Work Environment

Improving workplace environments is mutually beneficial to employers and their employees. Research exists to support both the idea that the environment of the workplace impacts employee health and that the health of employees affects their performance on the job. Improvements in the workplace environment encourage physical activity and more nutritious food choices, yielding healthier workers. Better health among employees will increase productivity and decrease the financial loss attributed to absenteeism and medical costs. The National Business Group on Health's 2009 Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyle Awards provides examples of how work environments can promote a healthy environment (link to .pdf). 

Increasing worksite walkability is one way for workplaces to encourage physical activity. For example, Delaware’s Get Up and Do Something program provides  tips on ways to be physically active at work. Many workplaces have also implemented corporate wellness programs in response to rising obesity rates, with the realization that employee wellness has an impact on the company’s success. Corporate wellness can include nutritional counseling, and fitness-club memberships, as well as incentives for getting involved with the program.

It is important to understand that a healthy work environment must take into account the culture of the workplace, which reflects the attitudes and behaviors of its employees. Providing employees with appropriate recognition and allowing flexibility in their schedule leads to increased feelings of control and sense of worth within the work environment. These feelings in turn ease the stress among employees, increase healthy behaviors, enhance workplace morale, and stimulate greater productivity. Read more about the positive effects of creating a healthier organizational culture (link to The Culture-Work-Health Model and Work Stress (Peterson paper) PDF).

Many local governments are focusing on ways to improve employee health while reducing healthcare costs.  Employee wellness plans and programs are increasingly being adopted by local governments to promote a culture of workplace wellness and improve personal behaviors that affect personal health.  A recent ICMA Public Management article describes components of wellness programs, examples of successfully adopted initiatives, and “must haves” when starting a local government employee wellness program. (link to PDF on “From the Periphery to the Core: Wellness at Work”) ICMA also offers a publication for local governments, Creating a Culture of Health. Order or download an excerpt of the publication.