Providing health insurance and health and safety training does its fair share to protect the health and safety of your workforce. So what happens if you start hearing rumblings from your employees like “My back is sooo sore!” or “What gives? My nose has been stuffed up for weeks.”
You have a couple of options:
- Brush it off as their problem or;
- Do a little digging to investigate if the issue might actually be linked to environmental factors in the workplace.
Choosing the prior, you might be holding yourself back from realizing an even more productive workforce, reduced incident rate, and increased employee retention. It is the past of least resistance, and plenty of companies choose to ignore the less serious warning signs of underlying issues.
Either Way, Communication is Important
Regardless of how you choose to handle responding to employee health concerns, you should always establish a clear line of communication between employee and management. Employees should be able to express workplace concerns in a safe and anonymous space. Employees should be able to voice no only health-related concerns, but also expressions of general career goals and challenges.
The size of your company will largely dictate how the communication process works. In smaller, tight-knit companies, a literal “open door policy” might be a good option. If you choose an open door policy, make sure employees know the who, where, and how to express concerns. An employee handbook is perfect real estate for this information because of its accessibility and high visibility.
Operations become more structured as organizations get larger. An electronic system hooked to a database may be a good option to collect general comments and concerns from employees since it can be anonymous, doesn’t take a whole lot of time, and provides measurable data.
If You Choose to Dig Deeper, Here’s What to Look For
Indicators your work environment might be contributing to poor employee health can be subtle or obvious, so you might see big red flags or smaller yellow flags over a longer period of time. Allergies, physical discomfort at a workstation, decreased energy, and reported injuries are all subtle warning signs there might be underlying issues in the environment.
Some of the common employee health concerns include:
If your employees complain of having a stuffy nose, sneezing, or coughing, it’s easy to brush it off as them having the common cold or seasonal allergies. Your air quality could be compromised (to a certain degree) if physical symptoms:
- Persist for a long period of time
- Show up in multiple people
- Are isolated to the workplace
Arranging an indoor air quality (IAQ) assessment is tricky. IAQ issues affect individuals differently much like allergies do, so symptoms probably won’t be the same across the board. There are plenty DIY solutions floating around online for identifying and solving indoor air quality issues. You could do just fine with something you find on Google, but ensuring your problem is resolved for good helps eliminate the chance of more serious issues down the road. That might mean purchasing testing kits or bringing in HVAC experts and/or IAQ professionals to verify your conclusions and offer guidance.
Physical Discomfort or Pain
Pain in the wrist, back, and shoulders are common in employees that work at a desk all day. Instead of telling them to stash a bottle of Asprin in their desk, try reevaluating their workspace. With a few relatively minor adjustments to a common workspace, employees should see reduced symptoms over time.
When symptoms persist for too long, the employee runs the risk of enduring chronic injury (e.g., carpel tunnel). If this is the case, surgery or physical therapy might be essential for alleviating or reducing symptoms.
If you have room in your budget, switching out chairs, mice, monitors, and other office furniture to more ergonomically-friendly products designed to conform to a natural sitting (or standing) position will go a long way for employee comfort.
A goal of zero accidents is just that – a goal. Even with safeguards in place, accidents happen. It’s human nature. Make sure accidents are properly reported, recorded, and messaged across the company. Decipher how the accident happened. Consider conducting a hazard analysis, see if you can make the environment safer for your workers. Communication with all employees concerning any major accident will show that you do care and serve as a valuable tool and learning experience.
The 2 p.m. Slump
It’s hard to think that needing a cup of java in the afternoon can be indicative of a bigger problem, but the “2 p.m. Slump” can be an indicator of excessive inactivity. Encouraging overall wellness and taking frequent breaks help combat the afternoon slump.
Letting health issues lay dormant can lead to chronic problems. As a result, you could see higher incident rate, turnover, or sick days taken.
Each issue listed here and others you might be experiencing require you to evaluate the issue and establish an action plan to alleviate it. It may be a simple checklist, walk of the floor, or employee survey. It might require professional expertise. You’re sure to enjoy a happier, healthier workforce whatever route you take.