Healthy work environments

This post is the last in a series on health at work.

Some workplaces offer incentives to promote health behaviours. Discounts on gym memberships or cash rewards for healthy eating can promote better health, decrease absenteeism and control costs.

Financial incentives are great. However, healthy habits can also improve without incentives. When people work in health promoting environments and with no cash rewards, they become accountable for their health. They take their health into their own hands and habits spread to others. At the end of the day, it’s more the people and less the incentives that generate health at work.

Seven tips for creating a healthy work environment

  • Employees with desk jobs need to reduce their sitting time and take regular walking breaks (e.g.: a 20-minute break after working for 90 minutes) or go outdoors for brisk or meditative walks.
  • With technology and devices, employees should have greater opportunity to work outside their offices or from home.
  • Relaxation areas, nap rooms and shower rooms should be available in most workplaces.
  • Employees should have access to information on stress management, healthy grocery shopping, meal planning and nearby health and fitness centres.
  • Encouraging laughter and humour at the workplace enhances creativity and spreads positive attitudes and healthy behaviours.
  • Encouraging employees to form their own wellness group allows them to discuss and share ideas on health and make connections.

Insights from entrepreneurs

In the “Good Life Project” video below, Jonathan Fields and Clay Hebert discuss the need to rethink our workflow as more people want better work conditions. Work productivity is no longer related to the length of time people work but to how efficiently they work and the type of environment in which they work.

Fields and Hebert talk about the use of technology and alternative work methods that allow us to work remotely and create high quality work. Great written content can now be produced while walking outdoors and in beautiful parks and in less time than sitting and writing at our desks and computers.

People need to feel inspired by their work. Moving, walking, meditating, changing work environment and taking breaks are essential to our mental and physical health and productivity. Fields and Hebert suggest working in pulses of 90 minutes and taking 30 minutes breaks. They conclude that long work hours destroy our health and our lives and the myth of filling long work hours to produce the best results needs to be crushed.


Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

6 thoughts on “Healthy work environments

  1. Julie, thank you for this insightful post. My employer has silent rooms, work@home arrangements etc but the most effective measure it took recently was to offer participation in the Get The World Moving scheme to all CH staff. This org. motivates you via on-line and mobile apps to achieve 10k+ a day, working as a team with colleagues. We have a step counter gizmo and swimming and biking all count too. It’ s been brilliant in getting me off my office chair – it’s incredibly hard to get 10k steps on a normal working day! A relatively small investment by my employer has done a lot for me. I am obsessed with getting my averages and there’s no cheating (‘cos in the end, who are you really cheating on??). I’d be interested to have your opinion and that of any of this blog’s followers, on this kind of incentive. Best, Antonina

    1. Hi Antonina, thanks for your comment and it’s great that your employer has taken those measures in promoting health at the workplace. Having a target goal of 10K is what motivates you to move and so now you are reminded to take the stairs instead of elevators (which I do more often now and with my heart pounding!!), of parking your car more remotely to your destination, which forces you to walk more. Grocery shopping, sightseeing, window shopping…these all count. There are so many measures that you can take to move and walk more and they won’t chew up your time if you integrate them into your life. In the back of your mind, you have that 10K goal, but never get obsessed with the 10K because it will defeat the entire purpose of changing your habits and lifestyle and of enjoying life. There will be days when you move more and days when you move less, “c’est la vie”. What matters is that you are aware of the importance of being less sedentary, so don’t get too caught up on the calculations and the gadgets. What your mind is telling you is to restructure your life so that you move. The gizmos and gadgets are only symbols and reminders and tools that measure and keep you going, but your lifestyle comes first and it should flow naturally with all the ups and downs. So, don’t get obsessed with getting your averages and enjoy the changes that you are making to your life! Best wishes, Julie

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