How to Foster a Healthy Workplace

You know the feeling: you’re working diligently at your desk when you get restless. Your neck is sore, your back aches and soon your concentration has shifted from the task at hand to the adjustment levers on your chair. For tips on keeping office staff performing at peak levels, we check with the experts: Henry Harder, associate professor of psychology at the University of Northern B.C.; Valerie Molloy, senior manager of safety, health and wellness at WorkSafeBC; 
and Judy Village, certified professional 
ergonomist and adjunct professor at UBC’s School of Environmental Health.

Adjust Your 

You spend eight hours a day at your workstation, so being comfortable here is key to staying healthy. “You need to make sure your arms are supported, you’re not tipping your wrist back,” says Harder. “You also need to make sure you’re sitting properly, with feet on the ground or a footrest and your screen set up so the top line of text is about eye level.”

Stretch Periodically

Even if your workstation is ergonomically correct, you need to move periodically. According to Village, “The common problems people have in an office are neck, back, wrist, elbow, eye strain and eye fatigue kinds of problems. So getting up and moving, stretching, taking breaks, taking your hands off the mouse when you’re not using it, resting your hand, standing when you’re answering the telephone – anything that brings some movement and variety into your day helps.” 

Mind your Mental Health 

Mental well-being is just as important as physical health, and employers can do a lot to ensure their workplace encourages a healthy state of mind. “Things that can be done are huge, but it depends on what is causing mental unhealth within an organization: everything from gossip to working conditions,” says Harder. “Sometimes giving people an opportunity to vary their break times so they have some control over their work hours is a big help.”

Reward Wellness

Molloy encourages employers to think positive by rewarding staff for taking care of themselves. “WorkSafeBC set up a program like this and it’s the cornerstone of our health and wellness initiative,” she says. “The program is on the honour system, and we set it up where employees are rewarded for taking care of their health. They earn certain points, and there are different levels where they can get rewarded once they’ve achieved these points.”

Get out and have Fun

As Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining reminds us, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Options for encouraging a healthy workplace extend beyond office walls and the nine-to-five work day. WorkSafeBC, as part of its wellness rewards program, has organized several corporate groups. “We organized a corporate dragonboat group and a corporate Sun Run, and we tied all that into enticing employees to participate in those activities and then earn points towards their wellness,” says Molloy. – Bryan Arseneau