Whether it's reducing workplace injuries, avoiding heatstroke, increasing your fitness outside of the workplace, or providing support or resources for drug use, there are many effective ways to promote workplace wellness and safety. In honor of this week's focus on employee wellness for National Safety Month, we're reviewing a list of ways your commitment to safety can help you foster a workplace of employee wellness.
1. You are Aware of the Effects of Sleep Deprivation
The National Sleep Foundation found that 45% of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep affected their daily activities at least once in the past seven days. How many of your employees are at work today after a sleepless night? We've all heard co-workers complain about their lack of sleep due to children, long work hours, or trouble staying asleep. What’s worse, many individuals suffer from conditions like sleep apnea and do not even realize they’re sleep deprived. Sleep is a tough issue to address because it's much more difficult to see than other risks in your work environment. Read more on the implications of sleep deprivation on performance and wellness.
2. You Encourage Healthy Mobile Device Use
We know that smartphones have some negative effects on our eyesight, sleep, and awareness. But recent studies have shown that smartphone overuse negatively affects hand functions, pinch strength, and causes pain in the thumb. Smartphone overuse negatively affects our spine and neck. It can lead to headaches, and has even been shown to negatively affect our respiratory function. Add the negative effects to mood, and you can see the many potential impact on our wellness. Learn more about the potential hazards to our physical and mental well-being.
3. Your Safety Efforts are Personal
Safety is personal. We can talk about every possible hazard around us, discuss a dozen ways to mitigate the risks, and remind people all day long about using PPE, but at some point it’s important to remember why we are talking about safety in the first place – to make sure we each go home safely every day. Research shows that when employees are more engaged, and when they perceive that their supervisors are engaged, they are more likely to have positive perceptions about their company’s safety culture and are more likely to work safely and have better overall wellness.
4. You Afford Equal Opportunities for Safety and Wellness for All
All individuals should be afforded equal opportunities to land a job and feel safe in their places of work. Most of us take the comfort of having access to restrooms at work for granted, but as stated by the Human Rights Campaign, “transgender people often face the burden of being confronted or questioned about which gender’s restroom they should use.” If an organization restricts an individual to using a restroom that is inconsistent with his or her gender identity, that employee may begin to avoid using the restroom at work altogether, which can lead to serious physical problems and illnesses. In fact, a study conducted by the UCLA School of Law in 2013 found that 54% of transgender individuals surveyed reported that they have experienced physical problems due to avoiding public bathrooms. As managers and safety leaders, it is our job to embrace change and help others understand why we must foster work environments where all employees can have all of their basic needs met.
5. You Understand the Common Workplace Safety Risks of Office Jobs
We tend to think of the office environment as generally safe because there is much less risk exposure than is seen in plant work, for example. However, several hazards exist around the office that expose employees’ personal safety blind spots and lead to thousands of injuries and fatalities every year. Furthermore, office injuries can happen to any employee, whether it be a line employee coming off the floor for a meeting or an executive going about their day. This blog takes a look at some common office safety incidents and injuries.
5. You Help Employees Reduce Work-Family Conflict
Work-family conflict is a form of role conflict in which the pressures from one’s work and family situations are incompatible in some way, which causes one’s work/family situation to negatively impact job performance, or vice versa. Although there may be no way to fully eliminate Work-Family Conflict, managers and safety leaders can take steps to control employee stress levels and reduce the potential for stress to result in safety incidents and injuries.
6. You Understand that Going to Work Sick Creates More Safety Risk than Just Spreading Germs
When we think about employees coming to work sick, our initial reaction tends to concern the spread of germs which could get others sick and result in greater lost work time. However, being sick at work can clearly yield other ramifications. We all know what the symptoms of a cold or flu feel like, and that they can severely impair our cognitive processing, motor skills, reaction times, and alertness, among other things, which is often compounded when we take medications that can make us drowsy and further impact our behaviors. Particularly for jobs with higher levels of inherent dangers, managers and safety leaders must stay on high alert to notice when employees attempt to work while sick.
7. You Know What Safety Commitment Means to the Employee
Our most valuable asset is our people. Nothing is more important than their safety and well-being. Our coworkers and families rely on this commitment. There can be no compromise. Clearly, commitment to safety is critical to improving safety performance, but less obvious is the nature of safety commitment at the individual employee level.
8. You Know the Effects of Unusual Work Hours
Research has demonstrated that shift work can have dramatically negative physical and psychological effects on employees if not properly managed. Shift work employees tend to suffer higher levels of stress at work due to the overexertion required by the job demands. We observe the effects of fatigue and stress in a variety of ways, some physical (e.g., sleepiness, headaches) and some mental (e.g., irritability, reduced alertness and concentration), which all depend on the person and the work context. Workers who experience these effects are then more likely to display at-risk behaviors. Learn more about why unusual work hours lead to unusually high incident rates.
9. You're Aware of Your Employees' (and Your) Good and Bad Habits
Start looking at your and your employees’ poor safety habits from a different viewpoint: an internal one, based on routines. This way, you will better understand what drives safety behaviors and start identifying opportunities to influence employees’ safety habits. Leveraging the full potential of your team’s safety by empowering employees to own their safety behaviors will grow and strengthen your safety culture and wellness. Read more about how habits transform your safety culture (for better or worse).
10. You Implement Drug Testing Programs and Referrals
Alcohol and drug abuse creates significant safety and health hazards, can result in decreased productivity, and poor employee morale. By implementing drug testing programs, you can deter employees from abusing alcohol and drugs, avoid hiring individuals who use illegal drugs, identify and appropriately refer employees who have drug/alcohol problems, provide a safe workplace for employees, and comply with state laws and Federal regulations. Read more on the benefits of workplace drug testing for employee wellness and safety.
Workplace wellness and your commitment to safety can work together to create positive results like employee retention, safer workers, and increased morale. Not only does this positive work environment promote a healthier workforce, but it boosts your company's reputation and overall productivity.