Tips for a healthy workforce in 2020

Looking ahead to 2020, all indicators point to technology playing a greater role in human resources practices given the rapid advances in artificial intelligence and emerging virtual health-care services.

But while HR and wellness professionals adapt to these new technologies, they should also be looking at other important considerations to help make their workplaces more comfortable and their employees more healthy in 2020.

  • Put the human back in human resources.

The new year offers the opportunity for employers to refresh and expand the human experience in the workplace, appreciating that employees seek to connect their work to the effect it has on their company and its surroundings, including the environment, the local community and society as a whole.

Read: Generation Z wants supportive managers, flexible work hours: survey

Employers are investing in programs that aim to improve employees’ day-to-day experiences and connect to a larger purpose. Research shows employees — particularly younger cohorts — care about meaningful work and a sense of belonging, trust and relationship.

Examples of improving the human-focused work experience include:

  • Providing employees with a sense of purpose at work;
  • Moving beyond profit to a focus on doing good things for individuals, customers and society;
  • Using data, technology and systems in a fair and ethical manner;
  • Designing jobs/work to nurture passion and a sense of personal growth;
  • Unplugging: moving beyond a dedicated digital focus to build human connections at work;
  • Assuring transparency and openness; and
  • Managing with a growth mindset.

A renewed focus where profits meet purpose and talent trumps technology will foster greater employee engagement and overall corporate and individual well-being.

  • Create space to breathe and think.

By positioning mindfulness under the umbrella of meditation, it has become more accessible. Many people are realizing meditation doesn’t mean sitting in a full lotus pose for 30 minutes. And they’re beginning to understand that being distracted is human and they shouldn’t judge themselves. Mindfulness is a practice; therefore, people are accepting they’re not perfect at it.

Read: Is mindfulness in the workplace counterproductive?

Although most offices have conference rooms or quiet zones, employers aren’t yet doing much to encourage or inspire mindfulness or relaxation. To encourage true meditation, organizations have to create an entirely separate space dedicated to mindfulness.

Mindful office design removes all distractions, such as foot traffic or ringing phones, to help people mentally and physically disconnect. Creating a dedicated quiet space to which employees can escape can be incredibly liberating and empowering for them.

  • Encourage micro-bursts of movement

More employees are looking for opportunities to break up their sedentary time at work with short movement breaks. Canadians sit an average of 10 hours a day and 70 per cent of sedentary time occurs at work. If employers want to maximize employee productivity, improve attention and focus and lower stress levels, it’s essential to create opportunities for movement during the workday. These include:

  • Encouraging walking meetings;
  • Improving the stairwell environment with paint colours, artwork or music to make it a pleasant alternative to taking the elevator;
  • Offering sit/stand desks in central office locations;
  • Moving waste and recycle bins to central areas so employees must leave their workstations; and
  • Training employee volunteers to lead daily stretch breaks for co-workers.
  • Recognize the total return of workplace wellness.

Forward-thinking organizations are embracing qualitative wellness outcomes in addition to the hard benefits of return on investment measures. Whether measuring ROI or value on investment or both, employers should be customizing their wellness objectives and desired outcomes. These outcomes need to be linked to company-wide growth objectives to demonstrate meaningful returns to employees and the organization as a whole.

Read: Award winners discuss paths to improving employees’ well-being

By prioritizing ROI over value, employers limit themselves to bottom-line outcomes and all decisions and support for wellness become driven by financial benefits. Isolating the impact of wellness to align solely with cost control can dilute the inherent value of well-defined, well-delivered programs.

The talent of a workforce is an organization’s most significant asset and investing in employees’ holistic wellness is the best way to set team members, and businesses, up for long-term well-being.