BY RACHEL SPENSIERI
With the new year, many people have resolved to improve their overall wellness. Similarly, many businesses are considering ways they can help their employees stay happy, healthy, and satisfied with their jobs in 2016.
“During the recession, the workforce was generally thankful just to have a paycheck,” said Dorothy Rogers-Bullis, owner of drb Business Interiors, a workspace design firm located in Saratoga Springs. “Now that the economy has turned around, employers can’t take that top talent for granted.”
Indeed, a 2014 LinkedIn study found that over three-quarters of the global workforce was actively or passively looking for a new job, so companies have to up their game to keep the best-of-the-best on their team.
The way to employees’ hearts may just be, well, through the heart. Rogers-Bullis increasingly notices that one approach her clients’ are using to encourage employee retention is with wellness programs. But today’s workplace health initiatives go way beyond putting a gym in the building. From hiring nutritionists to work with the cafeteria food service staff to bringing in a yoga teacher for lunchtime Zen sessions, companies are coming to understand the sorts of perks that truly make employees loyal and even improve productivity.
In addition to their updated wellness programs, Rogers-Bullis said many of her clients’ businesses are taking an active role in creating work spaces that are healthier for their employees, as well.
“There are so many benefits to making this investment including increased productivity and job satisfaction, and keeping workers active throughout the day also spurs creativity,” she said.
Some of the trends Rogers-Bullis says she is seeing in the office design field that can help improve well being in the workplace include:
• Sit-to-stand desks
“This is a popular option, especially for creative types,” said Rogers-Bullis. The sit-to-stand desk can be raised to be used as a standing desk, and lowered for use as a traditional desk with chair. “Studies have shown that the differing vantage points that go along with this change in position can spark creativity.”
• Dining areas
Too many people have the tendency to work through lunch, scarfing down some take-out between responding to emails or returning phone calls. “To change this habit,” said Rogers-Bullis, “we see more companies creating attractive dining areas, often in conjunction with healthier options in the work cafeteria or vending machines, thus encouraging people to take a mental break and get away from their desks for a few minutes.”
• Collaborative breakout spaces
Big conference rooms are becoming a thing of the past. “The collaborative breakout space fits the way people engage in business in our modern times,” Rogers-Bullis said, “and again, they encourage a change of scenery and get people’s bodies moving.” These more intimate meeting spaces allow for collaborative conversations and quick in-person tête-à-tête that may have otherwise occurred via email or the phone.
• Stairways to health
To encourage employees to use the stairs instead of the elevator, Rogers-Bullis said some companies are designating certain stairwells as “stairways to health.” Adorned with colorful paint or bright murals, and featuring upbeat music, as well as Wi- Fi for wireless devices, these stairs make it fun to get in a little cardio when going to and from work.
• Ergonomic chairs
“While ergonomic chairs are almost a given in most work spaces these days,” said Rogers-Bullis, “many of our clients are seeking out the updated models that are even more back- and bottom- friendly.” Newer types of chairs improve circulation by ensuring knees and hips are not pinched. Better arm supports help the neck and shoulders remain properly aligned and pain-free.
• Garbage and recycling stations
Some businesses are taking trash cans out of the cubicle in favor of garbage and recycling stations, which require employees to get up and walk to dispose of trash. “Even those few extra steps can burn a couple of calories in addition to getting the blood flowing to the brain, which can increase productivity and creativity,” noted Rogers-Bullis.