented—poor decision making, trouble focusing and decreased productivity can make. Employers should be well aware of the symptoms of burnout and need to be aware of how the transition back to the workplace may be stressful for some employees. Allowing employees to continue parts of their flexible WFH lifestyle like exercising during the day will ensure a smoother transition back to the office and ease worker stress.
Almost every employee who worked in a conventional office before COVID-19 is used to counting down the minutes until they’re allowed to leave for the day—even when they’ve already finished their tasks for the day. When offices switched to WFH at the beginning of the pandemic, those unnecessary office rituals were gone, and employees were still able to be productive without having to feel like their every move was being watched.
Giving employees access to exercise and mental health opportunities throughout the day will not only make the transition back to the office more manageable, but it will also help your employees be more productive since they’re not sacrificing their personal health for work. One Harvard study showed that regular exercise enhances creativity and learning, improves concentration, and cultivates a stronger memory. What employer wouldn’t want that for their employees?
Decrease Sick Days
Improved mental health is just one benefit to prioritizing exercise and health throughout the workday—it can also improve employee physical health and lead to fewer sick days. Employees who have more opportunities to be fit throughout the workday are less likely to get sick. Regular movement helps strengthen both the body and mind, leading to better overall health and lessening the need to take sick days. This of course saves your company PTO and money, but it keeps employees healthy which helps them provide better services for your business.
Battling worker fatigue can be especially difficult in office settings. Office buildings are often poorly lit, poorly ventilated, and overall not conducive to promoting energy throughout the workday. Giving employees time during the day to get outside and exercise during the day can improve productivity during the week.
Working out provides health benefits like improved circulation, a stronger immune system, and improved cardiovascular strength. For employees that are used to always being sedentary at the workplace, this pivot to a healthier work environment can make them more energetic and productive while at work.
The Bottom Line
By and large, employees prefer working from home—or at least having the option to work from home during the workweek. If your business is requiring employees to be in the office full time or on a hybrid schedule, you need to make mental and physical health a priority going forward. Too many companies have skated by and put their employees’ health second to their professional duties—and that’s not flying in the post-COVID workplace. Giving your employees opportunities to put their personal health first will only improve company culture and overall business.